Grosse Pointe Blank

on April 11, 1997 by Christine James
Successful, well-respected hitman Martin Blank (John Cusack) loses his passion for his job, so where does he go to `find himself'? His 10-year high school reunion--on the advice of his secretary (Joan Cusack), who thinks it will be good for him, and of his shrink (Alan Arkin), who is afraid of him and wants to get him out of town. Martin returns to his small hometown of Grosse Pointe with optimism, only to find that his old house has been leveled and replaced by an Ultimart convenience store. Worse still, his former high school buddy (Jeremy Piven) is now in real estate and confesses he brokered the deal. Other former classmates have all gotten respectable but run-of-the-mill jobs; when Martin repeatedly confesses he's a professional killer to all who ask about his career path, he is of course presumed to be joking.
   There is one alumnus Martin is particularly excited to see: Debi (Minnie Driver), his former flame, whom he stood up on prom night to embark on what would turn out to be a life of well-paid violence. While he attempts to win back the skeptical heart of the sharp-witted, spirited girl of his dreams, he must also contend with the fact that he's being stalked by his former mentor (Dan Aykroyd), who wants Martin to join his hitman union or die; two policemen who are waiting for him to make one false move; and a creepy gun-for-hire who's on the payroll of a dissatisfied ex-client of Martin's.
   Performances and writing are for the most part cleverly hilarious. John Cusack manages to make his calm, focused, cold-bloodedly efficient contract killer funny, charming and sympathetic. His appeal is aided by numerous displays of the ingenuity that made him such a success at his admittedly socially unacceptable job. There is a glimpse into his troubled psyche, his unarticulated remorse: "It's not me" is his mantra, sometimes expressed as an emotionless explanation, other times as a rationalization or apology. "If I'm on your doorstep, chances are you did something to bring me there" is his other catchphrase, which he soon realizes has begun to sound hollow. Nevertheless, the film's tone is kept light, even in the midst of a murderer's metamorphosis. Driver as Debi is thoroughly winsome, balancing strength and playfulness without seeming contrived. Aykroyd is the most fun he's been to watch in a long time. Joan Cusack is her usual uproarious self, and Arkin also provides some humorous moments as Martin's reluctant psychiatrist.
   A great '80s soundtrack vacillates between the decade's angriest and fluffiest hits and helps keep the mood high. Though more could have been done within the reunion construct, overall "Grosse Point Blank's" sharp, oblique wit should make this a point blank hit with the twenty- and thirtysomething sets. Starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Aykroyd, Alan Arkin and Joan Cusack. Directed by George Armitage. Written by Tom Jankiewicz and D.V. DeVincentis & Steve Pink & John Cusack. Produced by Susan Arnold, Donna Arkoff Roth and Roger Birnbaum. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated R for strong violence, language and some drug content. Running time: 107 min
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