Film: The Usual Suspects
"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."This dark and multilayered neo-noir film helped launch the careers of Kevin Spacey (who earned an Oscar for his performance), Benicio Del Toro, director Bryan Singer, and writer Christopher McQuarrie as well as relaunch that of Gabriel Byrne.The movie is told mostly in flashback form. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey) is the only survivor of a bombing and shootout that left 27 people dead. While his lawyer fights for his speedy release from police custody, Kint begrudgingly reveals the events leading up to the previous night's explosion to Customs Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri). Meanwhile, in a hospital not far away, it is revealed that a Hungarian dealer survived the blast, though unfortunately he only speaks Hungarian and isn't in much shape to be divulging his story. Kujan is determined to get the truth, no matter what it takes — particularly the truth about Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), one of Kint's fellow "suspects" and the target of his longtime vendetta.Eventually, the crux of Kint's story begins to center around the presence of a criminal mastermind named Keyser Söze. Kujan at first doubts the existence of the "bogeyman of the criminal underworld", but as Kint continues his story, Kujan eventually realizes just how deep this particular rabbit hole goes.The film's ending is one of the most famous cases of The Ending Changes Everything, to the point that some critics have said any subsequent rewatching is essentially like watching a different movie.
— Verbal Kint
This film provides examples of:
- Absence of Evidence: Where's the cocaine?
- Academy Award: It won 2 of them: Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Spacey and Best Original Screenplay for Christopher McQuarrie.
- All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": Probably the first thing anyone hears about the film nowadays is The Reveal in the Twist Ending.
- Amoral Attorney: Mr. Kobayashi is the one who brings up Keyser Soze's proposal to have the drug deal on the ship robbed
- Anyone Can Die: All but one of the Suspects die in the final shootout, and Fenster dies even before the third act.
- Armor-Piercing Question: When Kujan asks Kint about Soze, Kint's entire demeanor changes, and he nearly collapses in terror. Subverted by the ending.
- Artistic License Law: There is no "San Pedro Police Department". However, there is the Los Angeles Police Department's Harbor division.
- Asshole Victim: How Kujan sees Keaton's death.
- Avengers Assemble: It's done through the team's arrests. In lock-up, one of them suggests they get back together to do another job.
- Ax-Crazy: The backstory for Keyser Söze told by Kint portrays Söze as this. When his family was held hostage by a Hungarian gang, he killed his wife and children first, then killed the hostage takers, their colleagues, their families, and even their rivals, then disappeared completely and became a legend.
- Badass Crew: Take a guess.
- Bad Boss: Söze's minions are disposable.
- The Bad Guy Wins
- Be as Unhelpful as Possible: Inverted, as Verbal's quite helpful until you realize he's only telling the story to buy time until his release.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- Those who speak Hungarian get to hear a cut off joke from Hockney finished by two Hungarian henchmen later in the film.
- An ambiguous one: "Söz" in Turkish means a word or saying, but there's no such word as "söze" (aside from the dative form of "söz"). Unless it's supposed to be short for "sözebesi" (one who finds words easily, one who talks a lot) but that wouldn't make sense to speakers of Turkish either. There really seems to be a connection though. It comes together if you realize that Verbal says that he is often berated for talking too much which is yet another hint that Verbal is Soze.
- The burned Hungarian man also has a lengthy line making fun of the police for trying to interrogate him in English.Arkosh Kovash: [in Hungarian] Why are you just standing there, you idiot? I'm not speaking English am I? Wouldn't it make sense to find someone who could talk to me so you could find the person that set me on fire, perhaps? He is the Devil. You've never seen anyone like Keyser Soze in all your miserable life, you idiot. Keyser Soze. Do you at least understand that? Keyser Soze. The Devil himself. Or are you American policemen so stupid that you haven't even heard of him? Keyser Soze, you ridiculous man. KEYSER SOZE.
- Break the Haughty: Agent Kujan. His constant flaunting of his intelligence to Verbal returns to bite him in the ending.From the final paragraph of the screenplay: A moment later, Agent David Kujan of U.S. Customs wanders into the frame, looking around much in the way a child would when lost at the circus.
- Brick Joke: Halfway through the film, the group discover it was Hockney who stole the truck full of gun parts.
