Five guys meet in a line-up

Byrne, Irish Times, Eric LukeIrish Times, Eric Luke

Everyone knows who Kaiser Söze was.

Everyone knows the greatest trick the devil ever pulled.

So do different rules apply to the rewatching of films that have a twist in the end?

The first time you watch it you watch it like a child. You’re ingenuous. Hop in, we’re taking you for a ride. The second time you watch it like an adult. What you want to know is: does it stack up?

The beauty of watching The Usual Suspects again is Gabriel Byrne’s performance. What does he have to work with? Nothing more than an old stock character: Dean Keaton, the crook who tried to go straight but got pulled back in. What lines does he have? Nothing special. “I’m a businessman now.” “This Kobayashi bastard is not gonna stand on me.” “This whole thing was a shakedown.”

Nothing quotable. But even when all Byrne is doing is telling McManus to shut up, he exerts an uncommon power.

When the five men are released from the line-up Byrne says “they ruined me in there tonight.” It might be only twenty minutes into the film. But Byrne has done it. In that one sentence he mapped the whole thing out. The tone, the look, the feeling he conveys – we know Dean Keaton is a dead man, we know “one last job” will lead him on to another, we know he can’t beat his fate. And we know he meant it when he said he’d gone straight.

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