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The Ambiguous Ending of The Usual Suspects…

This post is somewhat prompted by an interesting discussion over at MCarter’s review of The Usual Suspects, concerning the ending. Some people remarked that while they were impressed with the ambiguity of the film, they thought that the ending was just a little bit too clear cut. I have no problem with a definite ending to a film, but I’m not so sure that The Usual Suspects is as open and shut as it might seem. But wait! you protest, as someone who has seen the film, That ending was fairly clear. Maybe it was. But maybe it wasn’t.

The highest quality photo of the "real" Keyser Soze...

The highest quality photo of the "real" Keyser Soze...

Note: Seeing as how this is a discussion on the ending of The Usual Suspects, it will obviously contain spoilers on the film. Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the movie. Really. Go, rent or borrow or buy the movie, watch it and come back – and give us your thoughts. The Usual Suspects is a movie you owe it to yourself not to ruin.

Right, to state my position clearly for the record, I believe that Kevin Spacey’s character is Keyzer Soze. In fact, the Word of God is that Kint is Soze – but we won’t let the word of the director or writer sway us, in fact I think they’d be happy that it was still generating so much debate and controversy. It’s the best fit, given the ending and all the factors that line up:

  • the artist’s depiction of Soze from the burn victim
  • the fact that ‘Verbal’ (Kint’s nickname) is a derivative of ‘to speak’ (the English translation of Soze)
  • the fact that Kint collects Soze’s lighter from evidence at the end of the film
  • the fact that Kint’s backstory seems to be completely made up
  • Kint faked a limp

That’s a lot of evidence, but any lawyer worth their salt knows that a huge amount of that is circumstantial. First of all, the only thing those last two points go to demonstrate are that Kint misrepresents himself throughout the film. If I put on a Southern accent that doesn’t immediately mean I’m a crime lord trying to hide my identity, it just means I’m trying to hide my identity. What we do know about Kint is that he actually exists. He has a police record. The man sitting in the chair has a mugshot that corresponds to a petty confidence man who already has a criminal record. It’s relatively easy to construct a complex narrative while sitting in a police station, but faking police records is a different kettle of fish – even if he is protected from ‘up on high by the prince of darkness’.

Assuming that we trust the police officers (at least more than we trust Kint), he has been arrested before. So a ruthless Turkish criminal mastermind (and we have to assume that part of Kint’s story is true since it takes a non-national to recognise him) is arrested as a petty con man in America? He’s that careless and stupid? And he’s running these scams himself when he has a whole criminal empire running underneath him? I’m skeptical.

Oh, but what about the ID? Well, keep in mind the only person who definitively knew what Soze looked like was killed in his own cabin. The burn victim in the hospital bed is only basing his identification off events he witnessed on the boat. It’s more than likely that Kint did go on a killing spree on the boat (or at least was involved), and if somebody caused that much damage while I was ferrying a man who was wanted by Soze, I’d jump to the conclusion that the guy shooting up the place was Soze as well. The whole point of the movie is that we shouldn’t trust what we see – why should we trust what a burnt mobster doped up the gills on morphine saw? We know Kint was there, so it’s little surprise the guy saw him.

We know that Kint was involved – that much is obvious from the ending. Even if he isn’t Soze himself, he’s very trusted – that’s not really a job you give to just a minor lieutenant. That would explain the lighter – maybe a gift, maybe a symbol of rank. The nickname could be simple misdirection – it’s really unlikely he gave himself the nickname of ‘Verbal’, because… well, when was the last time you successfully gave yourself a nickname? His involvement beyond lying to the police and being involved in the massacre on the boat is all purely circumstantial. There’s no way it would hold up in a court room. There’s certainly room to believe that Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint isn’t Keyser Soze. So, if he isn’t, who is?

Pick one...

Pick one...

We know that Soze must exist – as there was a man who could identify him. We know that he’s Turkish and we also know that he likes to handle things at a distance, through minions that you don’t know are minions and may not even know themselves that they are minions. Given that the only part of the story we know happened is the ending (as Kint is an unreliable narrator), we must put our emphasis there. The appearance of the man known as Kobayashi as Kint’s driver in the final moments stands out. Those paying attention during the reveal will know that Kobayashi isn’t the character’s real name – it’s taken from the bottom of a coffee cup. However, whatever his name, he does appear in Kint’s narrative, which makes it interesting – why not use his real name if you want to mask the lies with truth?

Kobayashi speaks with a foreign accent of some sort (though his English – being delivered by Pete Postlethwaite – is clear and educated). He’s a professional, working in law. He obviously feels comfortable enough in Soze’s organisation to make threats on his master’s behalf. His no-nonsense demeaner and calm and rational response to be threatened (threatening to kill the families of his attackers) call to mind Kint’s story about Soze in Turkey. Neither is afraid of death. Both operate at a distance from events that would allow them to gain the reputation of a spook or a ghost – an ethereal force driecting and controlling actions that even those involved in the actions aren’t completely aware of. Kobayashi makes a legitimate suspect if one rules out Kint.

