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Film / The Usual Suspects

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Suspect number one, please step forward and repeat the line you've been given.

"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, 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.

This film provides examples of:

  • Absence of Evidence: The absence of any cocaine in the cargo ship is the first sign that the attack isn't what it first seems.
  • Actor Allusion: When Sgt. Jeff Rabin (Dan Hedaya) first refers to Verbal Kint to Dave Kujan, he says, "This guy must be protected on high by The Prince of Darkness." In a segment of an episode of The Twilight Zone (1985), "Dealer's Choice," a group of friends are playing cards and Hedaya's character is revealed to be the Devil.
  • Actually, I Am Him: It turns out that Verbal Kint is Keyser Söze.
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  • Amoral Attorney: Mr. Kobayashi is the one who brings up Keyser Söze's proposal to have the drug deal on the ship robbed.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: Subverted. Drug dealers rape Keyser Söze's wife, cut his son's throat in front of his eyes, then threaten to kill the rest of his family unless he hands over his turf. He responds by killing two of the drug dealers, then the rest of his family, then hunting down the drug dealers' families and everyone they've ever known or done business with, while the narrator explains that Söze's real strength is his willingness to do what the other guy wouldn't.
  • 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 Söze, Kint's entire demeanor changes, and he nearly collapses in terror. Based on the ending, this reaction wasn't quite genuine, but his initial cursing probably was, and his exaggerated terror was probably to conceal that.
  • Artistic License – Law: There is no "San Pedro Police Department". However, there is the Los Angeles Police Department's Harbor division. (San Pedro was annexed into Los Angeles in 1909.)
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Invoked. Keyser Söze's attorney Kobayashi has a Japanese surname, but he's clearly of European descent, speaking with a vague Anglo-Indian accent. As it turns out, this is an early hint that Kint is an Unreliable Narrator. "Kobayashi" was actually the brand name of the coffee mug that Kujan was drinking from, and he used it in his fake story because it sounded appropriately exotic and foreign.
  • Asshole Victim: The suspects' first job as a group involves robbing a pair of Dirty Cops. Then they call the police and the entire ring goes down.
  • Ass Shove: Fenster mentions he had a finger up his asshole.
    Hockney: Is it Friday already?
  • Avengers, Assemble!: It's done through the team's arrests. In lock-up, McManus 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 Boast: McManus, while identifying and counting his targets before he opens fire to start the attack on the ship. Unfortunately, nobody was around him to hear it.
    McManus: [looking through his rifle scope and counting his targets] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7...Ha! Oswald was a fag.
  • Badass Crew: Actually, this is a subversion. The titular Usual Suspects pull off a total of one job while failing at the rest that they're assigned. Plus, All but one of them are quite easily killed off at the end.
  • Bad Boss: Söze's minions are disposable.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Keyser Söze literally gets away with murder.
  • 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.
  • Beneath Suspicion: The major plot twist is all about this trope. Kujan is so focused on proving Dean Keaton is behind everything, he never once suspects that he might be getting lied to by Verbal Kint, the crippled con man, who's not actually crippled and is possibly Keyser Söze, the most ruthless crime boss in world history. None of the other criminals in the story suspect Kint of not being genuine, either, at least if that part of the story is to be believed.
  • 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 Söze.
    • The dying Hungarian's feverish and insane speech is untranslated. It's also not insane. "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 Söze in all your miserable life, you idiot. Keyser Söze. Do you at least understand that? Keyser Söze. The Devil himself. Or are you American policemen so stupid that you haven't even heard of him? Keyser Söze, you ridiculous man. KEYSER SÖZE!" Among other things, this is the only real confirmation that any of Kint's story is true.
    • Kobayashi's legal offices prominently display the words "Kobayashi" and "attorney", but unless you know Japanese you won't spot them.
