The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.
— Verbal Kint
This dark and multilayered neo-noir film helped launch the careers of Kevin Spacey (who earned an Oscar for his performance), Benicio Del Toro, and director Bryan Singer, as well as relaunch that of Gabriel Byrne.The movie is told mostly in flashback form. Kevin Spacey is Roger "Verbal" Kint, the only survivor of a bombing and shootout that occurred the night before on a cargo ship. While his lawyer fights for his speedy release from police custody, Kint begrudgingly reveals the events leading up to the previous night's explosion. Meanwhile, in a hospital not far away, it is revealed someone else survived the blast. Unfortunately, he only speaks Hungarian and is not in much shape to be divulging his story. Customs Agent Dave Kujan (who has long investigated and had a vendetta against Dean Keaton [Byrne], one of Kint's fellow "suspects") is determined to get the truth out of Kint, the Hungarian, and whoever else might be involved... no matter what it takes.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, the agent soon realizes just how deep this particular rabbit hole goes.
Those who speak Hungarian get to hear a cut off joke from Hockney finished by two Hungarian mooks later in the film.
Speakers of Turkish get a hint at a major spoiler, as Söze is Turkish for "talks too much".
Um, actually, no it isn't, at least not exactly. "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.
The burned Hungarian man also has a lengthy line making fun of the police for trying to interrogate him in English.
Break the Haughty: Agent Kujan. His constant flaunting of his intelligence to Verbal returns to bite him in the ending.
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.
Bittersweet Ending: Keyser Söze may have escaped once again, walking right out of the police's grasp, no less, but now they actually know how he looks, and by what alter ego he goes by, and Söze doesn't even know that they found out.
Fenster: A guy had his finger up my asshole tonight!
Hockney: Is it Friday already?
Deep Cover Agent: Verbal Kint may or 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.
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.
During the jewel heist, McManus aims two pistols and gets kill shots on two different targets who are both grappling with his accomplices.
Keaton uses two pistols during the climax.
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."
Indy Ploy: The whole movie is a story Kint pulls out of his ass when he's stuck in police custody.
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."
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 manage 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.
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".
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's (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.
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.
"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.
Robbing The Mob Bank: Each of the suspects has unwittingly stolen from from one of Söze's fronts or minions.
Sacrificial Lion: According to Benicio Del Toro, his character (Fenster) is this.
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.
It's quite possible both Kujan and the audience could see it as survivor's guilt, blaming himself for the death of the man he admired but couldn't save.
Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Söze is able to manipulate law enforcement agencies 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.
Shout Out: The scene near the end where we see Verbal's "crippled" foot gradually untwist itself and walk normally as he goes 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 his human face gradually take on satanic features as he walks under a succession of column shadows.
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.
The famous line-up scene was originally scripted as serious. The day prior to filming the scene was a long, tense day of filming in a prison. Singer decided to take the cast to lunch the next day, the day of the line-up scene, to lighten the mood. The lunch turned into a "lovefest" according to Bryan Singer, with all the actors becoming giddy. The giddyness carried over into the scene in that they couldn't stop laughing and making jokes. Singer was originally frustrated, but then liked the takes so much and the idea that it shows them bonding in-story, he threw the funniest ones into the film.
Actors were directed to ask Benicio del Toro to repeat himself if his line readings were ever unintelligible. At least two of these ad-libs were included in the final cut.
Hockney: ...What'd he say??
In the scene where Redfoot throws a cigarette at McManus, he was supposed to aim for the chest. Peter Greene accidentally threw it right in Stephen Baldwin's face, and Baldwin ran with it.
Tuckerization: Averted. Keyser Söze's original name was changed due to the feeling that his namesake wouldn't appreciate being associated with such a character.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Soze.