There’s also the more obvious possibility (signposted by the film itself) that Keaton is Soze. It would suit his purpose for Kint to get caught – and really, why was he still there when the police arrived other than to be caught? – and to lie about Keaton’s death. That’s about all that stands in favour of Keaton as Soze. We see him shot at the start in what we must assume is an example of what actually happened (a dangerous assumption, I concede). There’s also the fact that – like Kint – he has an independently verified past. He was a cop in the NYPD. He went to prison. Sure, this is hardly definitive, but it would seem to rule him out as an international criminal mastermind.

I have one more ‘possible’ down on my list and it’s a longshot that I haven’t heard mentioned in discussions on the film. Soze wanted Kint to get caught. He wanted him brought in. If it wasn’t to create the myth of Keaton’s death, why else would it be? To further exaggerate the Soze legend? Perhaps. It’s still a hell of a risk to take for misdirection. It relies on complete faith in Kint while he’s in police custody (and trust is a rare commodity in these gangland circles) and also depends on the police not figuring out Kint is a big fish until he’s been released. Those are two huge gambits for so careful and discrete a figurehead to make purely for the purposes of muddying the water, right? Maybe not.

The entire film hinges on the initial police lineup involving at least McManus (as the man with the job), Keaton (as the fall guy) and Kint (as the inside man) – the film even draws attention to this. Who could engineer a police line-up? Who recorded Kint’s ‘confession’, even though it was inadmissible? Who ‘discovered’ Kint was Soze? Yep, it was US Customs Agent Dave Kujan. He interviewed Kint, but made sure it was recorded – and made sure that Rabin was listening. He rounded up Keaton for the line-up – he could have set up the others as well. He was the one who prompted Kint to name Keaton as Soze, which was at best a stopgap measure. Assuming Keaton’s body would be pulled from the water eventually, that theory would only be plausible for so long and only served to give the closure necessary to let Kint go. On the other hand, Kint as Soze? That could last forever. Now people know what Soze supposedly looks like, they’ll stop searching. If Soze did have unfinished business with other gangsters, or even if he likes to keep himself lowkey, Kint makes the perfect red herring.

The film keeps corruption as its core theme – even corruption in law enforcement. New York’s Finest Taxi Service is a bunch of corrupt police officers (and Keaton is an ex-corrupt cop), why not a corrupt customs official? It is Kujan who paints Kint as a nobody, a smalltime hustler despite his involvement in the massacre. Kujon is also one of the few characters to appear in both the present and in Kint’s narrative – taking Keaton in. The only other two – Kobayashi and Kint – are tied to Soze, why not Kujon? Theorists ascribe a lot of weight to Verbal being linked to the translation of Soze, but Kujon is slang for “evil person” in Indian. Of course, if we discount Keaton as a member of the NYPD, we should discount Kujon as a member of US Customs. It’s highly unlikely he’s from Turkey. Still, he’s never gone to prison, which makes it more likely he’s a criminal mastermind than Keaton and he’s a far-too-willing partner for Verbal’s dance.

I still lean with Verbal Kint. Perhaps I am too fond of Occam’s Razor, or perhaps I like the notion of Kevin Spacey as a mastermind, I don’t know. Still, I accept that the film is brilliantly ambiguous in its execution and more than a little ambiguous in its ending. We’ll never really know who Soze was, but we all have our suspects.

61 Responses

  1. Accepting that Kint is Soze also requires us to treat Kujan as a reliable source. Is this a mistake? It doesn’t seem like one. He’s a hardass and a relentless detective who doesn’t take no for an answer. But how much do we REALLY know about him? This is clearly a man who can’t go to bed until he figures out a song title or the name of that guy he beat up in fifth grade. Isn’t it possible Kujan was so desperate to put a face to Soze that he connected all these random dots? Maybe it’s all a crazy coincidence. Though I too am a fan of Occam’s Razor, there are exceptions. Crazier coincidences happen every day in life.

    Points to ponder…

    • Kint is incredibly good at what he’s doing – talking. It’s possible he’s simply ad-libbing based off what he’s given. I’d have to watch it again, but I don’t think Soze becomes involved in his narrative in a major way until after Kujon mentions the myth to him. It’s possible a burnt and delirious sailor was recalling spook stories he was told about the devil by the name of Soze and the whole thing got blown out of proportion.

      • The one thing I cannot put together is when the man in the trench coat and hat is on the boat (Keyser Soze ) killing the Hispanic guy and Keaton, it shows Verbal watching Soze while hiding behind the pile of ropes in great fear. At that moment, the viewer has positive proof Verbal is not Soze but the movie ends showing he was Soze. How can that scene make sense at all?

      • @SteveM, After seeing the ending (which we have to assume is real), we can no longer trust Kint’s “flashbacks” that he narrates, one of which was the scene showing Kint hiding behind the ropes on the ship. Kint (or Souze) fabricated the story – he was most likely the man in the trenchcoat that shot Keaton.

