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The Usual Suspects: Special Edition

FBI agents Jack Baer (Giancarlo Esposito) and Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) are mopping up after a big, bloody mess — an apparent botched heist in which a cargo ship went up in flames. The only survivors are a logorrheic, crippled con named "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey) and a badly burned Hungarian sailor. Verbal soon finds himself grilled by Kujan about the events that led up to the boat heist. The remainder of the film is essentially one long, semi-convoluted flashback: a tale of five crooks (Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, and Spacey) who meet in a police lineup and decide to do a "job" together — only to have a mysterious Eastern Bloc gangster named "Keyser Söze" butt into (and, in some cases, end) their lives. As Verbal spins his story, the question "Who is Keyser Söze?" comes to dominate the proceedings — a sort of blood-soaked variant on Citizen Kane's "Rosebud" mystery. Roger Ebert and a handful of other critics found The Usual Suspects to be an ultimately hollow stylistic exercise — a story robbed of its power by its final revelatory moments. But the film is a passionate embrace of the fakery of the movies. McQuarrie and Singer are in love with the notion that the moviemaking process itself is an exquisite falsehood — so what's the harm in piling on a little more legerdemain? Even if the film is ultimately a "magic trick" about nothing other than its own inventiveness, can we dismiss so easily the vivid characters ("real" or "fake") and the colorful tableaux McQuarrie et al create? What's great about Suspects is that every member of the filmmaking team comes to play, and every member of the filmmaking team seems to be playing a different game — and it all meshes together beautifully. Singer bathes McQuarrie's zinger-filled script in a lurid color palate that wipes away the grit and turns it into something akin to a fable. Meanwhile, each of the five leads seems to have studied at a different acting school, possibly on different planets. Plus the film is sweetened by a surprisingly lush musical score — one of the best of the 1990s — written by of all people the film's editor, John Ottman. MGM Home Entertainment has created the protein-rich "Special Edition" that Suspects fans have longed for — with brand-new standard and widescreen transfers of the film (plus two commentary tracks) on one side of the disc and a quite-decent set of special features on the other. The picture, of course, looks great, and the soundtrack's a strong Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Among the extras are a commentary with director Bryan Singer and scenarist Christopher McQuarrie (which originally appeared on the initial PolyGram and MGM discs), a new commentary with editor/composer John Ottman, five making-of featurettes with new interviews, trailers and TV spots, five deleted scenes, a "Gag Reel," plus an Easter egg revealing two additional featurettes (see full review for the egg hack). Good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with full-frame (1.33:1) option. Keep-case with semi-transparent plastic sleeve.
—Alexandra Dupont

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