Sunday, March 29, 2015

Don't Make a Scene: The Usual Suspects

The Set-Up: "Tell Me a Story." This week, we're concluding the short series we've been doing showcasing scenes that feature a story in the midst of the narrative. That story may couch the plot in a new light; it may illuminate themes or present a back-history. It may be just a distraction. It may be a side-story that resonates throughout the film and casts its teller (or its subject) into the affections or disaffections of the audience, making him immortal no matter how short their amount of screen-time.    

In the case of The Usual Suspects, it moves the film to a new level of intrigue than the plot had revealed previously, and it presents a puzzle, and a personality not unlike the great mysterious villains of films past. And like other screen personalities who are talked about throughout the film, the myth of the man seems greater than the personification. 

Keyser Söze is one of the great screen master-minds, created by two very clever movie master-minds at the top of their game.

The Story: Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) is the only surviving member of the Dean Keaton Gang, a loose-knit group of low-rent confidence men, who've been killed in a drug-snatch gone wrong. Kint is being grilled by Lt. Dave Kujan (Chazz Palmientieri), for whom Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) is an obsession, and he's trying to find out if Keaton is still alive. Then, a wild card is thrown in: one of the survivors of the fatal boat explosion screams out the name "Keyser Söze." When Kujan asks Kint about him, the con goes ballistic, fearing for his life, as he has already started to talk, about the preceding events, and now expecting reprisals from this man the detectives have never heard of before. When pressed, Kint begins to talk of Keyser Söze, and for a moment, the movie stops and listens...and never forgets.


VERBAL KINT: He's supposed to be Turkish; some say his father was German. Nobody ever believed he was real. Nobody ever knew him or saw anybody that worked directly for him.
KINT: But to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Söze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.
KINT: One story the guys told me--the story I believe--was from his days in Turkey. There was a gang of Hungarians that wanted their own mob. They realized that to be in power you didn't need guns or money or even numbers.
KINT: You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn't. After awhile, they come into power and then thay come after Söze. He was small-time then, just running dope, they say.
KINT: They come to his home in the afternoon looking for his business.
KINT: They find his wife and kids in the house and decide to wait for Söze. KINT: He comes home to find his wife raped and children screaming.
KINT: The Hungarians knew Söze was tough, not to be trifled with, so they let him know they meant business.
KINT: [A Hungarian slashes one of the boys' throats] They tell him they want his territory, all his business.
KINT: Söze looks over the faces of his family...
KINT: ...then he showed these men of will what "will" really was.
[Söze kills two of the Hungarians as well as his own family, leaving one Hungarian alive to witness.]
KINT: He tells him he would rather see his family dead than live another day after this. He lets the last Hungarian go...
KINT: ...he waits until his wife and children are in the ground, and he goes after the rest of the mob.
KINT: He kills their kids, he kills their wives, he kills their parents, and their parents' friends.
KINT: He burns down the houses they live in...
KINT: ...and the stores they work in.
KINT: He kills people that owe them money. And like that...
KINT: [Verbal blows into his hand]...he's gone.
KINT: ...Underground. Nobody's ever seen him since. He becomes a myth, a spook story that criminals tell their kids at night.
KINT: ..."Rat on your pop...
KINT: ...and Keyser Söze will get ya." And no one ever really believes.
DAVE KUJAN: Do you believe in him, Verbal?
KINT: Keaton always said, "I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of Him." Well, I believe in God, and the only thing that scares Keyser Söze.
The Usual Suspects

Words by Christopher McQuarrie

Pictures by Newton Thomas Sigel and Bryan Singer

The Usual Suspects is available on DVD from MGM Home Video

Warning: video clip contains disturbing images.


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