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  Grosse Pointe Blank Through The Heart
Year: 1997
Director: George Armitage
Stars: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, Joan Cusack, Hank Azaria, K. Todd Freeman, Jeremy Piven, Mitch Ryan, Michael Cudlitz, Benny Urquidez, Duffy Taylor, Audrey Kissel, Carlos Jacott, Brian Powell, Ann Cusack, Barbara Harris, Jenna Elfman
Genre: Comedy, Action, Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 4 votes)
Review: Martin Q. Blank (John Cusack) is a hitman, and has been for about five years. He is a success at his job, but feels there's something missing from his life even if he does not admit it, and today he's carrying out another killing on a rival hitman to prevent an assassination. As usual, he carries it off, although the assassination goes ahead almost immediately after with an alternative murderer, but his secretary Marcella (Joan Cusack) is trying to get his attention over the phone headset he's wearing. Seems like there's a reunion at his old high school this weekend - should he go?

Well, he's not keen but if he didn't go back to his hometown there wouldn't be a story. As well as starring and producing, Cusack was the co-writer of Grosse Pointe Blank, and you can tell he had tailored the project to his strengths: the deadpan humour, the wounded romanticism, and a bit of action to prove his he-man credentials with the audiences who would write him off as a pushover. It was also a rare project for director George Armitage, a man who sought out the quirkier end of the spectrum when it came to his productions.

Of course, there may be fighting and shooting and a great big explosion, but what this is really is a romantic comedy, because Martin, who now has the perfect, only in the movies excuse for going to the reunion because he has a job there to bump someone off, left a girl behind when he abandoned the town. She is Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver), now the resident disc jockey, and although she has been married and divorced in the meantime she still carries a torch for Martin. Therefore when he turns up at her studio, she understandably has mixed feelings that she has no qualms about broadcasting to her listeners.

To complicate matters and put the hero in danger, he is being sought by fellow hitman Grocer (Dan Aykroyd) who he has a wary relationship with. This is down to Grocer's demands that Martin join him in what essentially is an assassins' union, which will have benefits accompanying membership, the chief one being they won't kill you if you join. Martin isn't interested, which leads to him being tracked by his foes who, for reasons which don't stand up to scrutiny, wish to kill him - would it really have been any loss if they had let him be? The best thing about this plotline is that it allowed Aykroyd more excellent chances than he had been getting lately - or since, for that matter.

But the best thing about Grosse Pointe Blank was the chemistry between Cusack and Driver, who rarely found better acting partners than they did here. Martin tells people who ask him the truth about his profession, but they think he's joking around, including Debi, so their love is steadily rekindled as they get to know each other all over again. For all the posturing that this is a slick comedy thriller, what it's actually promoting is not violence but settling down with a good woman, as can be seen when Martin finally gets to that reunion and is given a baby to hold, as if to tell him this is what has been missing in his life. So for all its implausibilities and cutesy moments, this is quite a sweet film that has faith that there will be someone for you to love if you hold out long enough, and they may well be the one who was there for you all along. They might be a killer, though. Always a downside. What music there is is by Joe Strummer, but actually most of it suffers from oldies-itis, an affliction blighting many nostalgic comedies.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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