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'Usual Suspects' baffling but good

Ron Tank, Entertainment Correspondent
August 16, 1995

HOLLYWOOD, California (CNN) -- "The Usual Suspects" serves up anything but the usual fare. Featuring an unlikely ensemble cast, this film, while occasionally baffling, has been winning praise from the critics.

on location

Directed and produced by Bryan Singer, 26, the movie revolves around five criminals brought together for a police lineup. But what is the 1940s-style whodunit about, really? "Well, it's about 94 minutes," joked Kevin Pollack. His costar, Benicio Del Toro was just as cryptic: "I don't know if I got it the first time I read it."

Gabriel Byrne was only slightly more edifying: "I know the story. I know exactly what happened from scene to scene and yet I was sitting in the theater saying, 'Oh, my god. Maybe he did it.'" (162k AIFF sound)

Steven Baldwin

Chaz Palminteri plays the customs agent who must sort out the mystery involving the five suspects: Pollack, Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Steven Baldwin and Benicio Del Toro.

Gabriel Byrne

The Irish-born Byrne says his character wasn't written to be Irish. In fact, the actor would prefer parts that overlook accent stereotypes. "It's very difficult for a lot of people who make decisions, the powers that be, to get beyond accents," he said. "If you have an American accent, that's normal. If you speak with an accent at all, you're not. But the truth about it is, America is mostly made up of people with accents."

It wasn't an accent, but a style of speaking that won the part for Del Toro. "I just had this idea to make the character into a mumbler," he said (119k AIFF sound). The audience may have to strain to hear some of Del Toro's dialogue, but then, so did the other actors. Recalls Singer, "Gabriel came to me and said, 'We don't want to mess with this process, you know, but we can't understand what he's saying.' ... I said, 'If you don't understand him, ask him. In fact in this scene, ask him. Kevin ask him -- to let the audience know we're in on it.'"

While the average Hollywood film costs $30 million, Singer made this one for under $6 million. He shot it in just 35 days, using existing locations in Los Angeles and New York. But then Singer also knew what he wanted. "He had a very specific vision for each scene and had the confidence to allow the players to bring to it what they will," Pollack said.

Flashbacks, plot twists and even some mumbled dialogue may make "The Usual Suspects" difficult to follow. It also may make audiences want to see it again. (740k QT movie)


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