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Sunday, 23 October 2016

Retro Review: Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

Gross Pointe Blank
Cast: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Ackroyd, Hank Azaria, Jeremy Piven, Jenna Elfman, Joan Cusack, Alan Arkin
Genre: Black Comedy/ Comedy Crime
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $28,000, 000

Plot:  After assassin Martin Blank has trouble focusing on his work, resulting in a failed assignment, he returns to his hometown, Grosse Point, Michigan, for his 10-year high school reunion. There he meets Debi Newbury, an old girlfriend that he stood up for the prom. Martin's secretary sets up a hit for him while he is in town, but Martin starts to reconsider his life. Meanwhile, he is hounded by an unstable rival hit man, Grocer

'A '90s Oddity That Is A Mesh Of Different Sub-Genres Of Movies'

Grosse Pointe Blank is a difficult type of film to describe, even though the plot sounds straightforward; a mesh of stylised noir, with a bit of rom-com, black comedy, some Reservoir Dogs, action and mystery, this concoction means to serve as something that is rather unique and different to so many other movies released during the 1990s. 

It definitely gets credit for being unlike anything that has been attempted before and with that, there are good things that come out of this offering. 

Martin Blank (John Cusack) is a professional hiring killing hit-man, who doesn't want anything to do with it, anymore - until he is coerced into carrying out one more task by his secretary, Marcella - real-life sister actress Joan Cusack, which takes place at the same time as he attends his high school reunion, back in his hometown of Michigan (something his psychiatrist played by Alan Arkin advises him to do) & where he is contracted to kill someone. He also has a lot of explaining to do towards his teenage sweetheart, Debi (Minnie Driver), of whom he meets and once stood up during prom night and to make amends for his mistake. On the other end of the spectrum, 2 federal agents - one being Hank Azaria's character, another assassin in Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez and a fellow hit-man by the name of Grocer (Dan Ackroyd) are all in relentless pursuit of Martin and Grocer particularly, wants to finish the job by taking him out. So in total, that's 3 not-so-good-guys going after not-so-good-guy-yet-still-has-a-conscience Martin. At first, it was odd to see Dan Ackroyd as the bad guy but he plays his role really well. 

The gun-play, as well as the fight between real-life martial arts fighter, Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez and John Cusack's Martin was pretty good & made for the most entertaining and highlighting aspects of the movie for me; played out almost like a Looney Tunes cartoon, the violence isn't too bloody or gory for one's taste. The three main examples take place in a mini-mart that eventually gets blown up, at the locker rooms of the high school and lastly, in Debi and her father's house.

There were times though where I kind of switched off, because the story and some of the events of the film just didn't maintain my interest enough. However, the performances were first-class: I cannot doubt how amazing each of the cast did in their roles. Minnie Driver is great as Martin's high school girlfriend; her character manages to avoid being bitter and whining and - but towards Martin for standing her up during prom - having grudges towards Martin. It was nice to see her still getting on with him and not completely hating his guts. John Cusack is the guy, who whilst during his time at the army, Martin turns his attentions into becoming a contract killer, whilst trying to patch things up with Debi. Later, he starts to have doubts about what he is doing for a living and realises that it might be for the best just to quit. 

The tone of the film isn't as bleak as some others have stated, but there is a dark-ish underbelly to it that is sort of underpinned by the romantic subplot of Debi and Martin. The twists are subtle but still effective, the humour is witty and is more Black comedy - focused and the dialogue is well written and at times, clever. 

Final Verdict:

This is a strange-yet also smart, unique and original and one of the most striking movies to come out of the 1990s. Forget stuff like Hitman - Grosse Pointe Blank is an offbeat oddity that at least warrants a viewing or two. 

It is a light-hearted take on the life of a hit-man, who kills people for a living, but whose priorities not only become skewed but he re-evaluates his life and realising what he wants. Ultimately, in the end, he wants to be with Debi. It's not an out and out comedy, but it is also not a thriller of all sorts, either. 

With a mixture of self parodying of Reservoir Dogs, an old-fashion rom-com & other movie sub-genres, impressive performances and wit to boot, Grosse Pointe Blank is a nice little gem of a movie. 

Especially for the action sequences alone. 


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