The Usual Suspects (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A sole survivor tells of the twisty events leading up to a horrific gun battle on a boat, which began when five criminals met at a seemingly random police lineup.

October 24, 2022 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

After an explosion on the waterfront docks, eye witness Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) prepares to leave after giving his report, but his exit won’t be that soon. Although Kint has told the police what he knows, an officer named Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) wishes to speak with him and extract additional information. Kujan knows that Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) was involved in the explosion and while Kint claims he was killed, Kujan has his doubts. Keaton was a former police officer himself, before he turned to crime and was booted off the force. Then he was assumed dead after an explosion, but as fate has it, he was still alive after all, but Keaton stated he was out of crime and just wanted to start over. So now it looks as if Keaton is dead again, but Kujan is determined to know the truth this time, no matter what it takes. So he sits down with Kint and asks to hear the entire story, how Verbal met Keaton, what kind of operations they were involved in, and every last detail he is able to recollect. So Kint relays the tale of a fateful night when five criminals met in a most unusual lineup, become partners in several criminal endeavors, and ended up at the service of one Keyser Soze…

An intense thriller loaded with great performances, superb writing, and one hell of an ending, The Usual Suspects is one of the genre’s finest modern efforts. The film has a stacked deck of workers, but the star power remains in order here, as the actors mesh together instead of jockeying for position, which happens a lot in star studded pictures. I know the talent here is not all A list, but the cast is filled with well known performers and to see them all work together so well, it just elevates the film a few notches. As great as the cast is however, you have to give some credit to writer Christopher McQuarrie for his excellent material and director Bryan Singer for weaving it all together so well. The Usual Suspects grabs you by the throat from the start and refuses to release you until the last second, which is what a thriller of this kind should do, I think. I also like how this movie never relies on cheap thrills or endless red herrings, it lays out a complex, well planned storyline and lets it unfold, while we’re glued to the screen.

This role earned him an Oscar and I think he more than deserved it, as Kevin Spacey anchors this film and puts on one hell of a show. This is very much an ensemble piece, but Spacey is the central focus of the story, so a lot rides on his performance. As per usual, he delivers on all counts and makes the material shine, so The Usual Suspects works. If he hadn’t been so dead on, I think the film would have lost much of its impact, since Spacey serves as a narrator of sorts, in addition to his normal screen chores. But then again, the part was written with him in mind and he never stumbles even for a second, so perhaps there was never any doubt with this one.

Video: How’s it look?

A new HDR/Dolby Vision Master from a 16bit 4K Scan of the Original Camera Negative – Color Graded and Approved by Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sige was used for this new disc. That’s a mouthful, to be sure. In layman’s terms, it means that the film now looks as good as it ever has.  I’ve always thought that this looked good, but not great. I’m going to have to reconsider that thought. The new 2.39:1 HEVC 4K image gives us everything we’d suspect (sorry, couldn’t resist) with a new transfer. Colors are bit bolder, detail has been improved and the aforementioned “color grading” really does make a difference. I remember seeing a similar feature on Se7en some years ago and was fascinated how grading the color can really impact a scene. It’s not perfect, mind you, there’s still a fine layer of grain present but on the whole – it’s more than your usual upgrade.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is the same that’s been featured on previous discs. That being said, I won’t re-invent the wheel. In the few instances where power is needed, the surrounds kick up a few notches and deliver. So the explosions and gunshots do add some presence and in this case, that can enhance the experience more than a little. The bulk of the film is more about dialogue and low key audio, but it still sounds terrific. The little touches in the background can bring immersion to even a simple conversation, so there is never a dull moment here. The musical score also comes through well, which is excellent news since the music here is remarkable. As far as dialogue, I have no complaints, vocals were clear and error free throughout. This disc also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Disc One (4K)

  • Audio Commentary – Director Bryan Singer and Writer Christopher McQuarrie collaborate on the far better of the two audio commentaries. Both have a lot to say and offer some subtle nuances about the cast, the story and the shoot as a whole. This is a great track.
  • Audio Commentary – Editor/Composer John Ottman offers his thoughts in this far less entertaining, yet still enjoyable, track.

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  • Audio Commentary – Director Bryan Singer and Writer Christopher McQuarrie collaborate on the far better of the two audio commentaries. Both have a lot to say and offer some subtle nuances about the cast, the story and the shoot as a whole. This is a great track.
  • Audio Commentary – Editor/Composer John Ottman offers his thoughts in this far less entertaining, yet still enjoyable, track.
  • The Devil in the Details – The lone new supplement is this interview with Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel. Sigel offers his thoughts on how the movie was staged and filmed and it’s a welcome addition to get some new supplements for this movie.
  • Pursuing the Suspects – A somewhat obligatory “making of…” featurette with some interviews with the cast and crew as well as some behind the scenes footage.
  • Doin’ Time with the Suspects – Essentially the same as the above feature, but we also get some interviews with the main cast members on their roles, etc.
  • Keyser Söze: Lie or Legend – A look at the man, the myth and legend – Keyser Söze. The less you know about this feature – the better.
  • Interview with John Ottman – If you listened to the commentary with Ottman, this is essentially the same thing – only shorter. Still it’s nice to hear some of his comments on the film.
  • Original EPK Making-of Featurette – Back when Blu-ray’s and DVD’s were just a sparkle in someone’s eye, we get things like this that show how far production values for “Making of…” featurettes have really come.
  • Heisting Cannes with The Usual Suspects – Pretty much that – the gang at Cannes.
  • Deleted Scenes – Hosted by John Ottman – Nearly ten minutes’ worth of deleted scenes are shown and John Ottman navigates us through them.
  • Gag Reel with Introduction – I don’t really know why you’d need an introduction for a gag reel, but her we are…
  • Cast and Crew Outtakes – Yep, that.
  • Trailers – U.S. and International are included.
  • Television Spots

The Bottom Line

The Usual Suspects, a line taken from the immortal Casablanca, has quietly grown to one of my favorite films. Originally I felt is was just a knock off of Pulp Fiction, but you can add that to the list of things I was wrong about. Kino’s new 4K image breathes new life into the film and the wealth of features, along with a new one to boot, is the icing on the cake.

Disc Scores

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