    • Just saw the definitive clue that Verbal is unquestionably Keyser Soze. At the very end of the movie when Verbal/Soze gets into the car, after he has just lit a cigarette with the gold lighter, the camera moves in on the face of the driver who is revealed to be Kobayashe, Soze’s lawyer. What is hidden in this scene however and what most have never observed, is Verbal, who is really the Turkisk man Soze, taking a drag on the cigarette…but he is holding it from the bottom of the cigarette just as is customary for men who smoke in Turkey! Absolutely brilliant!

    • Assuming Kint really is Soze, hOw does one explain the scene on the boat where Kint is hiding behind the ropes watching Soze (in trench coat and hat) shooting Keaton? Unless it’s some type of cinematic device to totally misrepresent the scene in order to throw off the viewer, doesn’t appear that Kint really is Soze. It’s the one scene in the movie that makes no sense if you accept the premise that Kint is Soze.

      • Isn’t that just part of Kint’s narration? It didn’t necessarily happen. Pretty much only the opening scene and what took place in the police station and hospital is fact.

      • No, it is not what Kint is telling Kujan. It can’t be because it includes scenes of what happens on board, and Kint tells Kujan he wasn’t on board. He’s too good at lying to make a major mistake in what he tells Kujan, and Kujan would have called him on it. What we’re seeing, therefore, must be a flashback to the actual event. The flashback to the dock ruins the movie because since it obviously must be a flashback and, therefore, true, none of the thieves can be Soze. Soze is dressed much differently. Had more care been given to costuming, this would be a near-perfect film. As it is, it is deeply flawed. Fine, Kint is lying and doesn’t limp. So what? Unless he’s hidden a complete change of clothing in his pocket, he can’t be Soze. The same is true for the other characters, All they had to do was have Kint and and Keaton wear baseball caps and put Soze in a short jacket and similar cap. Failing to do so was a STUPID mistake since I’m sure Kint is supposed to be Soze. VERY irritating since the movie is so great otherwise.

  2. Great article, really well constructed and thought out. It was actually me that started the debate by saying it have been better with a little more ambiguity at the end. Although I stand by my first statement it is clear I need to see the film again to clarify a few points in my own mind.

    One thing I would disagree with you on is: “We know that Soze must exist”. I actually think there is a possibility that he does not exist. His existence is mainly based on hearsay and conjecture. As far as the existence of a character in a film and how other characters come to believe in their existence, I leave you with one name: George Kaplan.

    • Good point. Given the only evidence that the eyewitness was on the boat comes from Verbal, and the eyewitness is the only person who has ever seen Soze, we don’t actually know that anyone has seen Soze (given the eyewitness might not exist). The Turkish sailor could have been using “Soze” as a term equivalent to “devil” (which does fit with how he’s a criminal spook story) and using it to describe the killer on the boat (almost certainly Kint was involved at least, even if he wasn’t alone).

      If the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist, maybe Kint’s greatest trick was convincing the world that Soze does.

      I love that there’s so much there that we can discuss the ending this deeply. 90% of other “twist” endings fall apart if you ever think them. This one coils in on itself.

  3. Good God I am rusty. This is a very good post and I realise I have not seen this in forever…but the first time round I was very impressed and at the time Spacey ranked in my 10 favourite supporting performances. I need to revisit it.

  4. interesting stuff Darren, if way over my head (yes, i had to google Occam’s Razor, and no, its not the new one from Gilette).

    • Sorry, I tend to forget that sometimes I can be quite esoteric with my little references and off-hand remarks. I’ve stuck a link in to the Wikipedia article on it for those interested.

  5. 1. It’s myth that he’s Turkish.
    2. why would Kujon want to put someone in his own spotlight?
    3. The bodies are shown as you go to the boat.
    4. In some of the movie posters the body bags have names on them apart from kint’s.
    5. Soze’ can be whio/what ever he wants because he is a myth.
    6. Kint sets himself up to be in a police line up with “The Usual Suspects” because he has a bone to pick with all of them.

    It is Kint. The least likely of all the suspects is a mastermind who gets the job done and “like that, dissapears” never to be seen again.
    Verbal is a made up name and so is Roger Kint. No records.

    Awesome film though (Y)

    Anyone else to add something?

    • After watching the film for the third time in the last week, I have completely changed my mind as to how I believe the film should be interpreted. Much has been made of Director Singer’s comment some years after the film was made that “in his mind” Verbal Kint was Keyser Soze. This of course jives with the final plot twist at the end which everyone has grabbed onto as proof that Kint was indeed Soze. However, I don’t think the film was ever intended to be as complicated as it now appears, nor would people attempt to continue to interpret it 20 years later. Rather, almost by accident the film has taken on new ambiguity as a cult classic and viewers concoct many differing theories as to who was Soze or whether he really even existed. Both Peter Postlewaith who played Kobayasi and Kevin Spacey both said in later interviews that it should be interpreted by the viewers however they wished to interpret it, which gives new context to Singer’s now less than definitive comment. In other words, THERE IS NO SINGLE ANSWER ABOUT THE KEYSER SOZE CHARACTER. You can make a case he was entirely the creation of Verbal’s imagination or you can argue it was one of several of the other characters in the movie. There is no right answer! It is gloriously ambiguous and viewers can decide in their own mind what works for them. In any event it’s still fun talking about it after all these years.

