The Usual Suspects
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Usual Suspects can be found here.

No. American film-maker Christopher McQuarrie wrote the screenplay for The Usual Suspects.

The title comes from a line in the classic film Casablanca (1942), where the corrupt police chief, anxious to cover up the murder of a Nazi officer, tells a subordinate to "round up the usual suspects," meaning that the police should find a bunch of random criminals to be questioned. In the film, the criminals are rounded up without any evidence specifically pointing to them. The police are hoping to randomly get one of them to confess. Thus, they are the "usual suspects." because they have been convicted of crimes that relate to the one for which they have previously been arrested.

The usual suspects are five small-time crooks who are brought together in a police line-up on trumped-up charges. There is Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), a corrupt ex-cop trying to go straight, crack shot Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin), his partner Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro), Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak) the hijacker, and Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a con artist crippled by cerebral palsy.

There was no cocaine. When Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite) blackmailed the five men, he said that it was their job to get on the ship and destroy the cocaine on board. Sze was using them as a diversion. While they were killing the other men on the ship and looking for the drugs, Sze sneaked onto the ship and killed Arturo (Castulo Guerra). Arturo was the one man who could positively identify him, so Sze needed him dead.

Yes. At the end of the movie, US Customs agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) concludes that Keyser Sze must be Dean Keaton. In an ironic twist, however, Sze actually turns out to be Verbal Kint.

Yes, there are some. One is Verbal's relative position on the night of the attack. He is hiding behind a stack of material on the dock. When Hockney is killed, Verbal would have been the closest person to him. In his testimony, shown in flashback, Verbal supposedly takes cover behind some large spools of rope on the dock as he observes Soze on the boat. However, when the camera zooms in on this area from the opposite side after the explosion, no one is seen peering through the ropes.

In the opening scene, we see Keyser Sze look at a gold pocket watch and produce a gold cigarette lighter. Later, in the scene where the gang threatens Kobayashi, we see Verbal wearing a similar watch. He also collects this watch, along with a gold cigarette lighter, as he leaves the police station, despite having earlier demonstrated his inability to use a similar lighter during his questioning.

In the interrogation, Verbal comments that when he gets dehydrated his urine becomes thick and lumpy due to a kidney condition. In the opening scene when Keyser Sze urinates on the fire, his urine is thick and lumpy.

When agent Kujan begins to suggest that Keaton might be the one behind the hit on the docks, Verbal can be seen starting to smile. When Kujan comes around from behind Verbal and looks him in the face, the smile disappears, and Verbal continues to pretend loyalty to Keaton. During the interrogation throughout the movie, although it is easy to miss upon a first viewing, Verbal is seen glancing for a second or two away from Kujan or over Kujan's shoulder at the wall behind him in full view of wanted posters and advertisement flyers of names as Verbal is clearly making up the names of the mysterious associates and contacts such as 'Redfoot' and 'Kobayashi' when Kujan's questioning becomes more intense as it revealed that Verbal Kint is making up (on the spur-of-the-moment) aliases of his co-conspirators as he goes along.

Keyser Sze is described by Verbal as being of mixed Turkish/German heritage. "Sze" is Turkish for "talks too much," or "verbal." "Keyser" sounds like the German word "Kaiser," meaning "emperor," while "Kint" sounds like "king." Director Bryan Singer has referred to the name as essentially meaning "The king that talks too much."

Finally, one might simply recognize that when Sze whispers "How ya doin' Keaton?" at the start of the film, the voice is that of Verbal/Kevin Spacey. After being thrown on the ground Verbal slips " I did kill Keaton," though Kujan is shouting too loud to hear, and Verbal is able to correct himself by saying "I did see Keaton get shot." Also, when they are listening to the men before the attack on the boat Keaton speculates that they are speaking Russian, Verbal correctly identifies the language as Hungarian, something Soze would obviously know.

Yes and no. Verbal tells Kujan the story as if he was simply Verbal Kint and not Keyser Sze. Verbal tells Kujan that it was his plan to rob the corrupt police officers without killing anybody. Then they fenced the goods to Redfoot, who then offered them the next job of robbing Saul Berg, which was set up by Kobayashi, etc. etc., which finally led to the events at the end of the film, leaving Verbal the only survivor. When pushed by Kujan, Verbal is adamant that Dean Keaton was his friend and that he wasn't the mastermind behind all the events. When pushed harder by Kujan and given all the facts, Verbal breaks down and admits that they all followed Keaton from the beginning, and that he planned and executed everything. At the very least, the names of those involved, such as Redfoot and Kobayashi, were clearly invented by Verbal on the spot, and his descriptions of where he was when the others got killed during the attack on the boat all appear to be untrue.

However, we see that the person who he referred to as "Kobayashi" was real, as he picks Verbal up at the end. So it's likely that most of the events that happened were true, but certain aspects may have been fabricated or several of the names changed in order to keep Kujan from being able to trace anyone who had actually been involved with Verbal, thus preserving Sze's identity. For example, the incident when "Kobayashi" meets with the five of them, gives them their police files, and gives them the assignment of robbing the ship of the supposed cocaine and money, was likely true. In addition, the robbery of Saul Berg and the New York's Finest Taxi Service, and the fact that all five men were rounded up by the police for a lineup, were certainly true, as such facts could be easily confirmed with a few calls to the LAPD and the NYPD. It should also be noted that one of the keys to lying well is to stick as closely to the truth as possible. In this case, it's likely that many of the broad outlines of the story which Verbal told are true.

How does the movie end?

At the end of Kujan's interrogation of Verbal Kint, Kujan looks over the details strewn across the bulletin board, recognizing most of the names from Verbal's account of the events, just as an artist's depiction of Keyser Sze makes its way to the police station via fax. It is Verbal Kint. As Verbal walks down the street, his leg straightens out, his fingers uncrimp, and he lights a cigarette. Kujan runs from the building in an attempt to catch Verbal, but the man called "Kobayashi" has picked him up. Keyser Sze has once again disappeared.

Several people have noted that The Usual Suspects reminds them of Basic (2003), about the murder investigation of a hated Army Ranger sergeant and several of his Special Forces on what appears, at first, to have been a routine training exercise during a hurricane in the jungles of Panama. Another movie said to be like The Usual Suspects is Memento (2000), in which a man suffering from short-term memory loss hunts for the killer of his wife. Also, there is Frailty (2001), in which a young man believes that his brother may be the serial killer who calls himself "God's Hands." Other murder mysteries with plenty of twists include, for starters, Identity (2003), The Big Sleep (1946), Mystic River (2003), Primal Fear (1996), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Se7en (1995), A Soldier's Story (1984), and The Game (1997).

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