Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Directed by: George Armitage
Written by: D.V. DeVincentis . Steve Pink . John Cusack, Tom Jankiewicz
Starring: Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, Hank Azaria, Joan Cusack, John Cusack, Minnie Driver
HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still can not forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore….our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection. This week:
Ross Hughes Looks back at the 90′s masterpiece that is Grosse Pointe Blank
One of the best theories I have read on the Internet is that Grosse Pointe Blank is in fact an unofficial sequel to John Cusack’s earlier film Say Anything! If you have never heard this logic before then its quite a strange one I admit but if you watch the two films, you can see similarities between the characters that Cusack plays. In both films he plays a man with a rather blank expression and is unsure of what he wants to do with his life. He also has a distinct relationship with his girlfriend’s father until he endears himself to them, the fathers themselves are involved in something and there is a pivotal moment in both films that sums up the use of a pen and also a character gets mentioned in the two films.
You could say that at the end of Say Anything, Lloyd does what Martin does in this, and just disappear and leave his love of his life heartbroken. I know its a case of reading too much into things and how the heck was this spotted I never know, but when I watched both films back to back you can not help but see where this bizarre logic comes from. When I originally saw this twisted link I had to see for myself but then I really do not need an excuse to watch Grosse Pointe Blank- one of the greatest films ever to come out of the decade that was the 90′s, a film that is near perfection you could possibly get!
The film starts like its going to be a huge action blockbuster with Cusack all in black holding a rifle and shooting down his target. We get the jist straight away that this man is a hit man and a damn good one. The trouble is Martin Blank is going through a midlife crisis, he is unsure of the direction his life is going and he is also developing a conscience which of course is a bad thing when you are hired to kill. With the action set-piece been and gone we soon get our first glimpse into what kind of film this is going to be, and its a scene that sums up the beauty of this wonderful film.
To get help with his new found feelings, Blank is seeing a psychiatrist (a brilliant cameo by Alan Arkin) who you have to feel sorry for because he is simply terrified of his client after he told him what he does for a living.
Dr Oatman: Martin, I’m emotionally involved with you.
Marty: How are you emotionally involved with me?
Dr Oatman: I’m afraid of you.
Marty: You’re afraid of me.
Dr Oatman: And that constitutes an emotional involvement, and it would be unethical for me to work with you under those circumstances.
Its these exchanges that sums up what we about to be offered for the rest of the film. Its a delicious exchange filled full of dark humour and a stylish script that continues through out the film. It also becomes better and better has the film goes on. Still confused after his meeting with the stressed Doc, Martin has even more problems in his life. his secretary (real life sister Joan Cusak) is a borderline psycho- but a damn funny one, and there is fellow assassin Grocer (Dan Aykroyd), who wants him to join the ultimate “Assassin’s Union.” instead of going on his own. Martin’s refusal brings out tension between the two that simmers throughout which reaches a pinnacle in a cafe scene that out do’s HEAT for a showdown. Grocer and Martin talk across the table while holding their guns underneath, its wicked and funny…….
Of course while all this is going on I have not mentioned the main thrust of the film, and its all to do with a 10 year High School Reunion a one that is probably the reason why Martin is falling apart. You see 10 years ago Martin left his high school sweetheart standing on her own, waiting for her date for the prom that never came. Martin does not want to go to this gig, but when a job comes up in the town where its being held and with his secretary and quack both telling him it would help him if he went, Martin arrives and his life will never be the same again.
So Blank heads back home to Grosse Pointe, Michigan, for a high-school reunion, hoping the trip will sort out his feelings and to confront the past involving his parents, his past, his old best friend Paul (Jeremy Piven) and of course that former girlfriend Debi. Before I carry on with the plot I have to say how good Minnie Driver is in this film. She plays against the normal “left at the alter” type character that could have easily swallowed up the energy that the film displays. There is no bitterness but an anger in which she is also confused in what happened all those years back. She is dignified and strong and never once asks the reason “why!” instead shows Martin that her life carried on without him and she is doing very well for herself as the town’s DJ.” She is so likeable that she is damn sexy and you can see why Martin has never forgotten her.
With the plot now in place and all building up for that reunion we are then subjected to moments that shine with sublime brilliance that you marvel at what is on offer. Grosse Pointe Blank has everything you want and more, the energy, style and humour swims around in a stunning mix while it succeeds in heart pulling emotion and waves of intelligence. There are two scenes that are just outstanding. First of all the music soundtrack of the entire film is worth the purchase alone and there is one moment where a rock song is playing out as Martin arrives to his birth home to find its been torn down and a small supermarket in its place. Live and Let Die is playing out but when Martin enters the store, the song goes from the original and into the store sound system, sounding like the cheap Supermarket music you have come to expect. Its a great original moment that somehow so many picked up on and even to this day many films have copied.
The other scene is at the reunion itself and one I feel ashamed to talk about because lets face it, its the one moment that all fans agree is the best moment of the entire running time and that is Cusack holding the baby while Under Pressure by David Bowie blares from the screen. The face/off between young and old is brilliantly played out, here we see Martin staring at this baby who is staring back and the acting by Cusack is world class. The look of realisation on his face while he looks at this innocent soul tells so much without the need of words, here is a man facing up to his demons there and then, maybe facing up to the lives he did not need to have took and its a moment that has somehow become one of the most greatest moments in cinema history, even watching it again to this day makes me think “Damn this film is special!”
And that is what Grosse Pointe Blank is, special. Even now with endless re-makes and sequels, its great now and again that Hollywood can dish out something so great. The film is just so damn likeable and funny that you can watch over and over and for me personally its Cusack’s best performance. He is just so effortlessly cool through out this film, I love when he arrives back in his hometown and people ask him what he does, he tells them and they just do not believe him. Like the film, he is so honest and enduring that you can not help but be on his side through out all the way to be the bloodbath at the climatic showdown.
Such is the huge popularity of this film that for years fans have demanded a sequel and they sort of got it with War Inc, that had John, Joan and Dan all back in action. Cusack again played a hit man and he officially calls the film (a sort of sequel) but it somehow does not work and it goes to show that Grosse Pointe Blank is a lightening in a bottle kind of film. Unique, wonderful, dark and funny, this was one of the 90′s most proudest achievements because in what any other film do you see John Cusack battering a man with a frying-pan while declaring his undying love…………
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