  6. Kint was Soze. Here’s my theory: Everything told in the movie happened, though HOW it happened may have differed. Why a criminal mastermind would serve time for petty crimes is simple; To build a believable narrative as someone other than who he really was, that whole “The devil’s greatest trick” thing. How better to fool folks into thinking you don’t exist, than having a provable, verifiable existence as someone else? Keyser Soze HAS to exist, since the FBI agents at the hospital knew of him, and wouldn’t be so invested in a mere “spook” story. Also, Kujan couldn’t be Soze, as no one was more fooled or surprised at the end than him.

    • It all makes sense, and I concede that Occam’s Razor points to Kint as Soze. Truth be told, I don’t think I could make a compellinga rgument that it wasn’t Kint. This is really more of a thought experiment than a serious iron-clad argument. The surprise at the end is a big problem, but he was in an office and could be observed by those outside. Might be necessary to keep up the ruse. That’s stretching, of course, but I think it’s a fun (if hardly water-tight) alternative theory.

      • I found everything written, including the responses to be interesting and credible in their own right. After rewatching the film, I have my own theory.

        “Kobayashi” told them not to derive from the plan, after he was very forward in showing that they were all “touchable”. Verbal Kint, may really be Verbal Kint, however he was Soze’s inside man. Now, Keaton may have really told him to stay behind… this derived from the plan that “Kobayashi” set up for them, making it so that Soze’s inside man wasn’t in on the initial attack – as instructed, and because of this Edie payed. Basically he traded one life for another, by mistake.

        I also believe that McManus was’t supposed to be killed initially. However, he killed the two bodyguards. “Kobayashi” told him that it would be added to his tab, or something along those lines.

        I believe that Hockney was killed because he also derived from the plan. They were told that they could keep any money that had exchanged hands. In fact, no transaction had been made yet and he was trying to claim the cash. Remember, the guy who went to the van was one of the Hungarians, not one of the Argentinians, which means that the money was still in the hands of the Hungarians. We were thrown off by Hockney shouting “Don’t shoot” in Spanish. At this point, while the ship was under attack, we didn’t see the Argentinians and Hungarians attacking each other. So they knew it was an outside attack… that and the Hungarian had seen Hockney walk by and say hello. As small as the groups were, they would be able to know who was in their group, but would not have noticed an addition to the others group.

        Finally, this leaves Keaton. Why was Keaton killed? I believe one truth that was told by Kint, was that Keaton was the head of their group. He had the kind of “Don’t screw up.” attitude that would make a guy like him unofficially take over as the leader of the group. That said, as the leader of your team, if your team screws up… well, you get the axe. You’re responsible for your teams screw ups. That, and they needed “someone” to be Keyser Soze. Someone who wouldn’t be alive to deny it.

        On the boat, the only person that knew what Keyser Soze looked like was Arturo. I believe this to be true as well. In knowing who Keyser Soze is, firsthand, I believe that he had to be well respected at the time that they met. Not just anyone gets to meet the head of a major organized crime group. That said, he also had to know who his Generals, Captains, Lieutenants and even on down to some foot soldiers, were. This would mean that his reaction to who walked in the room was real. It may not have been Soze, but it was definitely someone connected to him.

        All that said, this means that the Hungarian in the Hospital was only assuming who Keyser Soze was and describing one of the attackers. The picture that was sent… well, it did kind of look like Verbal Kint…. but it also looked like “Kobayashi”. They have similar faces… and “Kobayashi” was Soze’s clean up man. While the group was distracting the Hungarians and Argentinians, he was able to sneak in and take out the only man who knew what his (Kobayashi’s) boss looked like. A man who he was extremely loyal to.

        While there, he could have also been tasked with making sure that the group was following the plan. Those who derived, were removed, as promised. So the police sketch could have been “Kobayashi” who was mistaken for Soze, due to coming in at the end, killing the snitch and setting the fire to “clean up” the scene.

      • Thanks! It’s great to get people speculating. And that’s a nice point about Kobayshi and Kint in terms of appearance.

