GROSSE POINTE BLANK is a concept-driven movie with just a
single gimmick: that hired killers are "normal" people outside of work.
Surprisingly, it works well.
John Cusack plays Martin Q. Blank, a professional killer. He is very
businesslike: he has clients, agreements, a secretary, appointments,
expenses, and a therapist. If one didn't know that his specialty was
murder, he could be a real estate agent.
Lately, his work has been getting him down, so his secretary (Joan
Cusack, John's sister) suggests that he attend his 10-year high school
reunion. He eventually agrees to go back home for the weekend and see
all the old faces. He hopes to see one face in particular.
Ten years ago, Martin stood up Debi (Minnie Driver) on prom night. He's
been thinking about her all these years and hopes to make amends with
her. He's even willing to give up his career for her, if she'll let him.
He finds her working at the local radio station, single, and willing to
talk . . . .
With this type of concept movie, the screenwriter(s) must be careful not
to tell the same joke too many times. Many of the jokes are Martin
talking about the pressures of his job like everyone else does, but the
screenwriters (Tom Jankiewicz, D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, and John
Cusack) keep the jokes fresh and funny.
It is inspired comedy to make Martin a hired killer. I was reminded of a
comedy called THE DREAM TEAM, about a group of inmates from a mental
institution. That movie was funny, but some critics thought it unfairly
stereotyped mental patients. It was the wrong group to portray, so they
said. By making Martin an assassin, the movie can take all sorts of
liberties with Martin's profession without worrying about offending the
assassins of the world. And also, it's a funny idea.
As a counterexample, there is a therapist in this movie, lightly played
by Alan Arkin. There are some jokes involving psychobabble between
therapist and patient. Though better than usual (compare THAT OLD
FEELING, for example), these jokes border on condescending. In order for
the therapist's dialog to be funny, he has to be a caricature, a
stereotype. Nobody complains about the stereotype when the character is
a professional killer.
In spite of having a little too much screen time, Arkin was funny as the
therapist. Both Cusacks were good in their roles. Dan Aykroyd was funny,
if unmemorable. Minnie Driver was okay as Debi, but her role was a
Debi serves as the object of another character's desire. In Chasing Amy,
the female lead had an identity of her own. She wasn't just "the love
interest." In GROSSE POINTE BLANK, Debi is just the love interest. She
is a little more fun than most, but she's still mostly an object.
The movie's worst flaw is its ending -- not the outcome of events, but
the specific events that take place. Throughout the rest of the movie,
Martin, though an assassin, is not very bloody or violent. Near the end
there are two episodes of bloody violence. The first episode is treated
as black comedy, and it SORT OF fits into the movie. But the last
episode introduces a level of serious violence that not only doesn't fit
with the rest of the movie, it detracts from it.
If I hadn't liked this movie, I would have said that it was just an
excuse for an 80s soundtrack, (which it was). But the movie was more
than just a soundtrack, and it was quite entertaining. It's a bit of
fluff, but it's a lot of fun.
Copyright © 1997 Marty Mapes