  • Blasphemous Praise: There's this line from Verbal Kint, whether you consider it "praise" or not: "Keaton always said, 'I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of Him.' Well, I do believe in God... and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Söze."
  • Break the Haughty: A glorious example in the form of Agent Kujan, who goes into Verbal's interrogation intent on hearing what he wants to hear, that Keaton was the mastermind of the whole movie and the mythical "Keyser Söze" everyone's so mystified by. Verbal tells him just that, and Kujan realizes too late that the entire movie, Verbal (who is self-admitted to be, by trade, A CON ARTIST) has just spent the entire movie feeding him an impromptu story he pulled completely out of his ass just to chew up the time until he's released, and that he has just let Verbal, the real Keyser Söze, walk out his front door and get away clean. All this after posturing condescendingly to Verbal how much smarter he is than him, and that Verbal is just a stupid, weak cripple who is nowhere near as dangerous as his fellow criminals (all of whom it is implied Verbal personally murdered to cover his tracks.) Ouch.
    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 Söze’s is two Gangsta Style gunshots to the head. This is how he kills Keaton, Arturro, and Edie.
  • 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: People keep assuming that Keaton's attempts to walk the straight and narrow path are simply a smokescreen for some other criminal conspiracy, which ultimately drives him into the arms of the Suspects. Keaton's true intentions may never be known, as the only living witness who might have known is the notably untrustworthy Verbal Kint.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Pretty much any time the Suspects have a scene together.
  • Colliding Criminal Conspiracies: A bunch of would-be robbers ends up stealing from and in the pockets of a much more sinister crime lord. The only reason they were kept alive is that they didn't realize who they were stealing from at the time of the robbery and they are forced to repay with another crime.
  • Confirmation Bias: Discussed In-Universe by Verbal Kint, who accuses Inspector Kujan of this at his interrogation. Later, the audience will discover that Verbal not only discussed it, but exploited it
    Verbal: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Conveniently Precise Translation: Subverted: a Hungarian who encountered Keyser Söze is translated by an American interpreter as saying that they picked up a pasas, or "package." In reality, pasas is actually Hungarian slang for "guy," which no one realizes until much later on, giving Verbal enough time to mislead the interrogator until his bail is posted. The fact that the translator's first language is English, and less likely to know slang in another language, makes this scene more realistic.
  • Cool Guns:
    • All the suspects use Browning Hi-Powers.
    • McManus, Verbal and Hockney use Heckler & Koch MP5A3s during the boat shootout.
    • McManus uses a Steyr HBAR-T, a sniper variant of the Steyr AUG assault rifle to start off the boat shootout.
    • Verbal uses an Uzi during the New York finest taxi service robbery.
  • Corpsing: In the line-up scene, right after McManus overacts to hell, the others are clearly struggling not to laugh at him. And then they all crack up before Fenster's turn. (in reality, no one could keep a straight face while filming that scene, apparently helped by Benicio del Toro having terrible flatulence - Gabriel Byrne, who's standing right next to del Toro, is clearly covering his nose)
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Bryan Singer uses his hands to double as the hands of Keyser Söze in one scene.
    • Screenwriter Chris McQuarrie plays one of the cops conducting the lineup.
    • Either Singer or McQuarrie ad-libs the "In English, please!" remark to Fenster when Benicio del Toro mumbles his line. Sources differ on who the line actually belongs to. Some attribute it to McQuarrie, since he is playing one of the police officers, while others claim it is Singer shouting a directorial instruction that he decided to throw in.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The climactic shootout has Keaton, McManus, and Hockney tearing through the thugs at the pier like crazy. Then Keyser Söze curb-stomps them right back.
  • 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's 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:
    • Hockney, while he's being interrogated by the police:
      Todd Hockney: You guys don't have a fuckin' leg to stand on.
      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.
    • Later:
      Fred Fenster: A guy had his finger up my asshole tonight!
      Todd Hockney: Is it Friday already?