  7. Several things…I just watched the movie three times in a row. It stuck out awkwardly that years ago Keaton and Kint had been in jail together and that’s how Keaton remembered him. Why? What happened between them? Why would Soze allow himself to be arrested? If you watch it for minor details you’ll notice that the foreshadowing and hints are almost heavy handed, so to speak, from the beginning and the ending. The newspaper clippings linger a little too long on camera, much is made of both Kint’s left arm as is the focus on ‘Soze’s’ left arm (unspoken, just filming) and the camera dwells on it multiple times both at the beginning and the end. In fact at the end it’s almost a gigantic ironic hint. The awkward lifting of the hand to check the time, pulling the gun out with one hand, passing it over to the left to shoot, etc. Kint has tremendous control and steady aim when he shoots the guy in the garage whom Keaton is struggling with.
    That said, the scene is told by Kint only so we don’t really know for sure what occurred. He’s detailing things in his narrative he could only have known from Keaton, or McManus or all the random people on the boat. He could not be all places at once.
    It’s also heavy handed, and that’s for lack of a better term because I love this movie and am not crticizing, but Kint makes an unnecessary point of not being able to manage his lighter and Kujon has to do it for him. Kujon already sees him as an ineffectual cripple, so it must be for our benefit, a Raymond Chandler-esque attempt to bring the audience into the subtextual hints. The film starts with matches being lit, yet there are lighters. We do not know that is Soze’s lighter btw. We only know the lighter is related to the left handedness of the supposed killer, if Keaton is even dead.
    It’s a hint and may not be the actual lighter.
    I don’t think Kujon is involved.
    What do you make of Keaton mentioning that he shivved someone to Redfoot. Is it just a veiled threat? Who was it? What was the motivation?
    When Kint says these men would never bend over for anyone, why does he say that? He said he knows that in the present tense, yet they did bend over (not in visceral sense) for Soze. Is he saying they’d never talk? What was the point of that ‘observation?’ Did Fenster really take off? OMG he was so funny in questioning when the detectives told him McManus was telling a very different story and he asked, ‘is it the one about the hooker with dysenterry?’
    They were all brilliant but McManus was perfectly cast by Baldwin and though they were all perfectly suited, he really stole some scenes.
    I did notice that though the people on the boat were supposed to be Argentinian, Kint asked what language it was and Keaton dismissed him by guessing Russian and ignored him when Kint suggested it was Hungarian. Then a few spoke Spanish. That seemed to be some awkward details.
    The whole light in Hockney’s face when he opened the $$case and got shot reminded me of Pulp Fiction. Random pointless observation. I enjoyed everyone’s ideas.

    • Thanks for the thoughts, Kint is… I just love the discussion that this generates.

      • I also got to thinking something that may be moot, Kint says Keaton was shot in the back and the head. Charred or not, those wounds would still be there. But nevermind because that doesn’t mean it IS Keaton’s shot up carcass. How does Arkosh Kovash fit in beyond being burned? Giancarlo Esposito’s character recognizes him, why? (how, also, he’s raw skin).

    • THE SCENE AT THE DOCKS IS NOT WHAT KINT TELLS KUJAN. Kint tells Kujan he did not go aboard, but what we see includes events on board. If what we were seeing was the story Kint relates, Kujan would have caught that he relates what happened on board after saying he never boarded. We are seeing a flashback, and since none of the characters is wearing a top coat, none of them can be Soze. I think Kint was meant to be Soze, and the director says that’s what he had in mind. The costuming in what is obviously a flashback is a careless mistake and a major flaw in an otherwise fantastic movie.

      • Kint was watching events on the boat from behind ropes on the dock, he wasn’t on the boat itself.

  8. If you pause the movie at the end where Soze shoots Keaton, it’s pretty clear it’s Kint. Gotta love HD. Mystery solved.

    • Yes, but the flashbacks are entirely subjective and unreliable. During the cop’s narration, Soze is Keaton, which is explicitly ruled out later on. So it’s possible we’re not seeing objective fact, but the story as the detective is constructing.

      I think it’s hard to argue that Soze wasn’t Kint, but it’s an interesting thought experiment.

  9. Right, but what I think the OP is saying, is that we don’t know that Kint is Soze. He could be using Soze as a smokescreen. He could be the lackey, “Kobayashi” could be Soze. I mean-why would a criminal mastermind do the dirty work? He could get a lackey to be a criminal among them and lure them to the boat. IDK. I know the writer says Kint is Soze. I’m just saying that they, intentionally or unintentionally, leave it open to interpretation.

  10. When Verbal first meets Kujan, he asks for coffee and mentions that when he got dehydrated, “One time my piss came out like snot, I’m not kidding. It was all thick…”

    The film opens up with Kaiser Soze pissing out the line of fire that Keaton starts. When the piss comes down, it’s incredibly thick (as evidenced by the sound it makes when it hits the ground).

    Now, unless Verbal and Soze are different people, and Verbal just happens to know what Soze’s piss is like, it’s obvious that Verbal is Soze and was the one on that boat.

  11. I always thought Soze is Kobayashi, even if the film does push for Verbal being Soze. The movie was just on local TV last night.

    Reasons :

    -his calm demeanor even when threatened with a gun, threats to the guys, two bodyguards in the elevator…that is no ordinary lawyer.

    -Also Soze is said to be half Turkish. Now Spacey looks like zero Turk in him; Postlewaite fits this bit much better. Also given the informant’s (on the boat) age, it would suggest Soze had made his reputation over decades. Another point for Kobayashi, not Soze.

    – the sketch. Sure it resembles Kint. But it looks more like Kobayashi with the narrow face and big eyes.

    – and that long, inquisitive glance Kobayshi gives to Verbal in the end. Like he was sussing out whether he talked…

    – also — a legendary crime boss gets caught at least twice in the US (remember Keaton talking to Verbal about his prior arrest), risks getting caught on a lie during interrogation and insists on getting on a boat loaded with people with guns and shooting people personally ? I don’t buy it.