- Calling Card: Keyser Sozes is two Gangsta Style gunshots to the head. This is how he kills Keaton, Arturro, and Edie. The killing of Saul Berg foreshadows The Reveal.
- Cast as a Mask: Scott B. Morgan as the Keyser Söze in Kint's flashback. Morgan's elbows do not fully extend, causing his arms to be slightly crooked at all times. Singer thought it looked interesting.
- Chronic Villainy: Keaton
- Clueless Mystery
- Cluster F-Bomb: Pretty much any time the Suspects have a scene together.
- Colliding Criminal Conspiracies: A bunch of would-be robbers end up stealing from and in the pockets of a much more sinister crime lord.
- Confirmation Bias: Discussed In-Universe by Verbal Kint, who acusses Inspector Kujan of this at his interrogation. Later, the audience will discover that Verbal not only discussed it, but exploited itVerbal: To a cop the explanation is never that complicated. It's always simple. There's no mystery to the street, no arch criminal behind it all. If you got a dead body and you think his brother did it, you're gonna find out you're right.
- Consummate Liar: Verbal Kint. The Mind Screw really sets in when you realize that everything you think you know about Keyser Söze potentially comes from Keyser Söze himself.
- Composite Character: Originally, there were two San Pedro Policemen working with Kujan — Sergeant Rabin and Capt. Leo. However, the writer had to trim down the script, so he compressed the two characters into one, the Sergeant Rabin of the film. In the commentary, Singer and the writer thought this was for the best, as Leo was envisioned as a stereotypical angry police chief.
- Conveniently Cellmates: The main characters first meet in a jail cell, and this is revealed to be part of Keyser Söze's plot. The main characters lampshade this as being improbable, since when you're in a lineup it's almost always you and four volunteers the police hired to fill out the lineup.
- Creator Cameo:
- Screenwriter Chris McQuarrie is one of the cops conducting the line-up — he ad-libs the "In English, please!" remark to Fenster when Benicio del Toro mumbles his line.
- Bryan Singer has two. The most traditional is that his hands double as the hands of Keyser Soze in one scene. The less obvious is also a case of Throw It In: during the line-up scene, after Benicio del Toro mumbles one of his lines in a bizarre voice, Singer can be heard, presumably as one of the cops, shouting "In English, please!" That was actually Singer-as-director shouting, because he had no idea what del Toro was doing with the character, but he decided to leave that take in the movie.
- Corrupt Cop: Keaton used to be one, before becoming a flat-out criminal and then trying to become an legitimate businessman. Additionally, there's New York's Finest Taxi Service, a ring of corrupt cops who drive drug dealers and other criminals from the airport to wherever they're doing their business.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: In Kint's story, Keaton returns to crime because he couldn't get a legitimate occupation. However, staying out of crime has earned him a beautiful hot-shot attorney for a girlfriend. As long as he's with her, he won't need a profitable career. It's really his vanity that drives him back to crime.
- Dead Man Switch: Kobayashi lets the protagonists know that if he dies under suspicious circumstances, his boss Keyser Söze will immediately know who did it and take revenge on them and their families.
- Deadpan Snarker:
Todd Hockney: You guys don't have a fuckin' leg to stand on.
- Hockney, while he's being interrogated by the police:
Interrogation Cop: You think so, tough guy? I can put you in Queens on the night of the hijacking.
Todd Hockney: Really? I live in Queens. Did you put that together yourself, Einstein? What, you got a team of monkeys working around the clock on this?
Interrogation Cop: You know what happens if you do another turn in the joint?
Todd Hockney: [shrugs] Uhhh, fuck your father in the shower and then have a snack. Are you gonna charge me, dickhead?
Interrogation Cop: I'll charge you when I'm ready.
Fred Fenster: A guy had his finger up my asshole tonight!
Todd Hockney: Is it Friday already?
Verbal Kint: (about his nickname) Roger really. People say I talk too much.
- And, to Verbal, who has been silent this whole time:
Todd Hockney: Yeah, I was gonna tell you to shut up.
- Deep Cover Agent: Verbal Kint may or may not be a cover identity. If it's a cover, it goes back some considerable time, likely years — Keaton refers to having met Verbal "once or twice" prior to the events of the movie, with the conversation implying that this was not particularly recently. Of course, this is all assuming that Verbal is actually telling the truth about this scene...
