This weekend I watched GROSSE POINTE BLANK again, for the first time in a long time. It’s eighteen years old now! It can vote! As an undergraduate film student, I wrote a seventeen-page paper on GROSSE POINTE BLANK — that’s how convinced I was of its greatness. I still love it, but I’ll try to be more brief here.
GROSSE POINTE BLANK has a perfect one-liner comedy concept – a contract killer accepts invitation to his ten-year high school reunion due to its proximity to his latest contract – and a sharp fit of a leading man in John Cusack, always the most cerebral of 1980s teen stars, who transitioned better than most into adult roles in the 1990s.
Cusack and his co-writers fine-tuned Tom Jankewicz’s original script and got the movie made under the direction of George Armitage, a filmmaker who works way too infrequently, having made the way-underrated hillbilly barnstormer VIGILANTE FORCE with Kris Kristofferson and Bernadette Peters, the somewhat-underrated (many cool people know how fantastic it is) crime classic MIAMI BLUES with Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and the most-underrated-of-all action epic HIT MAN with Bernie Casey and Pam Grier.
Armitage nails the unusual tone of GROSSE POINTE BLANK, a very dark comedy about a paid murderer who kills people for money and who is lovable mostly only because he’s played by that guy who everyone loved in BETTER OFF DEAD and SAY ANYTHING.
GROSSE POINTE BLANK is one of the best-sounding movies of its decade, which is quite a feat considering this was the era of DAZED & CONFUSED, PULP FICTION, DEAD PRESIDENTS, and FRIDAY. The score is by Joe Strummer of The Clash. Pretty epic ‘get’ there. The soundtrack is stacked with killer pop, ska, punk, and new-wave songs from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
The supporting cast is pretty deadly – Dan Aykroyd deftly playing against type as Grocer, an insane hitman and rival of Cusack’s Martin Blank, who in true capitalist fashion is looking to consolidate his industry.
Alan Arkin as Blank’s traumatized psychologist, Dr. Oatman, who is terrified of his patient and continually begs him to stop coming back.
Joan Cusack as Blank’s secretary, equally traumatized by her cuddly sociopath of a boss.
Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman as a pair of bored government spooks who Grocer sets on Blank.
MAGNUM FORCE’s Mitch Ryan — a Dirty Harry sidekick! — as the dad of Blank’s high school sweetheart (played by a very winning Minnie Driver).
Stuntman and martial artist Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, who probably has the movie’s single best line. (“It is I…”)
In retrospect, GROSSE POINTE BLANK is a bit less successful in its action-movie moments as it is any time it’s being a hyper-verbal, deep, dark, and truly bizarre character study. But boy, it’s not like we ever get too many of those. I mean, technically this is a romantic comedy where plenty of people get shot dead. My kind of movie entirely. If I were making movies, I’d probably make one like this (though maybe not as witty). We flatter ourselves with self-descriptions sometimes.
And in case you were ever wondering where the name of my personal site came from, now you know!
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Tags: Alan Arkin, comedy, D.V. DeVincentis, Dan Aykroyd, George Armitage, Guns, Hank Azaria, High School, Joan Cusack, Joe Strummer, John Cusack, K. Todd Freeman, Minnie Driver, Mitchell Ryan, murder, Steve Pink, The 1980s, The 1990s, Tom Jankiewicz