Grosse Point Blank (1997)

Made in 1997, by director George Armitage. Grosse Point Blank tracks the story of our hero, Martin Blank (John Cusack), a professional killer, who’s forced into one last job after an unfortunate event with a Labrador and some dynamite. This leads Blank, back to his hometown Grosse Point. Where he is forced to confront his past and present, if he is to have any future. He reunites with old friends and loves, while being hunted down by the FBI, rival hitmen, and union reps (Dan Ackroyd).

It is a black comedy of sorts, but the real heart of the film is the relationship between Blank and Debi (Minnie Driver), his old flame. The pacing is superb, mixing action sequences with genuine moments of joy and intimacy, the scene where Debi goes for a plane ride, being a notable one. This is what I like to call a good little film. There is nothing pretensious or high handed, it doesn’t take itself too serious, in fact you could call it a modern farce, but it asks age old questions about redemption and forgiveness.

The comedy however is front and centre, both the first laugh and the first gunshot are heard, during an incident with a bike, in the first minute. We soon learn that for a professional killer, our hero seems prone to either bad luck, or plain incompetence. Lucky for him, he’s ably supported by his secretary Marcella (Joan Cusack), all crazed, nervous, and spitting fire. Then there is Blank’s psychiatrist Dr Oatman (Alan Arkin), who is a prisoner of circumstance, and a man desperately in need of a lay on the couch himself. And a rival called Grosser (Ackroyd) who is intent on strong arming Blank into his burgeoning union.

All the cast are top notch, each character no matter how minor, has some characteristic that gives them a life. The script is witty rather than funny, and the gags themselves are mostly visual rather than verbal. The acting is great. Cusack gives a typically wry and sarcastic turn, a man forever awkward in himself. While Ackroyd gives his best performance since Dragnet (1987). He’s a great comedian, Ackroyd. He can spit out words to rival a rapper, and clown it up like a silent comedian. And then there is Driver who brings her usual down to earth persona, an actress constantly at ease with herself and the camera, much under rated.

The soundtrack by Joe Strummer, is a nostalgic mix of 80s and 90s pop songs, and the camera work and general look of the film is classically 90s; neat and tidy. The characters are normal even in their extremes, and the dialogue sharp and spontaneous.

This is a smart, witty action flick, without the gore and hyper violence, nor the cartoonish-ness of so many modern films. It is in the same vein as Clueless and Office Space, a film that exists in its own world, without repercussions. Two hours of light-hearted fun. Twenty odd years since it was made, and it is still on the button. This film has my blessing.

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