Thursday, 18 April 2013

Grosse Pointe Blank



Professional assassin Martin Blank (John Cusack) discovers that his next job is in his home town on the same weekend as his ten year high school reunion and to kill the proverbial birds, decides to head back to the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe from which he fled a decade earlier. He tracks down his high school sweetheart Debi (Minnie Driver) who now works as a local radio host and attempts to undo the damage caused by standing her up on prom night. While in town Martin finds himself under the watch of several assassins as well as two NSA Agents but despite the danger is desperate to win back his girl.

Grosse Pointe Blank was a better film than I expected it to be. I’m not a huge fan of John Cusack and would never seek out a film because Minnie Driver was in it. I knew nothing about the story but the most 90s poster in I’ve ever seen did little to wet my appetite. The film is rarely funny and the plot is fairly inconsequential but I enjoyed the chemistry of the two leads as well as the 80s soundtrack and overall was charmed by the movie.

Early on we play witness to Martin Black’s grizzly skill with various weapons and discover that he is a man who cannot be swayed by begging or pleading. He appears to live an isolated life with few friends and no family. The idea of attending his high school reunion is instantly quashed and only his job forces him back to his home town. When he arrives he shows little evidence of letting down his façade of the emotionless killer and the indifference he shows his mother as well as the outrageous disrespect he has for his father’s grave show few signs of the emotion and love that is hidden underneath. It is only when he finds Debi that his insides come to the surface. He is a different man around her; much softer and gentler and even nervous yet still with his smooth and cocky surface.

The chemistry between the leads is excellent. They share some terrific scenes together and my favourite in the entire movie were the couple’s tentative attempts at rediscovering their friendship. Both appear to regress to a certain extent and share some sweet moments. The central idea of the dedicated assassin rediscovering lost love is an appealing idea and I think it is handled well. Unfortunately there is a lot of filler. The NSA Agents who spend the whole film following Martin provide little if nothing besides a couple of (supposedly) comedy deaths. For the rest of the time they are used as cut scenes between the central character’s changes of location. I quite enjoyed the stuff about Martin’s depression and his odd relationship with his therapist though but the film lacked any sort of context or back story and only gave the vaguest hints as to why Martin does what he does and left when he did.

Something that I found terribly uncomfortable was the high school reunion. I’d hate to have to go to something like that. It’s nine years since I left high school and while watching, was dreading the idea of a similar event. Luckily it isn’t a ‘thing’ here in the introverted UK so I won’t have to do it but the film creates a horrible atmosphere of half memories of people you haven’t seen for a reason. It was at the reunion that a lot of the soundtrack featured and that is an area in which the movie excels. The film features a 1980s pop and rock soundtrack which fits perfectly and included some great songs by the likes of David Bowie, The Clash, Guns ‘N’ Roses, The Specials, The Jam and Grandmaster Flash. Although I wouldn’t be interested in seeing the movie again, I’d definitely listen to the soundtrack.

The film has a clever way of creating a voiceover without really having one by making a central character a radio host. This way Debi is able to vocalise her thoughts and feelings to her listeners (and the audience) without the need for characters which would only be on screen for her to bounce off. Occasionally it isn’t very realistic but in a film in which John Cusack is an assassin, realism isn’t really top of the agenda. I didn’t find Cusack particularly annoying which was a good thing. I thought he was reasonable as the hired killer and was good in a lot of the fighting and stealthy killing scenes. As I already mentioned, he also has a great on screen chemistry with Minnie Driver, who is excellent. Her accent is remarkable and she provides the emotional depth which is sometimes lacking in her co-star. Dan Aykroyd, like John Cusack, is another actor who often bugs me but I thought he was ok here and I also liked Jeremy Piven. Hank Azaria is wasted and Alan Arkin has little to do but is fine.

Overall Grosse Pointe Blank is a decent, male friendly rom-com. The plot shows early signs of promise but doesn’t develop satisfactorily and the ending is weak but the dialogue is snappy and entertaining. The central relationship is very good and the soundtrack is excellent and while I wasn’t keen on the shootout ending, I was invested enough in the story up to that pointe that it didn’t bother me as much as it might otherwise have. 

7/10 


Titbits
  • The movie features four Cusacks'. As well as John, it also features his siblings Joan, Ann and Bill.
  • The only shot of the real Grosse Pointe is the helicopter shot at the end. Permission was denied to film in Grosse Pointe high school because the school didn't like the image of a former pupil becoming a hit man.
  • There are several James Bond references in the script and soundtrack.      

3 comments:

  1. This is one of the films I've seen hundreds of times. I think it is well underrated. It sits outside of the regular high school reunion vein, just like it sits outside the regular 80s comedy vein. It is a beast in an of itself, something that I think is reflected in its alternate-80s soundtrack. Not many of those songs have been restricted to generic 80s songs, just like the film. The film feels more real because of it. Great to see you enjoyed!

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    1. Yeah, I think you're right. It somehow manages to straddle the traditional rom-com/reunion film without pulling out most of the normal clichés that go with those sort of films.

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