- Designated Love Interest: Edie and Keaton to each other. Verbal is the only person in the whole movie who seems to believe they cared for each other, even though Edie doesn't seem to be all that fazed by Keaton's complete disappearance from her life, and Keaton ignores essentially all attempts at connection from his girlfriend.
- Diabolical Mastermind: Keyser Söze, an almost-legendary crime lord who, if he exists at all, works through layers upon layers of proxies. Except in the occasional case where hiding in plain sight as one of the supposed "proxies" works to his advantage.
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Kujan asks Verbal why he didn't try to save Keaton.Verbal: It was Keyser Soze; it was the Devil himself. How do you shoot the Devil in the back? (Verbal lifts his palsied hand) What if you miss?
- Downer Ending: Keyser Soze has escaped once again, presumably for the last time.
- Dramatic Drop: Agent Kujan drops his coffee cup when he realizes that he [apparently] let Keyzer Soze walk out the door after having him in the police station for several hours spinning his yarn.
- Dramatic Shattering: Done with a dropped coffee cup at the end.
- The Dreaded: Keyser Söze is a legend among criminals. Most of them fear him, some doubt his existence, but everyone has heard his story.
- Dressing as the Enemy: Hockney twice fools the Hungarian mooks, taking advantage of the fact that they don't know all the Argentinians; the first time by casually waving his submachine gun, the second time by shouting in Spanish.
- Driving Question: Who or what is Keyser Soze?
- DVD Commentary: The commentary is played straight until the final scenes, when director Singer and screenwriter McQuarrie suddenly engage in a heated argument. Portions of the argument fade in and out of the commentary track much like the dialogue of the film's climax. The filmmakers each land a parting insult before the track ends.
- Elective Unintelligible: Fenster, played by Benicio del Toro. He chews up his words so badly sometimes even his Heterosexual Life Partner can't understand him.
- The Ending Changes Everything: Popularized by this film. A police prisoner, Verbal Kint, is being interrogated about a ship explosion the previous night. His interrogator Agent Kujan believes that the explosion was caused by Dean Keaton, a crooked cop, but Kint tells how a diabolical mastermind called Keyser Soze was behind it all. Eventually, Kint relents under Kujan's pressure and admits that Keaton was Keyser Soze all along. Just after Kint is released from custody, however, Kujan realizes that Kint has been spinning a gigantic lie using objects around the office as inspiration. It's suggested that it was Kint himself who is Keyser Soze and was simply playing a role the whole time. This is all foreshadowed in the beginning, when Kujan states that cops almost always find what they expect to find. Kujan expected Kint to be a weak patsy protecting Keaton, so that's the role Kint played.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: How Kobayashi blackmails the Suspects.
- Totally subverted in Keyser Soze's case. He killed his wife and children after some Hungarian criminals took them hostage.
- Everyone Is a Suspect: Who is Keyser Söze?
- Evil Brit: Kobayashi, who has a British Indian accent. According to the creators, he's supposed to be Pakistani.
- Redfoot even refers to him as "some limey" when he first mentions the lawyer to the Suspects.
- Evil Narrator Protagonist All Along: Roger "Verbal" Kint.
- The Faceless: KEYSER SÖZE. Except not really.
- Faking the Dead: Keaton is infamous within the New York underworld for having faked his death to dodge a murder rap. When the cops confront him with this, Keaton claims he did no such thing. He is living in the same city, using the same name and the same face, it has nothing to do with him that the cops messed up and thought he was dead. Towards the end of the story, Kujan believes that Keaton has done this a second time, and Keyser is either him or a smokescreen.
- Feet-First Introduction: Used to hide the identity of Keyser Söze. This is cleverly used as Book Ends for The Reveal, as Verbal Kint's limp slowly changes to a confident stride as he walks away from the police station.
- Five-Man Band/Five-Bad Band
- The Leader: Keaton, who Verbal admires and turns into the main character and cool-headed leader of the Suspects during his flashbacks.
- The Lancer/The Dragon: McManus, the hotheaded, impulsive opposite of Keaton, and, as Verbal tells it, the initial leader of the Suspects. McManus also seems the most capable in a shootout.
- The Smart Guy/The Evil Genius: Verbal. Although Kujan thinks Verbal is stupid, this is just not true, and as a Con Man, Verbal relies more on brains than any of the other Suspects, who are mostly highjackers.