    • And, to Verbal, who has been silent this whole time:
      Verbal Kint: (about his nickname) Roger really. People say I talk too much.
      Todd Hockney: Yeah, I was just about to tell you to shut up.
  • Death by Recognition: Keyser Söze finds the man who can identify him, who begs him, "I promise...I told them nothing..." Söze is bathed in golden light, and then there's a Discretion Shot as Söze shoots him.
  • Death Is Such an Odd Thing: "It's the strangest thing." Although it's possible that this was MacManus' reaction to finding out the Twist Ending.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: At least enough for the real Keyser Söze to get away.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Dirty 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. The suspects rob them on their first job together and call both the cops and the press on them, bringing the rings down for good.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Kujan asks Verbal why he didn't try to save Keaton.
    Verbal: It was Keyser Söze; 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 Söze has escaped once again, presumably for the last time.
  • Dramatic Drop: Agent Kujan drops his coffee cup when he realizes that he let Keyser Söze 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, shown under three different angles.
  • 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 Söze?
  • Drop the Hammer: McManus uses a sledgehammer to smash open the windshield of the New York's Finest Taxi Service vehicle.
  • Elective Unintelligible: Fenster chews up his words so badly sometimes even McManus can't understand him.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: Deliberately downplayed. Kobayashi is riding the elevator with his two bodyguards. The lights go out, and the elevator is lit by twin flashes, then enters a windowed section of the shaft which reveal no bodyguards and two blood-splatters on the glass behind Kobayashi, who looks up to see McManus pointing a silenced pistol, telling him to push the button for the roof.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Popularized by this film, which is the former Trope Namer. 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 Söze was behind it all. Eventually, Kint relents under Kujan's pressure and admits that Keaton was Keyser Söze 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 Söze 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:
    • Kobayashi blackmails the Suspects by revealing that he knows the names and locations of the people they love the most.
    • Defied in Keyser Söze's case. Some Hungarian criminals were counting on this trope when they took Keyser Söze's wife and children hostage, but Söze responded to this by killing his family himself, in order to prove to his enemies that there was no limit to his ruthlessness.
  • 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 All Along: Roger "Verbal" Kint, the narrator—also known as Keyser Söze.
  • 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 changes mid-step to a confident stride as he walks away from the police station.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: The story that Verbal Kint tells has Dean Keaton as the main character, who Agent Kujan is convinced was behind a recent harbor shootout.
  • Flashback-Montage Realization: When Kujan reveals to Verbal Kint that Keaton was Keyser Söze, it flashes back to various moments of the group and of Kint's interactions with Keaton, among others. Happens a second time when it's revealed Kint fabricated the story and that he himself is Söze, which Kujan realizes as he looks at the papers on his wall and flashes back to all the things in the story that Kint/Söze based on them.
  • Flaw Exploitation: Verbal plays on Kujan's high opinion of his deduction skills to make him believe Keaton was the mastermind instead of him.
  • 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
    • And Rabin himself gives Kujan this gem just before The Reveal:
      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?
    • 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 Söze".
    • 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 Söze 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.
    • 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's Kevin Spacey's voice that whispers "How ya doin' Keaton?" at the start of the film. 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 Söze 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."
  • Framing Device: The story is told as a testimony given by Verbal to the police who are interrogating him.
  • Freudian Threat: When the main characters try to threaten Kobayashi over his connections to Keyser Söze, he calmly describes the gruesome deaths in store for them and their loved ones if they don't back off. He offers "merely" to castrate McManus' nephew as a small mercy.
  • Gangsta Style: Hockney holds his gun to one side in a scene, and how Söze finishes off Keaton. This was The '90s after all.
  • The Ghost: Kujan strong-arms Verbal into talking by threatening to turn a thug named Ruby Deamer on him. Deamer never appears on screen.
  • 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. Notably, 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.
  • 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: After the death of his family, Keyser Söze went underground, working towards exacting his vengeance through proxy agents.
