The Usual Suspects | 1995
With the simple tagline and the iconic poster, Bryan Singer's dazzling, convoluted who-dun-what puzzle grabbed the attention. And when you saw the film, you were glad it did. Like David Lynch's Mulholland Drive and Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko, it's one of those films you want to watch over and over. No flash-in-the-pan, Singer went on to the X-Men movies (though wobbled a bit with the Superman franchise).
The exterior of Suzy Amis’s law office is indeed Manhattan’s Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue (which also saw service as the ‘Daily Bugle’ office in Spider-Man); the NYPD ‘taxi service’ drives high-ranking smuggler (Paul Bartel, director of Seventies cult favourite Death Race 2000) across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (famous from Saturday Night Fever), linking Brooklyn to Staten Island; and a few shots of the raid on the New York police car were shot in the real New York, but the rest is Los Angeles.
Even the entrance to the ‘New York’ police station, where the suspects are lined up, is LA’s City Hall, 200 North Spring Street, downtown Los Angeles (the ‘NYC’ subway entrance was built for the film).
The ‘New York’ restaurant, from which Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) is unceremoniously hauled off, is the lobby of the Old Herald Examiner Building, 1111 South Broadway, downtown Los Angeles. In fact, much of the film was shot in this abandoned newspaper office, including the ‘San Pedro’ police station in which ‘Verbal’ Kint (Kevin Spacey) weaves his dubious tale.
Designed, in 1912, by Julia Morgan, the architect of William Randolph Hearst’s San Simeon estate (the inspiration for Citizen Kane's ‘Xanadu’, and seen as a location for Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus), the building was inspired by the California Building from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and was home to the Herald Examiner newspaper.
The shipboard conflagration, which wipes out most of the gang, is in Los Angeles’s harbour, at San Pedro (in the background, you can see the Southwest Marine building familiar as the ‘InGen’ dock from The Lost World: Jurassic Park).
The mysterious Mr Kobayashi (Pete Postlethwaite) approaches the five on behalf of Keyser Soze, in the pool room of the Hollywood Athletic Club, 6525 Sunset Boulevard. Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino both kept suites here in the club’s heyday as a, somewhat notorious, gentlemen’s club. It also houses the ‘London’ boxing venue in which Hilary Swank triumphs in Clint Eastwood's Oscar-laden Million Dollar Baby.
A spectacular location is the huge bell, alongside which the suspects meet up with jewel fence, Redfoot. It’s the Korean Bell of Friendship, Angels Gate Park, 3601 South Gaffey Street in San Pedro, presented by Korea during the US bicentennial celebrations in 1976. You can find it on the breathtaking wild bluff which overlooks the harbour of San Pedro to the east and the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the west.
The sea cave in which – no spoilers – a body is buried can be seen at Leo Carrillo State Beach, 35000 West Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.