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Friday Film Review: Grosse Pointe Blank

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Genre: Action/Romance/Comedy
Grade: B+

It’ll soon be that time of year again, when we get contacted about the organized hell that are High School Reunions. “Festivals of Pain” as one character here calls this one, when we see people we’ve barely thought of in 10, 20, 30 years and wince as we look back on our class pictures. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could arrive and casually mention that you’re a professional killer? That’d get some looks!

With apologies to “Afterburner” I’m going to snag, but slightly modify, the IMDB synopsis of the plot.

Martin Blank (John Cusak) is a freelance hitman who starts to develop a conscience, which causes him to muff a couple of routine assignments. On the advice of his secretary (Joan Cusak) and his psychiatrist (Alan Arkin), he attends his 10th year High School reunion in Grosse Pointe, Michigan (a Detroit suburb where he’s also contracted to kill someone). Hot on his tail are a couple of over-enthusiastic federal agents (Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman), another assassin who wants to kill him, and Grocer (Dan Aykroyd), an assassin who wants him to join an “Assassin’s Union.” Plus there’s his high school sweetheart (Minnie Driver) he left waiting in her prom dress 10 years ago who might, or might not, want to figuratively kill him too.

On someone’s advice from a previous review, forgive me I can’t recall who or which review, I put this one in the rental queue and loved it. I’ve since added it to my growing DVD collection – doing these reviews is playing fun havoc with my credit card – and enjoy it each time I pull it out. It also serves to solidify my certainty that I will never attend a class reunion if I can possibly avoid it. Gah!

Popcorn! I love the assassin “spy vs spy” (for those of you who’ve ever read Mad Magazine) stuff that Blank and Grocer engage in. The careful meetings where each has one hand on his gun and the final showdown when we see that television – or in this case A television – really can kill you! The firefight at the Ultimart is hilarious too.

Minnie Driver is fantastic as Martin’s abandoned girlfriend who gives him hell “on the air” when he shows up after 10 years. She manages to avoid doing “bitter” or “my life stopped 10 years ago and I’ve never gotten over you” while retaining a confident sense of humor and not letting Martin off the hook. She makes it easy to see why Martin would never have forgotten her and decides to turn his life around to keep her in it.

John Cusak is Martin Blank, a sort of loner who discovered a moral flexibility while in the Army which has allowed him to become a rich professional killer. And I’m amazed at how many people in town he tells what he does for a living as well as their humorous responses to the news. “Do you get dental with that?” His sister Joan cracks me up as Martin’s secretary who needles him into going to the reunion as she coolly orders more hollow point bullets for him. She definitely deserves the profit sharing.

And then there’s the reunion when Martin discovers that a real friend really will help him dispose of the body. As well as being able to get pens, have a chance to break into his old locker, put those motivational hall banners to actual good use and dance to oldies but goodies. The soundtrack for the film is fabulous. I love the stuff he comes up with before heading to the High School to tell people what he’s done with his life. Pet psychiatrist, couch insurance, test marketing positive thinking and leading a men’s group – “We specialize in ritualized killings.”

But wait, there’s more! The final showdown during which Martin saves the day, ponders the meaning of his life and what he’s done for the past few years then proposes to Debi is worth the price of admission. I laughed myself silly when Martin finishes up one assassin by bashing him with a frying pan. I will say that the Newberry house is going to need a lot of refurb’ing before going back on the market, though.

The film is clever, funny, with action sequences so OTT that you can sit back and enjoy them as entertainment and not worry that you’re laughing at and with assassins. It has a strong heroine and an introspective killer hero who truly seems to have a “newfound respect for life.” The music is great, the actors are well cast and it’s certainly not your usual rom-com. Here’s a big “Thanks!” to whoever recommended it to me.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

34 Comments

  1. cate
    May 06, 2011 @ 07:20:06

    I see your B+ & raise it to an A* !
    This is one of the most brilliantly subversive black romcoms ever to hit the screen. Apart from the fact that the supporting cast is stellar – you also have the criminally(IMO) underrated Joan Cusack once again shamelessly stealing every scene she’s in !
    For once Hollywood actually gives us a comedy that lives up to it’s hype….And, if – like me – you have a slightly(OK -make that really) black sense of humour, this film hits the mark on every level …Even Dan Ackroyd, who normally leaves me utterly cold !
    Good choice for the weekend following the wedding!!!

  2. Jayne
    May 06, 2011 @ 07:59:11

    @cate: Joan Cusack is fabulous. She’s my favorite secondary character in the whole movie. One of my favorite lines is when Martin gets his future father-in-law’s blessing during the final shoot-out.

  3. Susanna Kearsley
    May 06, 2011 @ 08:29:36

    Jayne, I really do think you and I were somehow separated at birth… :-)

    This is one of my favourites, as well. I love everything about it.

    “I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How have you been?”

    And only John Cusack could pair a frying-pan assault with a declaration of love and get away with it.