    Verbal is someone high up enough on Soze’s list to eliminate the informant and the usual suspects. He has to stay behind to sell the story of Keaton being Soze (obviously Soze has enough power to get him out on bail, and before Keaton’s body is found thus exposing Verbal’s lie).
    Now, some say “but they have the testimony and the sketch” – and ? Sketch from a description of a half-dead man (not the eyewitness who can positively ID Soze, I might add) and a testimony full of fake info. For all we know, the 91 millions from the boat might be Soze’s retirement fund.

    All that said, I’m not familiar with US law : they have charges on arms posession on Verbal, but let him go without any ballistics test ? They know he had a gun, and he was on the boat…might make sense to hold him up until they do ballistics on the bodies. A potential multiple murder charge might be a little harder for Soze to overturn…

  12. Here’s an interesting idea – that none of them of Keyser Soze. Maybe everything was set up from afar by Soze.He’s underground, never seen,hiring minions to do his work. Hiring Verbal to gather and then execute the hit team and living witness, hiring Kobayashi to get Keaton’s girlfriend involved – and to get all the scary information about the Usual Suspect’s families/loved ones – he’s obviously a brilliant lawyer, maybe he helped Verbal in getting immunity – and to pick up Verbal after his interrogation. Kobayashi nods, jobs done, off they go. Could Verbal have killed Keaton’s girlfriend? Was it possible? (I don’t remember the time frame) Or did Soze hire someone else for that hit?
    Just said that to throw yet another possibility in that’s not been mentioned yet.

    Frankly I do think that Kint is Soze in that we, the viewers, are meant to put that information together. The lighter – someone else said the flashbacks are subjective. Yes, but if Verbal is telling the story – “I was hiding behind these ropes and could see what happened” – I doubt that he would have said to Kujan, “I could see the gold lighter in the killer’s hand, and that he awkwardly checked the time, as if he had a crippled hand, and switched hands to shoot”…that would be pretty self incriminating, wouldn’t it? I think that was for the audiences’s benefit to put it together. I thought it odd when I saw the beginning of the film, that Keaton looks up, and has this look of “oh, of course. I should have known. It’s over. ” A resigned look, and he obviously knows his killer. Then when the film returns to that moment, and gives us the gold lighter and body language. The only confusing thing is that the killer has a trenchcoat in the flashbacks – did Kint have one?

    And I checked three language translators, and Soz is Turkish for speaking, communication, voice, verbal, among other speech adjectives. Now that’s a little in joke, because most of us do not speak Turkish and would not know that Kint’s nickname equals Soze. And the initiials: Keyzer and Kint. Verbal = Speaking. Speaking Kint. KS.

    BTW: Not that the writers or director thought this way but there is nothing wrong with Spacey being of Turkish/German origin as Soze. You might think Kobayashi because he’s swarthy, but my co-worker is Egyptian and German, a pretty similar combination. And she has red-gold hair, green eyes, and a fair complexion.

    One thing about the sketch…didn’t it show a widows peak? Like Spacey’s?

  13. We see Keaton shot at the start in what we must assume is an example of what actually happened (a dangerous assumption, I concede).

    Hmmm…interesting point. I always thought this is real as it happens before Verbal’s “testimony” begins and obviously, the major setback in “Keaton is Soze” theory that Kujan insists on. Keaton possibly *not* being dead opens up a whole new bag of possibilities.

  14. The discussion is very interesting.

    My take:

    Watch the beginning of the move a couple of times.

    Listen to the actor who is talking to Keaton and it sounds like Kevin Spacey kind of masking his voice. Look at the actors mannerisms and it could be Kevin spacey.

    think about it. An actor HAD to act the part and speak to the Keaton character.

    If you were Brian Singer you’d have to chose someone to act the part and I think he chose Kevin Spacey. Somebody ask Brian Singer or someone else who filmed the movie…

    My two cents.

  15. Spacey confirmed that the character he played in The Usual Suspects was Turkish in a movie festival in Turkey.
    Not all Turks are swarthy. Spacey is a short guy with dark hair and eyes and a longish face. He looks pretty convincing. Not to mention that he was supposed to be half German.

  16. One other clue which suggests kint was soze is when soze asks keaton “how are you doing” he reply looking at soze “i cant feel my legs” as a taunt to kint for faking the limp

  17. I don’t think he’s into taunting anyone. He just got shot, thus he can’t feel his legs.

  18. Yes, Kint is Soze, but Soze is an identity that Kint made up a long time ago. Kint is a mastermind, and could be identified as Keyser Soze — but the man who killed his wife and children in Turkey does not exist.

    • Obviously I don’t know this as fact, but consider it, I am surprised you are all so convinced that the keyser soze who murdered his own family is even real in the first place.

      Kevin Spacey kept a top detective going for 3 hours by ad-libbing, he is a criminal mastermind and he had no trouble whipping up all of these spooky stories about his fake identity “keyser soze” either.

  19. i’ve only watched the film once, and then ended up seeing this discussion after being a little confused about the ending. but to me, it seems that “kobiashi” and verbal are both soze (soze being either a partial truth or a hoax made or adopted by them in order to remain anonymous in their exact involvement in their crimes), and here’s why i believe that.

    points based on the film:
    -keaton recognizes soze when he gets shot

    -verbal is obviously a talented liar, so there’s no reason to believe fear is what motivated him to refrain from shooting soze, or to even believe that he was behind the pile of junk during the soze scenes.