- The Big Guy/The Brute: Hockney may be the smallest of the suspects, but he's the one always looking for a fight and the explosives expert, which more than makes up for his small size.
- The Chick/The Dark Chick: Poor Fenster never got a chance to shine, and his main characteristic is being hammier than the others and having the odd accent.
- Foreshadowing: There's an early scene of Verbal Kint alone in Rabin's office looking around at his surroundings. This sets up that he was just pulling details from Rabin's clutter for his story
Jeff Rabin: ... but it all has a system, Dave. It all makes sense when you look at it right. You gotta, like stand back from it, you know?
- And Rabin himself gives Kujan this gem just before The Reveal:
- When Keaton demands Kobayashi tell him who he works for during their first meeting, if you look closely, Kobayashi's eyes briefly shift towards Verbal, before he looks back at Keaton and says, "I work for Keyser Soze".
- Look at Verbal's relative position on the night of the attack. He is hiding behind a stack of material on the dock. When Hockney is killed, Verbal would have been the closest person to him. In his testimony, shown in flashback, Verbal supposedly takes cover behind some large spools of rope on the dock as he observes Soze on the boat. However, when the camera zooms in on this area from the opposite side after the explosion, no one is seen peering through the ropes.
- In the opening scene, Keyser Söze looks at a gold pocket watch and produce a gold cigarette lighter. Later, in the scene where the gang threatens Kobayashi, we see Verbal wearing a similar watch. He also collects this watch, along with a gold cigarette lighter, as he leaves the police station, despite having earlier demonstrated his inability to use a similar lighter during his questioning.
- In the interrogation, Verbal comments that when he gets dehydrated his urine becomes thick and lumpy due to a kidney condition. In the opening scene when Keyser Söze urinates on the fire, his urine is thick and lumpy.
- When Kujan begins to suggest that Keaton might be the one behind the hit on the docks, Verbal can be seen starting to smile. When Kujan comes around from behind Verbal and looks him in the face, the smile disappears, and Verbal continues to pretend loyalty to Keaton. During the interrogation throughout the movie, although it is easy to miss upon a first viewing, Verbal is seen glancing for a second or two away from Kujan or over Kujan's shoulder at the wall behind him in full view of wanted posters and advertisement flyers of names as Verbal is picks up the names of the mysterious associates and contacts such as 'Redfoot' and 'Kobayashi' when Kujan's questioning becomes more intense.
- Keyser Söze is described by Verbal as being of mixed Turkish/German heritage. "Söze" is Turkish for "talks too much," or "verbal." "Keyser" sounds like the German word "Kaiser," meaning "emperor," while "Kint" sounds like "king." Director Bryan Singer has referred to the name as essentially meaning "The king that talks too much."
- If you're good with voices, you'll recognize that that when Söze whispers "How ya doin' Keaton?" at the start of the film, the voice is Verbal's. After being thrown on the ground Verbal slips "I did kill Keaton," though Kujan is shouting too loud to hear, and Verbal is able to correct himself by saying "I did see Keaton get shot." And when they are listening to the men before the attack on the boat, Keaton speculates that they are speaking Russian, but Verbal correctly identifies the language as Hungarian, something Soze would obviously know.
- During his interrogation by the NYPD, Hockney tells one of the officers "I'm gonna have your fucking badge, cocksucker." The phrasing recalls the phrase that the NYPD had the suspects say during their lineup, and foreshadows that Hockney was responsible for hijacking the truck full of guns.
- "And like that (poof), he's gone."
- Gangsta Style: Hockney holds his gun to one side in a scene, and how Söze finishes off Keaton.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Several, mostly done quite artfully.
- Guns Akimbo:
- During the jewel heist, McManus aims two pistols and gets kill shots on two different targets who are both grappling with his accomplices.
- Notable that he hesitates for several seconds trying to line up both shots and the others look at him incredulously
- Keaton uses two pistols during the climax.
- During the jewel heist, McManus aims two pistols and gets kill shots on two different targets who are both grappling with his accomplices.
- Gut Feeling: Kujan believes he already knows what happens and tries to get Verbal to confirm his suspicions. Early in the film, Verbal encourages this behavior by sarcastically asserting that, when a cop thinks the brother did it, he's usually going to be right.
