The Usual Suspects

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
The Usual Suspects Movie Poster Image
Profane, violent crime thriller has novel twists.
  • R
  • 1995
  • 106 minutes
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 27 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Nobody here is very noble, with just a hint that cop-turned-crook Dean Keaton was on the verge of mending his ways for his girlfriend's sake (but didn't). Even the police are portrayed as internally corrupt and bullying, using threats and intimidation on suspects.

Violence

Brief, stylized flashbacks of a rape. Characters beaten, shot at close range and in the head. Gasoline poured on an occupied police car, set on fire. A mother and children are murdered in a flashback.

Sex

Characters tell off-color anecdotes.

Language

Lots and LOTS of swearing, especially the f-word, plus just about every other profanity from time to time.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Characters smoke -- even through their stocking masks. Mentions of cocaine and other narcotics in terms of underworld drug deals.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Usual Suspects has tons of strong language, particularly "f--k." Violence gets pretty severe too. In a flashback (which may not reflect actual events) children and a mother are murdered by their own husband/father. There is an overwhelming sense of film noir-style corruption, and even the police don't look terribly clean.

User Reviews

Adult Written byEvanReviews August 14, 2009

Perfect for Mature Audiences Only

Awesome Movie with an amazing twist at the end. Language is extremely used frequently and some violence invovled including a very brief scene of rape.
Adult Written byMovie Man September 6, 2009

Impressive, Well-Cast Thriller Has an Infamous Character and an Excellent Twist

This may be the definition of magnificent twists and build-up. Granted, a website had already spoiled the infamous twist to me (which I was very upset about), y...
Teen, 13 years old Written bycartmanwoodhouse April 9, 2008
Teen, 14 years old Written byhabrelima July 9, 2011

A Must Watch for Movie Lovers

I understand that there are orthodox, carefully minded parents out there that don't want their kids/teens watching things with violence and profanity, and...

What's the story?

A favorite "guy movie" for its cool crook-talk dialog (filled with swearing) and breathtaking twist at the end, THE USUAL SUSPECTS starts with the finale of a mass-murder/explosion on board a boat in San Pedro, California. Flashbacks and divergent timelines -- and it is rather confusing at first -- fill in the story, as a police detective questions one of the few survivors, a crippled, wimpy con-artist named Verbal (Kevin Spacey). He claims that he and the dead men were all part of an outlaw band centered on Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), a former New York City cop turned career criminal. Lured to the West Coast for a job, the victims were told they had offended a legendary international outlaw named Keyser Soze, a figure so shadowy he may or may not even exist, and much unsolved malice and mayhem surrounds him. The police are skeptical that nervous, rabbity Verbal could possibly be involved with Keyser Soze, let alone survive a close encounter. But then...

Is it any good?

This is a transfixing, convoluted film noir thriller that forces you to think through events. Though it's a story without any "good" guys, in most any sense (one female character, who seems to represent possible redemption, is very marginal and gets coldly killed off-screen), you'll likely want to watch it a second time to see where the filmmakers and their narrative fooled you. That said, it does paint a picture of a pretty violent world, and the degree to which there's any philosophy or morality at work comes from Verbal Klint, who observes that Keyser Soze succeeds because he's willing to go farther and be meaner than other gangsters, and that, moreover, he's like the devil, "whose greatest trick was convincing the world that he didn't exist."

The mythic Soze works his ruthless will through unwitting dupes and hirelings, always staying in the background -- not unlike Voldemort from the Harry Potter tales. Unlike Potter, though, profanity is so thick here you'd swear the ship blows up at the start because of the heavy concentration of f-bombs.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why The Usual Suspects is so popular. Did you see the trick ending coming? Do you want to watch it a second time, knowing how it comes out?

  • What does the film say about the criminal mindset and power? "Keyser Soze," is the all-powerful crime lord who may not really exist and who is feared like an underworld boogeyman. Can you think of real-life parallels in the realms of the Mafia and international terrorism?

  • You could use this movie to turn kids onto tricky crime thrillers of yesteryear, going all the way back to The Maltese Falcon, Kiss Me Deadly, The Lady from Shanghai, and The Big Sleep (which didn't have to swear to hold viewers spellbound).

Movie details

For kids who love action

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