johnlink ranks GROSSE POINTE BLANK (1997)

Little background on this blog. Back in 2008 I was involved in a podcast with my wife, my brother, and our long time friend. Called ‘The Iocaine Project’, it was a forum for us to talk about movies, books, music, or whatever. We had a website attached to the podcast, and I decided to write some articles on movies I loved. One of those was for GROSSE POINTE BLANK – this would have been in late 2008 (another one was for OUT OF SIGHT). Sometime soon after, I got the idea to make writing a movie blog, one in which I would write about every single movie I watched. Six and a half years and 840-someodd movies later, I’m still here kicking around. In a lot of ways, GROSSE POINTE BLANK was one of the embers that started this little fire I’ve been maintaining over the years. So if I come to it with a bit of a bias, well that just can’t be helped.


I watched GROSSE POINTE BLANK (1997) on 5.27.15. It was probably my tenth or so viewing of the film, and my first since November of 2008.

There are several beats simultaneously pumping blood through the heart of GROSSE POINTE BLANK.

One of these is John Cusack as Martin Blank. He is a hitman who is having a quarter-life crisis on the eve of his 10 year high school reunion. A job has him heading back to Detroit anyway, so he reluctantly decides to visit his old home and confront the girl he left, literally, standing outside the prom waiting for him to show up (Minnie Driver).

Another through-line is the dialogue delivered by tight script. Though there are a couple jokes that land like clunkers, the vast majority of this screenplay is born out of the 90s banter that everyone lazily attributes to Quentin Tarantino. But in GROSSE POINTE BLANK the back-and-forth is not machine gun coolness. Instead, we are privy to a fair share of depth to the wit. The references, in contrast to Tarantino, are born more out of music rather than film.

And, to be sure, music is another track to follow. The film starts with Blank doing a job, only to be thwarted by his nemesis Grocer (Dan Ackroyd). The soundtrack blares Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”. After a short interlude of scenes, we bare witness to a return home for Blank under the pulsating tones of “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes. In a soundtrack as eclectic as it is nostalgic (this is a mid 90s movie about a high school reunion, after all) we also get The Clash, Guns N’ Roses, The Pixies, Motorhead, The Cure, and others. The music consistently serves as an injection for the film, and this connection is not meant to be subtle as Driver’s love interest, Debi, works as a DJ at the local radio station.


Slightly off kilter supporting performances help propel GROSSE POINTE BLANK as well. Joan Cusack plays, understandably, a sibling-like administrative assistant to brother John. She is quirky and spastic as ever, and much of her on-screen time is shot in a canted frame to subtly accentuate her zaniness. Jeremy Piven shows up as an old friend of Blank’s. His Paul is in a similar place in his life, only he is in the actual boring world of real estate rather than the perceived boring world of contract killing which has mired Blank in such a poor mood. Ackroyd’s villain is everything you’d want out of a major heel. He’s funny, unpredictable, and likable enough to want him to constantly pop up as a divergence on the path. Alan Arkin has little screen time as an unwilling psychiatrist, but his first scene with Cusack sets the tone for the film’s wonderful dialogue. Driver is a powerful female lead. She is dynamic, fun, and full of youthful vigor in a role that might be relegated to a straight-man in a less nuanced script.  Rounding out the solid support are Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman as a couple of government agents waiting for their chance to take down an assassin.

This is a film which operates within many genres simultaneously. It is, primarily , a dark comedy operating in the world of killer as hero. It is an action film which teases its chops early before delivering a respectable fight in its climax. It is a romance, and a romance which does not delegate the central relationship to alternative storyline status. This is a reunion flick which takes a few moments to comment on expectations vs. reality. GROSSE POINTE BLANKE is, surprisingly, a drama about choosing one’s philosophy (wether to be – on a personal level – about loneliness or to be about companionship).

GROSSE POINTE BLANK is a wonderful movie. It’s filming is pedestrian and less than interesting (the aforementioned canted frames in the office scenes feel like a gimmick rather than a considered approach). It’s aesthetic is in the writing rather than the visual. But there is no denying a true commitment to the characters. This is a powerfully funny film, and it is one which rewards regular viewings. This is a movie I love to love.



The bonus is for a top-level soundtrack.


FINAL SCORE: 8.25 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on May 31, 2015.

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