- Hand of Death: Söze's identity is hidden by showing various parts of his body — his hands, the back of his head — but never his face, except in a single dark and blurry shot of him walking away from a burning building. Söze was played in flashbacks by about six different people, including three members of the main cast (Baldwin, Byrne and Spacey). One of the other people was Bryan Singer himself. When people ask him who Keyser Söze really is, he always answers, "Me."
- As mentioned above, Gabriel Byrne was one of the actors who stood in for Söze. The first time someone asked him who Keyser Söze was, he replied: "Until I saw the film finished, I thought he was me."
- He Knows Too Much: the one surviving Hungarian from that boat.Translator: He says it was the devil. He saw the devil...
- Hidden Villain
- Homoerotic Subtext: Hockney gets right in McManus' face during their argument over whether they should go to Los Angeles.
- Horrifying the Horror: The Hungarians are totally ruthless because they rule purely through intimidation. When Agent Baer recognises Arkosh Kovash in the hospital, he insists the hospital staff immediately put a guard on the door. Kovash however is too busy trying to get police protection from 'the Devil' to cause any trouble.
- How We Got Here
- I Can't Feel My Legs: The following scene occurs at the beginning of the movie. Later, we hear that Keaton was shot beforehand.Keyser Soze: How you doing Keaton?
Keaton: I can't feel my legs...Keyser.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: McManus pulls off a few impressive shots, most notably the one during the jewel heist.
- Indy Ploy: The whole movie is a story Kint pulls out of his ass when he's stuck in police custody.
- Informed Attribute:
- Verbal tells everyone that McManus is "crazy", but the only time McManus acts even a little weird is after Fenster dies. Otherwise, Verbal may be exaggerating McManus' temper or eccentricities.
- Kujan states Keaton is a "cold-blooded bastard", informing Verbal of the ex-cop's murderous past. However in the movie, Keaton is reluctant in killing a jeweler, and cares for Verbal and Edie. This being Verbal's flashback, it may be colored by his personal feelings or an outright lie.
- Inspector Javert: Customs agent Dave Kujan is obsessed with arresting cop-turned-criminal Keaton. Trouble is, while there's little doubt that Keaton is a thief and murderer, he seems to be genuinely trying to go legitimate at the start of the movie. But Kujan's dogged pursuit lets Keaton's potential business partners know about his criminal background, torpedoing his career and sending him back to a life of crime. In Kujan's interactions with Verbal, we also see he's willing to break the law himself (including issuing death threats) if it means catching Keaton, and is so focused on that goal that he ignores any explanation that doesn't paint Keaton as the criminal mastermind behind everything.
- Interrogation Montage: The interrogations of the team before the famous "line-up scene", where they successively blow off the cops.
- Ironic Nickname: "Verbal" Kint is chatty in the interrogation, but in the flashbacks he's very reticent. He doesn't utter a word before introducing himself, saying, "People say I talk too much." Hockney quips, "Yeah, I was just about to tell you to shut up."
- Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"?:Agent Kujan: You know a dealer named Ruby Deamer?
Verbal Kint: You know a religious guy named John Paul?
- Jurisdiction Friction: Averted in the film. But in the DVD commentary the director and writer comment that apparently in real life, the FBI and U.S. Customs did not get along with each other.
- Kansas City Shuffle: Late in the film, Kujan becomes convinced that Verbal's story is one big smokescreen concocted to shield the true perpetrator of the crime from the blame. He's right, of course. Where he goes wrong is in assuming that said perp is Keaton, which Verbal goes with to shift the blame even further from himself.
- Karma Houdini: At the end, Verbal Kint manages to talk his way out of his prison time.
- Karmic Death: All of the other criminals who died in the boat shootout didn't suffer this. Keaton, who is the second most evil criminal, right closer to being as evil as Söze himself, did die this way (all because he embraces his life of crime because the police won't let him off). And his death is well deserved.
- Kill 'em All: In the end all the suspects except for Verbal die — though this is more or less hinted at in the first scene of the movie, almost making it a Foregone Conclusion.
- Large Ham:
- Fenster. Del Toro basically added this characterization himself. The character on the page was pretty flat and nondescript. Word of God says that he did this because he was supposed to be the token Red Shirt of the movie. He wanted his character to stand out more.
- Also seen during the lineup, where various characters act up to annoy the police or look more Bad Ass.