  • Hollywood Law: Obviously, there's no way a lineup like this could happen in real life. It is lampshaded by several of the characters, especially Keaton (himself an ex-cop).
  • Hollywood Silencer: McManus uses one attached to his Browning Hi-Power pistol when he guns down Kobayashi's guards in the elevator. In real life, using even a suppressed firearm in such a tiny, enclosed space would be very loud.
  • Homoerotic Subtext:
    • Hockney gets right in McManus' face during their argument over whether they should go to Los Angeles.
    • Also, McManus' extreme emotional reaction after Fenster's death suggests that they may have been partners in something more than crime.
  • 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: The plot of the movie is largely Verbal Kint recounting to a skeptical Agent Kujan how he ended up in police custody after getting caught up in a criminal conspiracy Kujan was investigating.
  • I Can Explain: Subverted. Verbal's attempts to evade giving information to the police turn out to be an elaborate strategy to get the police to believe him when he actually does provide (wrong) information.
  • 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 Söze: How you doing Keaton?
    Keaton: I can't feel my legs...Keyser.
  • I Have Your Wife: When the Suspects try to get Kobayashi to call off the cargo ship job at gunpoint, he calmly leads them to his office where Keaton's lover Edie Finneran is in a meeting. Kobayashi points to her 'bodyguard', noting that he never leaves her side and will do terrible things to her if they don't go through with the job. He also names a close family member of each member of the team, their location, and what he'll do to them if they don't comply with his orders.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: McManus pulls off a few impressive shots, most notably the one during the jewel heist when he kills two henchmen struggling with Hockney and Fenster without killing his partners.
  • In Medias Res: The film opens with Keaton on the deck of the ship about to blow it up. He's stopped. Soon, the police drag in Verbal to tell them How We Got Here.
  • 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. 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.
  • Insert Cameo: Bryan Singer as the silhouetted Keyser Söze. Which makes him one of about a half-dozen different people, including two of the lead actors, to portray Keyser in that film.
  • 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 Flashback: The entire movie is Verbal (and the surviving Hungarian mobster) being interrogated and Verbal’s flashback to the events of the preceding weeks. Well, not exactly …
  • 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."
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: McManus sings a special version of "Old MacDonald" right before killing several people.
    Old MacDonald had a farm
    And on that farm he... shot some guys
    Badda bing, badda bing bang boom
    [cue bomb going off]
  • 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 the perp is Keaton, which Verbal goes with to shift the blame even further from himself.
  • Karma Houdini: Keyser Söze is never apprehended for any of his crimes. At the end, Verbal Kint manages to talk his way out of his prison time. They both turn out to be the same person.
  • 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.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: According to a legend, when Keyser Söze was a small-time gangster, someone once tried to take him down by going after his wife and children. He came home to find them being held hostage, guns and knives being held to them, pleading eyes, etc. Not to be cowed, he killed them all himself, then the shocked hostage-takers, "then their parents, then their parents' friends..."
  • Kinslaying Is a Special Kind of Evil: According to Verbal Kint, this was the event that solidified Keyser Söze as The Dreaded years ago. Söze, merely a petty drug dealer at the time, came home one night to find his family being held hostage by Hungarian gangsters, who had already raped his wife and killed one of his sons. His solution is to kill his family, followed by all but one of the mobsters, whom he allowed to escape in order to spread the story.
  • Kubrick Stare: Verbal gives one to the (offscreen) interrogators when he reads his line in the lineup.
  • 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 badass, most notably McManus.
  • Laughably Evil: Not exactly evil, but the title characters have an empathic moment where they spontaneously burst out laughing in a police line-up— in fact, Bryan Singer lampshades this in an interview by saying that there's a certain humanity in a bunch of guys getting along and laughing together, even if they're horrible criminals. (The reality is that the actors themselves just couldn't get through the scene without breaking character and cracking up.)