    – the sketch resembles both verbal and “kobiashi” with prominent features of both men being mushed into one it seems, possibly from trauma and hospital drugs; the sketch to me resembles kobiashi more, with verbals two most prominent features mixed in: his hair line, and dimpled chin.

    -during interrogation, verbal states that “some say soze was turkish, some say he had a german father” lending credibility to the possibility of them both at separate times having played the part of soze since verbal looks more german than turkish.

    – verbal states at one point “(keaton) wasn’t behind anything, it was the lawyer” and ample reliable evidence is given to the viewer that verbal has great legal protection, a cop even saying “he’s protected from up high by the prince of darkness” (if this were a corrupt cop that was trying to stop the interrogation then maybe he knew verbal was ‘involved’ with soze)

    -verbal says at another point “where do you think the pressure’s comming from? keyser soze of whatever the f__k you want to call him…” (scene happens shortly after the black fbi? guy says he thinks that soze is basically story, not a real person). shortly after verbal says this he also says “you think you can catch soze?”

    -both verbal and kobiashi seem to be left handed, although this would mean little if verbal did the dirty work on the boat.

    -(most revealing scene that lead me to think this while watching the movie) when the detective comes in asking who soze is originally, verbal seems for the first time to have a genuine, frustrated response saying “oh fuck” and sounding almost like he either forgot (unlikely) or hoped to avoid mention of soze altogether. he was obviously crafting his story to fit the detectives biases, and towards the end i felt this scene was meant to show that verbal wasn’t quite sure how (or who) he would fit soze in as. he couldn’t say it was kobiashi because how would he know, and he also couldn’t say it was keaton. instead he leads the detective on with his story, and crafts it in such a way that the detectives arrogance would convince him that someone he suspected was soze. (foreshadowed by “i’m smarter than you” scene, and also by the scene where verbal says “the lawyer was behind it all” which implied he hadn’t intended on mentioning soze initially)

    – also being sceptical as i am, i also believe keaton is soze as well. this is backed by a few key scenes and facts i won’t go into detail over, but the main one being verbal narrating “he could convince everyone he changed except himself.” not to mention they never discover his body and there’s no reason to believe verbal wasn’t lying about seeing him die as well, as keatons faked his death before in the movie (convincingly at that).

    non movie reasons:
    – on the wikipedia supposedly an invterview “..saying that all the characters are Keyser Söze… Who knows?[who soze is] Nobody knows. That’s what’s good about The Usual Suspects.” and this person was also evasive when answering who his characters identity was.
    –to me, this backs up my take on the ending, though i do not count it as hard evidence.

    i know i wrote a ton, but i look forward to hearing anyones opinions and criticisms about why i’m right or wrong.

  20. There is that infamous story how several actors thought they were Soze, and Gabriel Byrne getting into a heated argument with the director after the opening night because he though Keaton = Soze.

    There is a scene of a dead Keaton in the water at the end, and we see Keaton being shot at the start, even before Verbal starts his tale. I always assumed this is real, and Keaton was just a convenient tool for Verbal to spin the events for agent Kujan. Also, if Keaton is Soze, why didn’t he protect that lawyer girlfriend of his better ?

    • I’d never heard that story. Great!

    • A couple of points to add.
      1. Verbal claims Keaton loved the girl. A lie, Keaton used her.
      2. Roger, “Verbal’s” given name could mean “Yes”, as in a Yesman with the lighter a gift of rank.
      3. Keaton went to prison for 5 years to kill 3 people, not because he got caught. Verbal went to jail for 90 days to perform a con or ” confidence game” IN prison, also, went on purpose.
      4. Verbal in talking about Keaton describes Keaton fearing Soze and in another story claims Keaton didn’t believe in Soze.