- Line-of-Sight Name: Many details from Verbal's story turn out to be taken from objects in the room. Verbal is seen looking around the room before his interrogation, and a later shot even shows him looking up at the bottom of Kujan's coffee cup.
- Living Legend: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
- Lost in Translation: In-film example. The Hungarian translator the cops get, who speaks it with a strong American accent and thus isn't a native, mishears one word he translates as "package" instead of "guy" because it's native Hungarian slang. The sentence thus reads "We picked up a package" instead of "We picked up a guy".
- Man Behind the Man: The Suspects cant decide whether Kobayashi works for Keyser Soze or whether he is the true Big Bad. Only when Keaton comes face-to-face with Keyser is he convinced.
- Masquerading As The Unseen: Keyser Soze is never seen during Verbal's account, and he interacts with the characters through an intermediary. This may become an inversion though, when it's revealed that Verbal is Keyser Soze.
- Meaningful Name: Keyser Söze is speculated to be German or Turkish. Kaiser, a homonym of Keyser, is the German word for emperor, and Söze means "talks too much" in Turkish, making Keyser Söze "Emperor Talks Too Much," a hint that he is "Verbal" Kint, who says he's accused of talking too much. The cops REALLY should have taken into account that the man who is telling them the entire plot of the movie is a con-man nicknamed "Verbal." It's Fridge Brilliance once you realize the entire movie (quite literally, as everything we, the audience, have been told about the movie's plot is from Verbal's perspective) has consisted of him lying through his teeth.
- The Mob Boss Is Scarier: This seems to be the case when Kujan brings up Keyser Söze and Verbal reacts with stark terror. Subverted at the end when it's revealed that Verbal is Keyser Soze.
- Never Trust a Trailer: Some early trailers for the film implied that the main characters, in a combination of self-preservation and horror at Keyser Söze's activities, were banding together to take him down.
- Not Named In Opening (or the ending) Credits: Peter Greene, the actor who played Redfoot. This may be because the end shows that the character may well have never existed in universe.
- Obfuscating Disability: Verbal Kint's limp is just an act to make him seem more harmless; in the film's final scene, it disappears in a single stride.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Verbal Kint, pretending to be a weak-willed and crippled sap who was taken advantage of by Dean Keaton, rather than the diabolical crimelord he is.
- Oh Crap!: Kujan gets an epic one when he spots that the cork board in Rabin's office was made in Skokie, Illinois, where one of Kint's anecdotes took place, making him realize that Kint was making stuff up in order to buy time
- One Last Job: Dean Keaton claims robbing the New York Taxi Service was this. No-one believes him; and Verbal says it only took a day of badgering from McManus to convince him to take on another job.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: A couple of times, Gabriel Byrne lapses back into his native Irish accent.
- Orphaned Punchline: To distract Saul and his bodyguards before attacking them, Hockney is telling a story — the line we hear is "so I open the car door, and this chick is totally naked..." Apparently, later in the movie one of the guards on the boat gives the setup to this line in Hungarian.
- Papa Wolf: Subverted by Söze. He has a beautiful wife, three adoring children, and he's big and hairy and aggressive- then his family is taken hostage. He killed his wife and both surviving kids himself rather than allow his enemies to do it. That way, he explains to the surviving enemy mook, they won't have to live with the humiliation.
- Personal Effects Reveal: The gold watch and lighter featured in the opening as belonging to Söze are given back to Verbal Kint when he leaves the police station.
- Pet the Dog: McManus comes across a dog while on the boat in the climax, and gives it a head rub before moving on. Before that, we find out he actually cared about his partner, Fenster, and the two were close friends.
- Police Lineup: How the suspects all meet each other. It's the picture used on the posters and DVD cover.
- Posthumous Character: Most of the characters.
- Precision F-Strike: Verbal's reaction to a sudden new line of questioning is classic:Kujan: [bursts into office] Who's Keyser Soze?
Verbal: Aw, fuck!
(Later, as he is walking out of the office) Verbal: Fucking cops!
- Rabid Cop: David Kujan of U.S. Customs:"Not from me, you piece of shit! There is no immunity from me."
- Red Shirt: Fenster, who actually wears a red shirt.
