Grosse Pointe Blank

Year 1997

John Cusack   as  Martin Blank
Minnie Driver as Debi Newberry
Dan Aykroyd as Mr. Grocer  
Alan Arkin as Dr. Oatman
Joan Cusack as Marcella
Jeremy Piven as Paul Spericki  
Director - George Armitage  
Screenwriter - D.V. DeVincentis

Here is the silly plot for a silly movie there is work for a contract killer in his home town during the same weekend that his high school class is celebrating its ten year reunion. I don't know of too many actors that can pull off the mixture of credibility and slapstick like John Cusack can.

If you don't like John Cusack's quirkiness, then this isn't the movie for you. If you do like him in things like Better Off Dead then check this one out.

The title of the movie, Grosse Pointe Blank is a combination of a location, Grosse Point, and a hit-man movie Point Blank.

In a little more detail, Martin Blank (John Cusack), one time resident of Grosse Point, Michigan, has become a hired killer. Lately, things aren't gone well for Martin at work. His concentration seems to have been lost and there's an attempt by a pushy assassin to unionized the profession. His secretary Marcella (Joan Cusack) tells him that a contract in his home town of Grosse Pointe coincides with his high school reunion.

Reluctantly, Martin accepts the reunion invitation and the contract and returns to Grosse Point. We learn that his father is dead, his mother is in a sanitarium, his house has been torn down, his high school sweetheart (the one he stood up at the prom) is still in love with him but leery, a contract killer is after him for killing a dog, another contract killer is after him because he won't join the proposed workers' union for killers, and a government agency is looking to kill him if he goes through with his current contract.

Is it off the wall? Yes. Is it so far out there that you don't even care about the characters? No. With all of that going on, it's manic in a good way.

Starting with the casting, the film can boast. Watching brother and sister John and Joan exchange barbs is fun. Their sibling relationship adds to the scenes where they play off of each other. The love interest is Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver). Minnie Driver comes off as cute without being too sugary. She and Martin do make a believable couple. One of my favorite all time comedic actors plays the neurotic psychiatrist Dr. Oatman (Alan Arkin). Alan Arkin's timing is always spot on and this film is no different. His admonition to his patient Martin to not kill anyone and "see how it feels" is done with such a skittish deadpan that it's hard to not laugh. Mr. Grocer (Dan Akroyd), the hit man who wants to form a union, also has some zippy dialogue with Martin. I'm not usually a big Dan Akroyd fan, but he and Cusack are always on the same page playing off of each other with precision. It's delightful to watch. The side character of Paul Spericki (Jeremy Piven) adds to the rounding out. It's the peripheral associations and the unexpected attention to detail that won me over.

And that's what makes this movie. Martin Blank is a fully rounded character. You know about his parents, his friends, and his enemies. This movie is more than just the exploits of a killer trying to get some laughs. If that's all it was, then it would be alright but boring. But, this movie has that slight edge over things like Zoolander or even Balls of Fury. It isn't so farfetched that you can't identify with the plight of the characters. Not that any of the events could happen the way they're portrayed, but the characters always touch the Earth before vaulting into the Land of the Surreal.

Case in point Martin and Debi are getting to know each other again after ten years. They're at a bar. An old friend drops in on them. This friend has had a couple of drinks and is babbling about what a cute couple Martin and Debi were. This scene makes sense. I've seen this sort of thing happen. Or Martin visiting his mother at the rest home. She's out of it. The scene is not played for laughs, but is not written as a tear jerker either. It's a well acted encounter and manages to convey Martin's humanity without any heavy handed treatment.

There are no great one liners in the movie, but there are great scenes that are integral to the plot. When Martin calls his secretary to tell her to close up shop, she's one step ahead of him. She's dousing the office with something flammable while smoking a cigarette. Martin tells her that he'll be in touch. She thinks he wants to get rid of her as a loose end. He tells her no and instructs her on how to get her severance package.

There's no nudity and only some profanity. There's very little blood even though there are a number of deaths. Most of the laughs come from the scenes themselves.

The Ultimart clerk Carl (Duffy Taylor) may not be the paperboy of Better Off Dead, but he's enough of a slacker to excel in his role. After being saved from certain death shortly before the store is destroyed, Carl's main problem is that he'll now have to look for another job.

Minnie Driver, like Andie MacDowell, is probably revered by women. She's cute, bubbly, and has common sense. Not a lot of sex appeal, but that's not why a guy would watch this movie anyway. It is however why it's a decent chick flick. No female companion watching with you will get jealous if follow the interchanges between Minnie Driver and John Cusack. And, since Debi gets her man (incidentally, he's not exactly playing hard to get), it has a happy love ending for women viewers.

One more thing to mention is the music. The film was made in the 90's but it revolves around a ten year high school reunion so the music is from the 80's. I thought that the 80's music sucked while in the 80's. Oh, you had "White Wedding", "Manny, Moe, and Jack", and "Mexican Radio" (none of which is in the film), but after that it seemed like a wasteland. This movie pulls in songs from the 80's like Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun" and The Pixies' "Monkey Gone to Heaven" as well as the overused "Mirror in the Bathroom" and the not used enough "Pressure Drop" by The Specials. Maybe the 80's weren't so bad after all.

This isn't "Must Watch" fare, but you'll find that if you liked it once, you'll like it again, and maybe again. It's worth investing time in to see if it fits into that "special" place.

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