glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

Singer, Bryan (b. 1965)  
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  

Not surprisingly, the creation of the film proved to be a much more difficult process than this account of its almost casual beginnings might seem to imply. Singer spent nearly two years trying to arrange financing for the movie, and he required McQuarrie to rewrite the script nine times.

Released in 1995, Usual Suspects is Singer's breakthrough film. It established him as a major player in the film industry. Enthusiastically received by critics, Usual Suspects also was enormously successful commercially. Shot in only thirty-five days with a budget of approximately six million dollars, Usual Suspects quickly earned more than twenty-five million dollars in its initial American release alone.

The film won two Academy Awards: Original Screenplay (McQuarrie) and Best Supporting Actor (Kevin Spacey). Furthermore, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominated Usual Suspects as Best Film and gave it awards for Editing (Ottman) and Original Screenplay (McQuarrie).

Many factors contributed to the film's enormous popularity, including constantly surprising plot twists; dazzling cinematography, incorporating unexpected camera angles, rapid cutting, and intensive close-ups; and the lush, orchestral score, deliberately contrasting with the brutality of much of the action.

Most of The Usual Suspects is narrated in a voiceover by Verbal Klimt (Kevin Spacey), the only survivor of the devastating harbor explosion that opens the film. Interrogating him is FBI agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri), who is eager to establish Verbal's guilt within the two hours that he can be kept in custody. Motivated to "kill time," Verbal presents a compelling account that absorbs Kujan's attention while distracting him from his goal of securing Verbal's imprisonment.

Shortly after Verbal is freed, both Kujan and the audience simultaneously realize that crucial aspects of his colorful story were false. The detective and viewers alike are left to wonder which, if any, of the events narrated by Klimt actually occurred. By making viewers question the reality of the incidents that they just witnessed, Singer adds a metaphysical dimension to the movie.

Although ostensibly paying homage to film noir of the Hollywood Golden Age, Usual Suspects actually is an innovative revision of that genre. Superficially, Usual Suspects may seem to be a typical heist caper, but virtually nothing in the film is what it appears to be. Typically, in a heist narrative, the culminating robbery is organized by a single major criminal, regarded as the mastermind. In Singer's film, the crooks seem to come together by chance--placed in the same holding cell as the result of a police roundup of the "usual suspects" for a crime that is never specified.

However, at the end of the movie, it seems probable that the men were brought together at the request of the powerful Keyser Söze, an internationally notorious Hungarian criminal, who chose to execute his own family rather than allow them to be murdered by his rivals. Thus, rather than rogues transcending the banality of the everyday world, the gang members are revealed to be cogs in a ruthless criminal organization, which parallels in its amorality and efficiency the large corporations that employed many of Singer's target audience. By showing the rough and aggressive gang members to be ultimately powerless, Singer interrogates the construction and meaning of masculinity in modern society.

Also challenging the validity of stable binary gender categories is the concluding revelation that the weak and supposedly crippled and dependent Verbal Klimt is the strong and ruthless Keyser Söze.

Throughout much of the film, Spacey as Verbal mimics patterns of behavior, conventionally associated with female characters in action films. Throughout his interrogation by Kujan, Verbal appears vulnerable and effeminate. Denying Kujan's suggestion that fellow gang member Dean Keaton is Keyser Söze, Verbal insists almost pathetically, "He was my friend." Frustrated in his attempts to use the lighter given to him by Kujan, Verbal leans demurely toward the detective as he asks him to for a light.

Moreover, Verbal vividly fulfills the classic role of the femme fatale in film noir when he encourages Keaton to participate in the heist and to abandon his relationship with his fiancée, Edie Finneran (Suzy Amis). Sitting next to him on steps in Keaton's apartment, Verbal elicits his sympathy by emphasizing his own weakness and his need for Keaton's protection.

As Larsen has noted, "Spacey's performance is ambiguous enough to suggest that Verbal is infatuated with Keaton." Through his successful seduction of Keaton, Verbal eradicates the only heterosexual relationship in the film. With the exclusion of Edie, The Usual Suspects becomes an exclusively space.

  <previous page   page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8   next page>  
Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about The Arts
Popular Topics:

Social Sciences

Stonewall Riots
Stonewall Riots

Gay Liberation Front

The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980
The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980

Leather Culture

Anthony, Susan B.
Anthony, Susan B.

Africa: Sub-Saharan, Pre-Independence



Computers, the Internet, and New Media





This Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.