- The Reveal: Aside from the obvious, there's a rare case where it's mostly inconsequential to the plot. When Kobayashi is rattling off everyone's crimes against Söze, he reveals that Hockney is the one responsible for the heist at the start of the film.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In the backstory, semi-mythical criminal mastermind Keyser Soze is faced with other gangsters who try to take over his business by threatening to kill his family. Instead, he kills his family himself, then the gangsters, then their wives, children, friends, and anyone else even tangentially associated with them, and then vanishes into legend.
- Robbing the Mob Bank: Each of the suspects has unwittingly stolen from from one of Söze's fronts or minions.
- Sacrificial Lion: Fenster.
- Saying Too Much: If you listen closely during the final interrogation, Verbal actually says, "I did kill Keaton," but neither the detective nor the audience pick up on it.
- Seamless Spontaneous Lie: The entire movie is one long example.
- Scheherezade Gambit: Verbal uses his tale-spinning talent to outwit his captors and not only to gain time: He continually changes his story until he finds the correct one to convince Kujan of his In-Universe Confirmation Bias so he would release Verbal
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Söze is able to manipulate police departments to a truly disturbing extent. Despite admitting (as Verbal Kint) to a raft of crimes, the most the police can hit him with is a minor weapons charge. Rabin says he's "protected from up on high by the prince of darkness." Later on, Kint's story includes Kobayashi saying that Söze arranged the line up to gather up the five crooks whose crimes had interfered with Söze and get them to repay their "debt".
- Self-Proclaimed Liar: Verbal is not only an admitted con artist, but there are several scenes where he will say something Kujan doubts, admit to lying, and then revise his story.
- Shaggy Dog Story: The end reveals that Verbal Kint's story, which comprises the bulk of the film, is a fabrication. The audience is never shown, what, if anything, from Verbal's story is true and is left to decide for themselves what they believe.
- Shame If Something Happened: This is how Kobayashi keeps the protagonists working for Soze.
- Shout-Out: The scene near the end where we see Verbal's "crippled" foot gradually untwist itself and walk normally as he passes under a series of shadows cast by trees planted along the sidewalk is a visual reference to "The Howling Man" episode of the Twilight Zone where we see the released prisoner's human face gradually take on satanic features as he walks under a succession of column shadows.
- Shrouded in Myth: Söze. Somewhat unusually, he lives up to his reputation.
- The Spook: Keyser Söze was something similar to this. The nature of the movie made his shadow-ness even more obscure and vague. But even with the things confirmed by the police interrogators, Söze was someone who has never had a confirmed sighting, regarded as a myth, has multiple versions of his backstory and you don't know what is fact or fiction about him.
- Stuffed into the Fridge: Edie. Her death is revealed as a Wham Line for Verbal, who, its later revealed, actually ordered her murder. She was the only main character killed who was not involved in any criminal activity, and her death serves no point beyond momentary shock value.
- The Summation: Subverted as part of the infamous plot twist. Agent Kujan believes he has figured out that Keaton was Keyser Soze and explains this to Verbal Kint, complete with revelatory montage. The explanation seems to hold water and Verbal is allowed to go. Seconds later, Kujan realizes that Verbal's story, from which Kujan created his explanation, was completely fabricated—Verbal himself is Keyser Soze.
- Then Let Me Be Evil: Keaton claims that he is really in love with his lawyer girlfriend and was trying to set himself up as a legitimate restauranteur. However, when the police bring him in for the line-up right at the beginning of the movie, arresting him at dinner with his potential investors, he realizes that his investors are going to back out of doing business with an ex-con, and he will never be able to set up a legal business. So, since the police will never let him put his past behind him, he might as well embrace it.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: "He lets the last Hungarian go. He waits until his wife and kids are in the ground and then he goes after the rest of the mob. He kills their kids, he kills their wives, he kills their parents and their parents' friends. He burns down the houses they live in and the stores they work in, he kills people that owe them money. And like that he was gone."
- Too Clever by Half: Detective Kujan condescendingly tells Verbal Kint, the prisoner he is interrogating, that Kujan is smarter than him, that Verbal is stupid, a cripple, weaker than the criminals he associated with, and that Verbal will not be free until he will tell Kujan exactly wants he wants to know. Cue Break the Haughty at the Twist Ending.
- Averted. Keyser Söze's original name was changed due to the feeling that his namesake wouldn't appreciate being associated with such a character.
- The name David Kujan, however, made it into the film unaltered. (The real Dave Kujan was a co-worker of screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie's at a law firm.)
