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The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.
~ Verbal Kint's most famous quote.

Keyser Söze (also known as Roger "Verbal" Kint) is the protagonist villain, as well as the main antagonist of the 1995 film The Usual Suspects. He is a notorious criminal mastermind who poses as a petty criminal and engineers a complicated scheme to kill a man who could identify him to the police.

He was portrayed by Kevin Spacey, who also played Frank Underwood in House of Cards, John Doe in Se7en, Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, Rufus Buckley in A Time To Kill, Dave Harken in Horrible Bosses, Clyde Northcutt in Fred Claus, Hopper in A Bug's Life, Jonathan Irons in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Dr. Nerse in The Cleveland Show, Buddy Ackerman in Swimming With Sharks and Micky Rosa in 21.

Personality

Keyser Söze is a ruthless crime lord with a mythic reputation in the criminal underworld. Using his skills as a con artist and criminal mastermind, Söze outsmarts every single policeman throughout the film, including Det. Dave Kujan, and succeeds in his plan to kill the one man who could identify him to the authorities.

As "Verbal", Söze plays the part of a weak, dimwitted pawn of larger forces. Ironically, it is through appearing small and weak that he is able to outsmart the police and continue his career as a powerful crime lord.

Biography

Investigation

On a ship in San Pedro Bay, a faceless figure identified as "Keyser" speaks with an injured man called Keaton. The two talk briefly, then Keyser appears to shoot Keaton before setting the ship ablaze.

The next day, FBI Agent Jack Baer and U.S. Customs Special Agent Dave Kujan arrive in San Pedro separately to investigate what happened on the boat. There appear to be only two survivors: Roger "Verbal" Kint, a con artist with cerebral palsy, and a hospitalized Hungarian criminal named Arkosh Kovash.

Baer interrogates the severely burned Kovash in the hospital, who claims that Keyser Söze, a Turkish criminal mastermind with a fearsome reputation, was in the harbor "killing many men". Kovash begins to describe Söze through an interpreter while a police sketch artist draws a rendering of Söze's face.

Meanwhile, Verbal has testified at length about the incident in exchange for near-total immunity. After making his statement to the district attorney and while waiting to post bail on a relatively minor weapons charge, Verbal is placed in the cluttered office of San Pedro Police Sergeant Jeffrey Rabin where Kujan demands to hear his story from the beginning. Verbal's tale starts six weeks earlier in New York City.

Five criminals are brought together in a police lineup: Dean Keaton, a corrupt former police officer who has apparently given up his life of crime; Michael McManus, a short-tempered professional thief; Fred Fenster, McManus' partner who speaks in mangled English; Todd Hockney, a hijacker who forms an instant rivalry with McManus; and Verbal.

While in holding, McManus convinces the others to join forces to commit a robbery targeting New York's Finest Taxi Service, corrupt NYPD police officers who escort smugglers to their destinations around the city. After the successful robbery, the quintet travel to Los Angeles to sell their loot to McManus' fence, "Redfoot". Redfoot talks them into another job: robbing a purported jewel dealer. Instead of jewels or money, as they were told he was holding, the dealer was carrying heroin.

An angry confrontation between the thieves and Redfoot reveals that the job came from a lawyer named Kobayashi. The thieves later meet with Kobayashi, who claims to work for Keyser Söze and who blackmails them into attacking a ship at San Pedro harbor. Kobayashi describes the boat as smuggling $91 million worth of cocaine, to be purchased by rivals of Söze. The thieves are to destroy the drugs and, if they choose to wait until the buyers arrive, can split the cash as they choose.

In the present, Verbal tells Kujan the story of Keyser Söze as he apparently heard it from Keaton and the others. According to underworld legend, Söze was once a small-time drug dealer in Turkey who was competing with the Hungarian mob. The mob sent thugs to Söze's home to steal his business, and they rape his wife and kill one of his children in order to bring him to heel. Söze responds by killing all but one of the thugs, and then his wife and surviving children, saying he would rather see them dead than have them live with the shame of what had happened to them. After burying his family, Söze massacres the entire mob - as well as their families, friends, and business associates - and disappears, only doing business through underlings who don't know who they are working for. Over the years, he becomes an urban legend, "a spook story that criminals tell their kids at night"; while no one truly believes he is real, his reputation for killing anyone who crosses him, as well as everyone they hold dear, is enough to make him the bogeyman of the criminal underworld.

Verbal also describes Fenster's attempt to run away, ending with his being killed by Kobayashi. The remaining thieves kidnap Kobayashi, intending to kill him if he does not leave them alone. Unbowed, Kobayashi reveals that Edie Finneran, Keaton's lawyer and girlfriend, is in his office (believing she was hired for legal services), and threatens to kill her as well as the other thieves' loved ones should they refuse the job.

On the night of the cocaine deal, the sellers (a group of Argentine mobsters) and the buyers (a group of Hungarian mobsters) are on the dock. Keaton tells Verbal to stay back, and to take the money to Edie if the plan goes awry so she can pursue Kobayashi "her way". Verbal reluctantly agrees, and watches the boat from a distance in hiding. Keaton, McManus, and Hockney attack the men at the pier, killing most of them.

Keaton and McManus board the ship to find the drugs while Hockney goes after a van carrying the cash, and is shot dead after he finds it. Keaton and McManus discover there is no cocaine on the boat, while a closely guarded Argentine passenger is shot twice in the head by an unseen assailant. McManus is killed with a knife to the back of his neck and Keaton, turning away to leave, is shot down by a man wearing a dark cloak and a wide-brimmed hat. The mysterious figure appears to speak briefly with Keaton before apparently shooting him.

With Verbal's story finished, Kujan reveals what he knows: the Argentinian man's body was found that morning on shore, and it is revealed the man, Arturo Marquez, in order to escape jail time, had revealed to authorities that he could identify Keyser Söze. A group of Hungarians - remnants of the mob whom Söze had all but wiped out back in Turkey - were offering to buy Marquez from the Argentinian group for $91 million.

Under the impression it was a drug deal, Söze had Verbal and his crew sent to the docks, when really it was a cover for Söze, so he could personally enter the boat and kill Marquez undetected. Kujan concludes through his analysis that Keaton actually was Keyser Söze. He is convinced that Keaton has faked his death (as he had done some years earlier to escape another investigation) and deliberately left Verbal as a witness. Under Kujan's aggressive questioning, Verbal tearfully admits that the whole affair, from the beginning, was Keaton's idea, but he flatly refuses to testify further.

Finale

His bail having been posted, Verbal retrieves his personal effects (a gold watch, gold lighter and pack of cigarettes) from the property officer, as Kujan, relaxing in Rabin's office, realizes with a shock that details and names from Verbal's story are culled from various objects around the room - including Rabin's crowded bulletin board and the "Kobayashi Porcelain Company" logo on the bottom of his coffee cup. Kujan realizes that most of Verbal's story was improvised for his benefit and chases after him, running past a fax machine as it receives the police artist's impression of Keyser Söze's face, which resembles not Keaton, but Verbal.

Meanwhile, Verbal walks away from the police station, dropping his feigned limp. He gets into a waiting car driven by "Mr. Kobayashi", pulling away just as Kujan comes outside, searching in vain.

Trivia

  • Söze is listed on the list of AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains. He is ranked #48.
  • Kevin Spacey won an Academy Award for his role as Söze in the film.
  • The actor Scott B. Morgan portrayed Keyser Söze in the film in a flashback scene.
  • Keyser Söze's character was inspired by real-life mass murderer John List and by the spy thriller film No Way Out.
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