  21. I only saw the movie today and for me Verbal is KInt. He made up the story with names or places from the things he saw in Sgt. Rabin’s office. Because of that, he showed how he outsmarted Kujan who offended/abused him verbally and hurt him physically. Kobayashi said that Soze gets even one way or another. Kujan discovers the fictitious names, remembers his demeaning rants (“I’m smarter than you!” “Stupid” and so on) before running out after Verbal, This means everything Verbal said was made up from the beginning (“Six weeks ago” where the story starts too) to fit his purpose of deceiving, lying, and mocking the agent. In Verbal’s story “Kobayashi” never spoke to him and at the ending, the “lawyer” driver simply looks at him, maybe he too doesn’t know that this guy is Soze because it seems that anyone who can identify Soze is killed. Kobayashi was just there to follow orders and recognizes him as one of the guys with the group. When I was watching it, I was carried along by the scenes based on Verbal’s story, but when Kujan realized he was duped, I suddenly understood that I was completely fooled too. Most of what he related was probably false. How he described the 4 guys especially Keaton is the opposite of Kujan’s version so Kujan had believed Verbal didn’t know much. Verbal succeeded in making the agent believe that he had really loved the guys, was weak, etc. I watched again to separated the true scenes, Kuyan’s part and anything that is not part of Verbal’s story. I also took into consideration how Verbal’s facial expressions, movements and the implications of what he was saying especially when he emphasized somethings about Soze. Kevin Spacek in playing the role of Verbal was acting out a crippled man to cover his real identity. I agree with all observations mentioned from 1995 that Verbal is Kint. Here’s a clear clue: Verbal used his right hand to shoot the forehead of the man in the car. There are 2 sides of that story, what he said and what really happened, so you see the man and Keaton grappling with a gun and the other where Verbal shoots the man in the head. It’s Soze’s trademark to shoot his enemies in the head if he faces them. if you study Keaton’s facial reaction when his soon-to-be-killer came, he wasn’t scared, but was relieved and smiled because he now knows who Keyser is. Then he asked the time, and you can see the ‘killer’ looking at his golden watch. When Verbal collected his personal belongings after leaving Kuyan, he limped but later he walked like a normal man and the camera showed his shoes and footsteps which you see at the beginning when the killer walks towards Keaton and also leaving after he shot him. We see also their similar habit: Verbal lighted a cigarette with his golden cigarette in the left hand (he was holding the golden watch because he hadn’t worn it yet) the same thing the killer did before shooting Keaton. Remember when Keaton had asked the time? Soze looked at his watch which is golden. About the killer wearing a suit, it was Verbal’s description. Maybe, Verbal had an extra coat and hat with him. I think the main point of the movie is what I just said: the viewer realizes after Kujan discovered the truth that he (and the viewer) believed Verbal’s story all along, that he’s a victim, or not a big-time criminal like the rest. The film doesn’t exactly reveal but there are many clues and the ending is clear. Well, let’s put it this way. Soze should not be identified or you die. When people know who he is, they don’t live. (This is scary. I might be on his deathlist in his future projects.) If he planned the whole thing from the beginning to kill Arturo and everybody else in the boat who might have heard or seen a description of him, then McMannus, Hockney and Keaton were included because they know him as Verbal, had slighted him, and they could identify him. BTW, Arturo seems to be the same Hungarian man who escaped when Soze killed his family in Verbal’s story. According to the myth (another fabrication by Verbal), Soze killed all of his own family, the assailants and their families and everyone who worked for them. But now that we know Verbal made up those stories, we can say he exaggerated, left out facts, oand told the opposite. Probably he knew Arturo was the only one he hasn’t killed yet so he planned this ‘hit.” There should be a sequel to this.

    • Not sure about the need for a sequel. That’s a great observation about Arturo.

    • To me the clue that indisputedly proves Verbal is Soze is when during the final scene he lights his cigarette with the gold lighter and gets into the car. The camera zooms in on the driver Kobayashe, but what is missed and is being diverted from the audience is the final, most subtle, definitive clue …Verbal taking a drag off the cigarette. Verbal/Soze, being from Turkey, holds the cigarette from underneath between his thumb and index finger…exactly like men in Turkey smoke!

      • Klimt has the king of liars, but Kaiser Soze by his own description is an animal, man iof action. He’s there to convince everyone that the devil doesn’t exist. If you take everything that he says about Keaton and reverse it, it becomes interesting. Keaton is the Bogeyman because he exacts revenge himself. IMHO

  22. Fascinating post and responses.

    I’d have to watch again, but I wonder how Verbal could include the name Kobayashi in his elaborate narrative? The name of that porcelain company is printed on the bottom of the mug- we see that after it shatters. But the only way Verbal could have seen it to include it in his deception would be if he’d held the mug up at some point and read the name on the bottom. No coffee drinker I know does that, and I don’t remember seeing anything like that in the film, though to be certain I’d have to watch again.

    • I think there’s a scene where Kint does exactly that. He sits in his chair and looks up at the bottom of the mug that Kujan lifts up as he stands above him.

  23. Good point about the trench coat being worn by the killer, and not being used by Kint.

    As for Keaton’s girlfriend, Keaton himself told Kint about her having papers on Soze. Maybe they sent Soze’s men over to Pennsylvania (I think that’s where her appartment was) though I wonder why she never made any backup copies “just in case”…

    Soze doesn’t exist ? Not according to the eyewitness on the boat that can positively ID him. Certainly the FBI guys believe he’s real.

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  25. So I just watched the movie again…not sure a) how Soze knew where Edie was in Pennsylvania. We sure don’t see Keaton talking about it. and b) we see Hockney getting shot at the van with the money but what happened with the money ? and c) how did Verbal move so efficiently across the ship to eliminate all four ? Didn’t he also risk getting shot ?

  26. Something that usually gets missed about this movie is the fact that the name “Kobayashi” checks out at one point, and then is showed to have been made up by Verbal from the bottom of the mug. It’s a really annoying plot hole in an otherwise very well crafted film.

  27. One key moment that lends credence to the idea of Kobayshi as Soze is the moment when he meets the 5 suspects. As Keaton says . “What we need to do is think. Think back. Someone with power…someone capable of tracking us from New York to Los Angeles.” The camera immediately cuts to a shadowy figure of Kobayashi standing in near darkness, briefcase and their fates in hand.

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