  • Lawman Gone Bad: Keaton used to be a cop, but since then has been a career criminal for a long time.
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: 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: Keyser Söze.
    "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".
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Suspects can’t decide whether Kobayashi works for Keyser Söze 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 Söze 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 Söze.
  • Mexican Standoff: One occurs between Verbal, Hockney and Fenster on one side and Redfoot's men on the other.
  • 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 Söze.
  • 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.
  • 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. Ditto with his paralyzed hand, which he uses to light up his smoke, in contrast with the earlier scene where he fumbled with Kujan's lighter.
  • 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
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The final minutes of the film replay voice-overs from Kint's story and conversation with Kujan, while events onscreen make the actual meaning more clear and show how Kint was subtly mocking Kujan the entire 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.
    • Pete Postlethwaite's accent changes from scene to scene: sometimes English, sometimes Irish, sometimes South Asian. Perhaps a sign of how unreliable Kint's narrative is.
  • 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 Söze?
    Verbal: Aw, fuck!
    • Later, as he is walking out of the office:
      Verbal: Fucking cops!
  • Product Placement: A minor, but significant one, with the real-life bulletin board brand Quartet (from Skokie, IL) that allows Kujan to finally Spot the Thread on Verbal's story, albeit just a little too late.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Keaton engages in this, after the assault on the boat reveals there's no cocaine stash:
    Keaton: There is no! Fucking! COKE!
  • Quizzical Tilt: Verbal during the New York’s Finest Taxi Service robbery.
  • Rabid Cop: David Kujan of U.S. Customs has a short temper and has an obsession with Dean Keaton, even if he's trying to pull a Heel–Face Turn.
    "Not from me, you piece of shit! There is no immunity from me."
  • Real Stitches for Fake Snitches: Kujan threatens Verbal with this to get him to flip.
  • Reusable Lighter Toss: A zippo is dropped on a police car covered in flammable fluid.
  • Rewatch Bonus: It's been argued that the film completely changes upon a second viewing due to the nature of the twist. Unfortunately, due to said twist falling under It Was His Sled territory, it can be hard for many viewers to go in blind.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In the backstory, semi-mythical criminal mastermind Keyser Söze 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: According to Benicio Del Toro, Fenster is this.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Hockney wields a double-barreled version when the suspects rob the Dirty Cops.
  • 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 Söze.
  • Shoot Him! He Has a... Wallet!: Narrowly averted. When the cops show up at Hockney's garage to arrest him, he's kneeling on the ground working next to a car. When they order him to come out, he reaches under the car and the cops draw on him, expecting a weapon, but he pulls out a rag to wipe his face off and they relax.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Keyser Söze kills his entire family rather than allow the Hungarian mob to control him. He then goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Hungarian mob in order to avenge them.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Hockney and Fenster wield shotguns when the suspects rob the pair of Dirty Cops.
  • Shout-Out: The scene near the end where we see Verbal's "crippled" foot gradually untwist itself and walk normally as he passes by a succession of tree shadows is a visual reference to "The Howling Man" episode of The Twilight Zone (1959) 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: Keyser Söze, a larger-than-life criminal mastermind who never appears in public and acts mainly through intermediaries and subcontractors. He's apparently powerful and ruthless enough that his name scares the hell out of the ruthless Hungarian mob and all sorts of other criminals. The last man to know what he looks like dies about midway through the movie, though not before giving a description to a sketch artist. Every other detail we learn about him comes through Verbal Kint, who could only have learned about Söze and his reputation second-hand. Unless, of course, he is Keyser Söze...
  • A Sinister Clue: Keyser Söze is left handed. A clue to his identity occurs early in the movie, when Verbal Kint tries to light a cigarette by holding the lighter in his right hand and opening it with his cerebral palsy-afflicted left hand, but can't do it.
  • Spare a Messenger: One anecdote about Keyser Söze is that, when his wife and children were held hostage, he killed them, and spared one of the kidnappers to spread the word.