  4. Chicklet
    May 06, 2011 @ 09:09:37

    I love this movie! And the soundtrack is aces. One of my favorite jokes is pretty subtle, but it cracked me up in the theatre. Martin is sitting in his car, outside the convenience store that sits where his house used to be, and the radio station is playing the Guns n’ Roses cover of “Live and Let Die.” Then it cuts directly to Martin entering the convenience store, where a muzak version of “Live and Let Die” is playing (plinkplinkplink, plinkplinkplink, plinkplinkplink…). I was the only person in the theatre who got the joke and laughed.

  5. Kris
    May 06, 2011 @ 09:21:56

    This is one of my absolute favourite movies of all time (tied with the Princess Bride for top place). Thank you for the review. I hope this encourages more people to go out and have some Grosse Point Blank love for themselves! :)

  6. LoriK
    May 06, 2011 @ 09:29:00

    I love this movie. It’s one of the ones I keep on hand to pull out when I’ve had a bad day because it makes me laugh every time.

    The gunfight at the Ultimart includes one of my all-time favorite exchanges:

    Martin: Are you OK?

    Employee of the now destroyed Ultimart: No! I’m hurt, I’m pissed and I gotta find a new job.

  7. Claudia Dain
    May 06, 2011 @ 09:47:16

    I adore this movie! I can’t remember when I first saw it, probably not when it first came out, but I fell in love with it at first sight. It’s so rare that a movie can keep so many balls in the air at one time: action, romance, humor, suspense, in-jokes, funny romantic moments, action romantic moments, tender grabbing-a-tissue romantic moments, scary action, funny action, etc. A truly brilliant film. I love every single scene!

  8. Little Lamb Lost
    May 06, 2011 @ 10:58:49

    I loved this film and in the course of time had completely forgotten about it. I think I will fix some popcorn and dust off my copy to watch tonight. Great review and thanks for reminding me about this gem of a film.

  9. LEW
    May 06, 2011 @ 11:24:53

    Love this movie! I’d give it an A-/A. And SUSANNA already quoted my favorite line:

    “I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How’ve you been?”

    Utterly fantastic!

  10. Heather Greye
    May 06, 2011 @ 11:42:46

    I adore this movie. Now I need to go buy it and rewatch it.

  11. Jaci Burton
    May 06, 2011 @ 12:36:02

    Omg this is one of my absolute favorite movies ever, and it’s been forever since I’ve watched it. Thank you for the reminder. I’m laughing out loud at the remembered scenes and dialogue.

    It’s funny how often Martin tells people he’s a professional killer, and no one believes him. Hysterical.

    Must do a rewatch asap.

  12. Danielle Monsch
    May 06, 2011 @ 13:13:47

    I love this movie but it’s not one that’s on permanent rotation for me. Now that you’ve reminded me of it, I need to grab it out of my collection and watch it again.

    Dan Aykroyd was amazing in this movie. and John Cusack’s exchanges with Alan Arkin and Jeremy Piven just made the movie for me.

    It was all around awesome.

  13. Eve Silver
    May 06, 2011 @ 13:49:46

    Love, love, love this movie. The soundtrack rocks, too. Thanks for reminding me that I need to watch it again.

  14. Sunita
    May 06, 2011 @ 13:51:40

    Add me to the list. For a change, I even liked Minnie Driver. I saw this in the theater when it came out and liked it pretty well, but it gets better and better on re-viewings. Thanks, Jayne!

  15. JoannaV
    May 06, 2011 @ 14:10:55

    I’m with Cate, give it an A! Love this movie, it has so many great moments, and unlike most action movies (and some romcoms) the jokes are intelligent and subtle and the performances are superb! Thanks to Chicklet – I’ve seen it several times and never caught the “Live and Let Die” musical joke, will listen carefully next time.

  16. Olivia
    May 06, 2011 @ 15:31:07

    Love this film — and I always get excited to point out that the drunk chick in the restaurant when John Cusack takes Minnie Driver to dinner is a third Cusack sibling, Ann.

  17. JenD
    May 06, 2011 @ 17:05:55

    Oh, this really is one of my favorite films. I get all mushy when I think about it. It ticks all the boxes.

    Soundtrack- tick
    Spy intrigue/killing- tick
    Airplane rides- tick
    Joan- tick tick
    Witty banter- big tick
    Terrified shrink- tick

    I can’t even review this film properly because I gush about it so much. No objectivity to be found, just pure pure love.

  18. Keziah Hill
    May 06, 2011 @ 17:37:06

    I love this movie. One of my favorites.

  19. BlueRose
    May 06, 2011 @ 18:37:51

    I stumbled across this movie YEARS ago (ie think I saw it first on tape) and it started my love affair with John Cusak. Its a brilliantly dark funny movie as only he can do so well.

