The Action Mutant…
knows Lloyd Dobler. And he owes me $2!
Grosse Pointe Blank
review by Joe Burrows
John Cusack usually comes off as a pretty affable guy. He’s played them all, too. Affable teen (Say Anything, The Sure Thing), affable U.S. Marshal (ConAir), affable record store clerk (High Fidelity), affable…you get the point. Cusack usually has a ball looking like he’s not trying too hard at all, which I pretty much dig about the guy. Seriously, who else can make an affable HITMAN work?
The Plot, as it was:
Cusack plays Martin Q. Blank, an independent contract killer that has hit the wall, so to speak. After a decade, he doesn’t find his job fun anymore and can’t quite figure out why. He gets very little help from his passive therapist Dr. Oatman (Alan Arkin), who is frankly scared to death at Blank’s occupation. Fate springs into play when Blank’s secretary Marcella (sis Joan Cusack) gives Martin his next assignment, which happens to coincide with his ten year high school reunion. Of course, he runs into the usual oddballs that never left town after school (including the usually paranoid Jeremy Piven as a high strung real estate dealer) but he also finds his way back to Debi (Minnie Driver). Debi happens to be the girl he stood up at prom ten years previously when he suddenly left town and went into the military. As if he didn’t have enough people angry at him, there’s a rouge hitman (Dan Aykroyd) on his tail who wants him to join a hitman co-op of sorts and is willing to kill Blank if he doesn’t comply.
Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
One would probably expect this mix of comedy, romance and action to swerve out of control but the film is sharply written and actually feels comfortable in its skin. The action never overwhelms to the point of mean spiritedness and the comedy/romance never takes itself too seriously, despite the eventual “life affirming” message. Cusack and Driver get a good chemistry going with their scenes, as the “tension/affection’ ideal is handled very well. Despite it having an edgy undercurrent to it, GPB is pretty low-key and has several hilarious moments (such as when Martin finds out what happened to his home and the expected awkwardness at the reunion). Cusack plays off of everyone well and thankfully, Aykroyd doesn’t go too Loose Cannons with his role. On the slightly negative side, the film feels like it goes 10 or 15 minutes too long and Arkin’s role is really not needed in the grand scheme of the story. Other than that, GPB is a film you can’t help but to have fun with. Besides, a film with so many tunes by The Clash can’t be too bad.
Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Jenna Elfman makes her film debut as the woman with the neck halo on.
Body Count/Violence: 14. The director George Armitage is the guy that brought us Miami Blues, which was another darkly violent comedy. Most of the death and violence comes at the climactic shootout, though mostly everyone done in previously is by gunplay as well. The fight Blank has with a rival assassin (Cusack’s kickboxing teacher Benny “The Jet” Urquidez) at the reunion is surprisingly bloody.
Sexuality/Nudity: Martin and Debi make out once but there are no goodies in this department of the film. Minnie Driver’s still effortlessly cute, though.
Language/Dialogue: Occasionally strong, with most of it coming from Aykroyd’s daffy hitman Grocer. Best line of his: “I'm gonna put a bullet hole in your fuckin' forehead, and I'm gonna fuck the brain hole!” Classic!
How bad was it?:
The main critics gave it so-so remarks but it has a cult following and is generally well received by most others (by both fans and critics).
Did it make the studio’s day?:
Hollywood Pictures (which eventually folded because it couldn’t buy a hit) had a pleasant surprise with GPB. Released on 4/11/97, the film opened modestly at 4th place, only to be topped in new competition that weekend by the hilariously awful Anaconda. It never reached higher than that but it did finish with $28.1 million from a $15 million budget.
Entertainment value: ****/*****
Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.