- Twist Ending: Just when Kujan thinks he's got it all figured out, he looks at the pin board papers and realizes that Kint's story is a massive ball of lies.
- Two Aliases, One Character: Verbal Kint/Keyser Söze...maybe
- Undercover When Alone: Despite the fact that Verbal and Keyser are the same person, this is actually averted. Verbal is constantly showing facial expressions that contradict what he is saying when he is talking to Kujan, and only when Kujan isn't looking. In addition his first reaction when Keyser is mentioned is anger, which he then pretends is fear. This is also averted in flashbacks as Verbal is never alone and obviously telling the story.
- The Unfettered: Keyser Söze.
- The Unintelligible: Fenster. Benicio del Toro thought the character was too boring on the page and came up with a bizarre accent (Chinese and Hispanic, by his account) to spice things up. He drew inspiration from Mumbles in the Dick Tracy film. The director told the other actors to make him repeat himself if they ever couldn't understand him. This happens a few times in the film. Word of God says that he did this because he was supposed to be the token Red Shirt of the movie. He wanted his character to stand out more.
- Unknown Character: The Big Bad is one "Keyser Soze," who very few people have ever met firsthand and lived to tell about it — the only one the police have tracked down is a mutilated Hungarian sailor babbling nonsense. We see him with his Face Framed in Shadow, but even that is only within the flashbacks of a questionably-reliable narrator. We hear his Origin Story, but it's the kind of unlikely, mythologised tale you'd expect of a Folk Hero. The only contact he has with any character is via The Dragon, Kobayashi. The final Reveal? The narrator is Keyser Soze, so far as such a man exists.
- Unreliable Expositor: Detective Kujan suspects that Verbal Kint knows more than he told the grand jury. Boy, is he right.Verbal: "Back when I was in that barbershop quartet in Skokie, IL, the baritone was this guy named Kip Diskin. Big fat guy. I mean like, Orca fat..."
- Unreliable Narrator: Verbal. Kujan constantly accuses him of lying, and ultimately Verbal confirms Kujan's preconceived notion that Keaton was Keyser Söze. Of course, Verbal wanted him to think that all along. Also, Kint narrates things he wasn't actually there to see. Unless he was Söze.
- Unreliable Voiceover: The film primarily uses Unreliable Narrator, but the flashbacks are slightly closer to reality than the narration. Eg, his story involves a man named "Kobayashi", but the flashbacks show an obviously non-Japanese man in that role.
- Unstoppable Rage: Keyser Söze himself killing his wife and child to stop the home invaders from using them as hostages, then killing all but one of the invaders (so he'd go tell his associates), then going out and killing everyone connected with the people who did the home invasion of his house, including people whose only connection was that they owed money to them or had dealings with them.
- Urban Legends: Keyser Söze himself is one."He becomes a myth, a spook story that criminals tell their kids at night. 'Rat on your pop, and Keyser Söze will get you.' And no one ever really believes."
- Vapor Trail: In the opening scene, a dying Keaton lights a trail of fuel leading to some tanks stacked on the deck of the ship, only for the fire to be casually urinated on by the as-yet unrevealed Big Bad. He shoots Keaton after some brief dialogue, then casually drops a lit cigarette into the fuel to set it and the ship itself alight.
- Viewers Are Morons: Or rather, "Viewers have short memories". The intensely dramatic air given to the false Reveal of Kujan's "Keaton was Keyser Söze" speech (music, flashbacks, etc.) only works if you don't remember that the very first scene of the movie shows Keaton being shot dead by the man Keaton calls "Keyser".
- Villainous Widow's Peak: Sleazy con-man and thief Verbal Kint has one.
- Wham Line:
Kobayashi: I work for Keyser Söze.
- When the lawyer introduces himself, the men all fall silent when he tells them the following:
- Near the end of Agent Kujan's interrogation, he rattles off his theory that Dean Keaton orchestrated the entire scheme because he was Keyser Söze all along. The final line that hits Verbal Kint in the face is when Kujan tells him that Keaton's girlfriend Edie Finnerman has been found shot to death.
- You All Meet in a Cell: The team for the heist is first brought together for a police lineup. It turns out said lineup was arranged beforehand through Söze's influence to get them in one place, as all of them owe him something.
And like that... he's gone.