Study Guide

The Usual Suspects Good vs. Evil

Good vs. Evil

KOVASH: 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. (Translation Source)

If you don't remember these lines from the movie, it's because they were spoken in Hungarian without subtitles. Also, since we're getting it from someone who isn't Verbal, we realize that Keyser Söze could really be everything he's cracked up to be—this nefarious incarnation of evil, akin to the Devil himself. Verbal expands on this idea, but we don't know how far we can trust him. But Kovash is probably more trustworthy.

KUJAN: Let me tell you something. I know Dean Keaton. I've been investigating him for three years. The guy I know is a cold-blooded bastard. N.Y.P.D. indicted him on three counts of murder before he was kicked off the force, so don't sell me the hooker with the heart of gold... Keaton was under indictment a total of seven times when he was on the force. In every case, witnesses either reversed their testimony to the grand jury or died before they could testify. When they finally did nail him for fraud, he spent five years in Sing Sing. He killed three prisoners inside - one with a knife in the tailbone while he strangled him death.

In contrast to Verbal's story, Kujan says Keaton was really a total monster. Verbal gives us a more human, less evil version of Keaton, but it turns out that this is a fiction. Keaton probably was just as bad as Kujan makes him out to be.

VERBAL: He lets the last Hungarian go, and he goes running. He waits until his wife and kids are in the ground and 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 he was gone. Underground. No one has ever seen him again. He becomes a myth, a spook story that criminals tell their kids at night. If you rat on your pop, Keyser Söze will get you. And nobody really ever believes.

The way Verbal describes Keyser Söze makes us think that Söze is a total monster—an epitome of evil. But, when we realize that Verbal is Keyser Söze, it occurs to us that he might just be pumping up his own legend by telling this story. Of course, he might be telling the truth too—he did kill Keaton's girlfriend, Edie (apparently).

VERBAL: Who is Keyser Söze? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Söze. You never knew. That was his power… And like that, poof. He's gone.

Söze is so mysterious he seems far beyond our experience—like he exists on this higher, transcendent level of evil. Of course, the irony here is that Verbal is Keyser Söze—he's a normal-seeming dude who looks like Kevin Spacey.

VERBAL: The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

This famous line actually comes from the great French poet, Charles Baudelaire—it's a quote. If you don't believe in the devil, Verbal implies, you're ready to be manipulated by the devil, because you won't be on guard against him. This is the same way Kujan relates to Keyser Soze: he doesn't believe he's real, and hence is ready to be manipulated by him—which is exactly what happens.

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.

Verbal is basically describing the way Kujan thinks. Kujan doesn't believe in the myth of Söze, and, ironically, by telling him this story, Verbal convinces Kujan that Söze isn't real, and that Dean Keaton is the main bad guy. Of course, this is what Verbal intended to do, since he (Verbal) is actually Söze.

VERBAL: What about it, Agent Kujan? If I told you the Loch Ness Monster blew up that boat, what would you say?

By telling Kujan about Söze, and making Söze sound like a mythical creature, Verbal actually helps convince Kujan that Söze must not be real. Even though Verbal says he believes in Söze (and, in fact, is Söze), he subtly insinuates that Söze is an implausible explanation.

VERBAL: Keaton always said, "I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him." Well, I believe in God...and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Söze.

This is ironic considering that Verbal actually is Keyser Söze. He makes Söze sound so evil that it would be hard for Kujan (or us) to believe that this Kevin Spacey character is actually the world's most ruthless arch-criminal.

VERBAL: Do...do you really think he was...

KUJAN: Keyser Söze? I don't know, Verbal. Keyser Söze's a shield, or, like you said, a spook story. But I know Keaton, and someone is out there pulling strings for you. Stay here and let us protect you.

Kujan doesn't get what's going on until it's too late—and he doesn't see that Verbal has been subtly nudging him towards rejecting the belief in Söze this whole time.

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