Grosse Point Blank (15)

Directed by George Armitage
Starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Ackroyd, Joan Cusack

Brilliant black comedy about a professional hit man, Martin Blank(John Cusack), who reluctantly combines a trip home to his ten year high school reunion with a a job. His main reason to return home to Grosse Point is to see the girl he stood up on prom night all those years before, Debi(Driver), and who has been on his mind ever since.
Sounds mildly interesting from that description I suppose, but this film has so much more. Co-written and co-produced by John Cusack, this has been a pet project for him- you have to wonder if he made the awful Con Air to generate the publicity or cash. Here Cusack in the central role is very good, but what makes this film so good is that it is an all round quality. Firstly the script is witty and intelligent. The dialogue is snappy and unpredictable- not a cliche in sight, and no tough guy bull or lovey dovey cooing. The characters are well developed and distinct. Some are quite wierd too! The plot is amusing but with lots of blood too for todays violence loving cinema goers. The romance element is really very well done. Debi's response to seeing Martin after he stood her up all that time ago is to interview him live on her radio show and get listeners to ring in and say what she should do. Next plus point are the actors. Cusack is a fine young actor, and is perfect in the slightly cold but sensitive underneath hitman. Brit Minnie Driver is charming and appealing in a non Hollywood way. John's sister Joan as his secretary is a big hit as always. Joan Cusack has played a lot of secretaries since getting an Oscar nomination for Working Girl, but she is always worth seeing, even if she tends to play wacky and slightly nuts fairly often. Dan Ackroyd is perfect as a sleazy rival of Martin's, and there is able support from other bit part players aswell. Next up for the things I like about this film are the individual memorable scenes. Martin's arrival in town and Debi getting him on the radio, his first sight of his old home- now a minimarket, a very explosive shoot out in said shop while the young assistant dude plays Doom II, Martin's sessions with his therapist who only continues to see him out of a sense of fear, the truly bizzare reunion itself. Finally, I loved the music in this. In a sort of homage to Reservoir Dogs DJ K Billy's Sound of the 70s, here we get Debi doing an all-vinyl 80s weekend, featuring the best of Britsh bands from the late 80s like The Jam, The Clash, Souixsie and the Banshees, Echo and the Bunneymen, The Cure and many others. For someone like me who is similar in age to Cusack, these were golden music years.
I do have a slight reservation about the violence in the film. I am not anti- particulary, but quite a few of the characters we had got to know and quite like end up being fairly casually gunned down. The switch from comedy as Cusack and Ackroyd banter during a shoot out and then the nasty and brutal killing straight after was a bit shocking. It is the casualness and everyday manner in which people are killed that got Quentin Tarentino a name for over violence, partially deserved. This film doesn't try to to a Tarentino for most of the time, and is all the better for that. I think we all got a bit tired of making killing look so cool and hip. But the final scenes while necessary as a big finale, are a bit bloody- especially for a 15 film.
In the film, no one expresses surprise when Martin says he is a professional killer. I don't think this is because people are blase about this, I think the way in which Martin says it makes people think he is joking. This is reinforced when an old aquaintance in a bar interrupts Martin and Debi and he claims to work in Kentucky Fried Chicken. We see Martin at work near the beginning of the film killing professionally, but the climactic bloodbath is different. But then, this isn't just a comedy film. Yes it has a lot of wit and humour, but after all it is about a hit man.
A film that has far more depth than most of the summer's fare. An intelligent and enjoyable thriller/romance/comedy/action film. 8/10. August 1997

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