    Tho I adore Joan as the freaked out yet competent secretary (the scene where she trashes his computer is fabulous)

  20. pamelia
    May 06, 2011 @ 19:14:45

    Saw this one in the theater when it came out. Living in a suburb of Detroit other than Grosse Pointe, many of us felt compelled to see it just for the local flavor. Love it, own it on DVD, often recommend it to anyone and everyone when talking about movies.
    One of my favorite moments in the movie is at the reunion when an old classmate hands him her baby to hold and “Under Pressure” is playing. There is just something about that scene I find so profound and moving as he and the baby stare at each other.

  21. Jayne
    May 06, 2011 @ 19:34:18

    @pamelia: I didn’t really catch the “holding the baby” scene the first time I watched the film. Too engrossed in when the other killer would appear. But while watching the movie a second time, I did and felt the same thing. I think it’s an additional boost to Martin’s “new found respect for life.”

  22. Lexxie Couper
    May 06, 2011 @ 19:37:18

    In my Top Ten films and definitely my fav John Cusack film (followed very closely by The Sure Thing).

    My husband and I quite often break an uncomfortable silence at a party or gathering by loudly exclaiming “Ten years! ten years!”

    Og, think I feel a Cusack marathon coming on…Grosse Pointe Blank, The Sure Thing, Say Anything, Con Air, Pushing Tin, better Off Dead…yep, that’s my Mothers Day viewing sorted out :)

  23. Jayne
    May 06, 2011 @ 19:37:32

    @BlueRose: I always wonder how the reunion committee managed to track down Martin’s address to send the invitation to. Seems like a professional killer wouldn’t be that easy for the average person to find. But I love how Joan keeps pressing him to go especially after he gets the Grosse Point job – he can do two things the same weekend!

  24. Jayne
    May 06, 2011 @ 19:39:23

    @Lexxie Couper: See now I need to watch “The Sure Thing.” I think I’ve caught bits of it on TV but never the whole thing.

  25. Lexxie Couper
    May 06, 2011 @ 19:44:51

    @Jayne The Sure Things is one of those films every romantic MUST see. A brilliantly funny, warm, cheeky film. And Cusack’s way of dealing with the pick-up driver is hilarious!

  26. Kris M.
    May 06, 2011 @ 20:45:49

    LOVE this movie and my hubby loves it too. It is one movie that we both love because it has enough action for him, humor for both of us and romance for me (and a great soundtrack). It is am awesome at home date movie :)

  27. BlueRose
    May 06, 2011 @ 21:24:03

    @Jayne:

    I assume he had a fake address that gets cleverly redirected somewhere back where they can pick it up. Even a professional hitman needs to get snail mail LOL

  28. Irene Chandler
    May 07, 2011 @ 11:55:30

    @Jayne and Bluerose: I always assumed that was another subtle joke—that is, it doesn’t matter how good you are or how hard you try to hide, *your alma mater will find you.* (Cue ominous chords.)

    There is, in my experience, a certain amount of truth to this.

  29. sarah mayberry
    May 08, 2011 @ 04:11:16

    I love this movie so much. Agree with whoever said it was fantastic black comedy/subversive humor. I particularly love the scene where he has just stabbed the guy in the front of the lockers (who happens to be Benny the Jet, a big martial arts star, and John Cusack is really into martial arts) with that pen and Minnie Drivers busts him and he’s all “It’s not what it looks like” as he’s hunched over the body holding the dripping pen… Delicious (and rather bloodthirsty!) black comedy. I would like to make a suggestion for a future review – it’s a French movie, don’t know how you feel about subtitles, but it’s called Hunting & Gathering in English (or Ensemble, c’est tout in original French)and is small and charming and touching. One of my faves.

  30. Sami Lee
    May 08, 2011 @ 04:20:31

    And after that scene in the hallway he goes back to that smarmy salesman and says thanks for the pen!

    This is way up there in my top five films of all time, an absolute classic. Why not an A? What’s a movie gotta do to get an A?

  31. Jayne
    May 08, 2011 @ 10:16:09

    @sarah mayberry: Unfortunately, “Ensemble” appears to only be available in either region 2 or 3 versions. I will try to remember to keep checking on it for a region 1 version.

  32. sarah mayberry
    May 08, 2011 @ 17:18:26

    @jayne: I see they have a region one on Amazon but it’s priced very steeply (almost old Australian prices, pre Amazon and our ability to buy things and have them shipped in rather than being bent over by local retailers). It must be available somewhere for rental if they’re selling it, however. Fingers crossed you can find it, because it’s such a charming little movie.

  33. Janine
    May 21, 2014 @ 11:28:47

    My husband and I recently watched this movie for the first time. What fun! I wanted to see it when it came out but never made it to the theater on time. It still holds up, though. Also, I usually don’t care for Minnie Driver’s acting, but she was actually watchable in this one.

  34. Jayne
    May 21, 2014 @ 12:33:33

    @Janine: Yeah, I’m with you on Minnie Driver. It seems I either love her in a film or hate the daylights out of her.

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