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THE USUAL SUSPECTS ($30) is one of the finest crafted and best-acted crime drama/mystery films to ever be committed to celluloid. The plot continually twists and turns, keeping the viewer both stimulated and guessing about the film’s final resolution. THE USUAL SUSPECTS received an Academy Award for its screenplay, and it is richly deserved. Lengthy flashback sequences chronicles the events of THE USUAL SUSPECTS, and the film’s ultimate mystery. The plot concerns an apparent drug deal, which has gone horribly wrong and its aftermath that required that the dead bodies of twenty-seven men be hauled out of the harbor.

Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollack and Kevin Spacey are "the usual suspects" that a police lineup brings together, and sets in motion the events of the film. Chazz Palmintari is the US Customs Agent trying to get at the truth, and Dan Hedaya is the cop who has the one eyewitness to the crime in custody. I don’t want to give away too many aspects of the plot, since the first time viewer is best served by knowing as little about the film as possible. Those who have already seen THE USUAL SUSPECTS know the joys of this film, and really don’t need any detailed descriptions. There isn’t a single bad performance anywhere in this film, and Kevin Spacey’s turn won him an academy award for Best Supporting Actor. The cast of THE USUAL SUSPECTS also features Pete Postlethwaite, Giancarlo Esposito, Suzy Amis and Paul Bartel.

Polygram Video has presented THE USUAL SUSPECTS in both Letterboxed and pan and scan transfers on opposite sides of this DVD. Since THE USUAL SUSPECTS was produced in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the pan and scan transfer lops far too much information off the image to be truly effective. The pan and scan transfer is slightly soft and grainy, but does have respectable color. Digital artifacts were somewhat more noticeable on the pan and scan transfer than they were on the Letterboxed transfer. The Letterboxed transfer is definitely the preferable way to view THE USUAL SUSPECTS, although this transfer is slightly problematic. While the Letterboxed transfer does restore most of the film’s theatrical framing, director Bryan Singer makes use of the entire 2.35:1 aspect ratio. On a number of occasions, the edges of frame do appear more than a little compromised. Aside from the framing problem, the transfer has an excellent level of detail and nicely saturated colors. Even the film’s darkest sequences reproduce favorably in this transfer. There is only one sequence in the Letterboxed transfer where digital artifacts really made their presence known.

The Dolby Digital soundtrack is of the two-channel variety, even though my DVD player reported that it was a 5.1 channel track. Since there is only two-channel stereo, decoding the matrixed Dolby Surround soundtrack is the best way to listen to the film. The Dolby Surround soundtrack has a pleasing mix with good dimension and some pleasing channel separations. Other soundtrack options include a French language track. Subtitles are available in Spanish.

The interactive menu gives one access to the cast and crew biographies/filmographies as well as an audio commentary featuring director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie. The commentary is quite informative, and since both participants are down to earth, an enjoyable listening experience.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS is a great film that should not be missed. The DVD will make a great addition to any collection.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1997 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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