  • 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 In A Fridge: Edie. Her death is revealed as a Wham Line for Verbal, which so devastates him that he finally turns on Keaton. It’s of course later revealed that he 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 facilitating Verbal's Villainous Breakdown.
  • The Summation: Subverted as part of the infamous plot twist. Kujan thinks he has it all figured out, that Keaton was Keyser Söze 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 Söze.
  • Suspect Existence Failure: Agent Kujan tells the same subversion story about Dean Keaton. Some time in the past, when Keaton was being investigated for some crimes he committed as a cop, Keaton suddenly died. Then, in few months, the witnesses were killed off too, someone else got convicted of the crime Keaton was accused of, and you guess it, Dean Keaton turns up quite alive and well. This episode is presented by Dave Kujan as a pinnacle of Keaton's evil, so they appear to be quite genre savvy in that regard.
  • Take a Third Option: Keyser Söze comes home to find the Hungarians have captured and raped his wife and are threatening to kill her and all his children if he doesn't give them his drug business. So his options are give in or they kill his family. He takes a third option: he pulls out a gun, kills all but one of the Hungarians, then kills all of his family. He lets the last Hungarian go so he can tell the others that Keyser Söze is coming for them.
  • 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 (poof), 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.)
    • Speaking of Christopher McQuarrie, he actually imagined the plot in the same way Verbal Kint tells his story: by pulling names from a notice board at his law firm (which, like Sergeant Rabin's in the movie, was also made by Quartet).
  • 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.
    • A very subtle version of this: When Verbal is alone (in flashbacks) his manner of holding a cigarette to his lips varies from one culture's to another — the German manner, the Russian, the Turkish. But in the company of the others, it's always American.
  • The Unfettered: Nothing can stop Keyser Söze once he decides he's going to do something. Nothing.
    Söze looks over the faces of his family. Then he showed these men of will what will really was.
  • 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. Del Toro says that he did this because he wanted his character to be something other than the token Red Shirt of the movie.
  • Unknown Character: The Big Bad is one "Keyser Söze," 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 mobster 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 Söze, 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, Illinois, 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, and we know from the ending that someone who looks like that really is associated with Keyser Söze.
  • The Un-Reveal: A very rare case of inversion: at the time when we get to know the identity of the weapons truck robber, neither audience nor characters care about that, as there are much more important issues at the time.
  • 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.
  • Villainous Breakdown
  • Villainous Widow's Peak: Sleazy con-man and thief Verbal Kint has one.
  • Weapon of Choice: All the suspects use a Browning Hi-Power as their sidearm.
  • Wham Line:
    • When the lawyer introduces himself, the men all fall silent when he tells them the following:
      Kobayashi: I work for Keyser Söze.
    • 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.
    • A subtle one just before The Reveal. When Verbal is released, he goes to get his affects, which, according to the cop listing them off, are, “One watch, gold. One cigarette lighter, gold.” Not only was Keyser Söze shown with these exact items in flashbacks, Verbal’s fumbling with Kujan’s lighter earlier begs the question: why does he even have a cigarette lighter in the first place?
  • Wham Shot: “Quartet, Skokie, IL.” The brand of the whiteboard in Rabin’s office, which coincidentally matches up with Verbal’s anecdote about being in a barbershop quartet in Skokie, IL. And far too late, Agent Kujan, and the audience, find out they’ve been played.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Redfoot the fence? Well, the original script contained a scene showing his bullet-ridden corpse embedded in a car windshield. It’s a Justified Trope in the end, as “Redfoot” probably doesn’t even exist.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: The team for the heist is first brought together for a police lineup. It turns out that it 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.


Video Example(s):


Usual Suspects Ending

Agent Kujan has a revelation that calls into question everything we've learned.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheEndingChangesEverything

Media sources:

Main / TheEndingChangesEverything