RogerBW's Blog

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) 21 June 2022

1997 crime drama and romantic comedy, dir. George Armitage, John Cusack, Minnie Driver; IMDb / allmovie. What could go wrong with combining an assassination job with your high school reunion?

This is almost brilliant, and close enough that I still enjoy it a great deal. The script is all right; the acting raises it to excellence. John Cusack as Martin Blank doesn't wink at the audience: he plays everything straight, and becomes thereby much funnier than he'd be if he were mugging for the camera. Minnie Driver (Debi) convinces as the girl he abandoned just before the Big Dance at the end of their school days, who's got on with her life even though there's still clearly some feeling there. (Though it would have been nice if she'd had any friends.)

But the supporting players do a solid job too; I was especially impressed by Dan Aykroyd with a veneer of charming professional rival over a strong undercurrent of lethal menace. Aykroyd was solid in Ghostbusters, and not bad in Trading Places, but I think he's very often ready to overdo things and go for the overt comedy. Here he's much more subtle and restrained, and the role works superbly. I also rather like Joan Cusack's small part as Marcella, our hero's administrative assistant (happy to berate an arms supplier then instantly switch back to talking soup recipes on the other line). OK, so I also want to see the film about her.

There are also some splendid two-handers between Martin and Debi, as he tries to justify his job to her and one can see that not only is she not buying it, when he comes to listen to what he's saying he doesn't really buy it either.

The soundtrack is never obtrusive; this isn't "my" music of adolescence, but the way it's used one can see how it could be someone else's, which is a pretty neat trick.

The only real weak point for me is the ending: we go straight from Debi and Martin being somewhat at outs but him having to save her and her father's life anyway, to them going off together for a happily ever after. There were various versions of intervening scenes written, and even filmed, but nobody was happy with them; the quick cut is better than doing it badly, I suppose, but there are great gaps in the story. What's Martin going to do now that he's not temperamentally fit to be an assassin any more? What sort of life are he and Debi going to have together?

But still, I love it.

As usual if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

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  1. Posted by DaveD at 01:29pm on 21 June 2022

    This is one of my all-time favourite movies. No, it's not quite perfect, but I love every moving part and how they go together.

    Fun fact: I did in fact go to my 10-year school reunion (huge mistake), and answered one "So what are you doing now?" with "I sell couch insurance." I wish in retrospect I'd had the nerve to say I ran a men's group that specialised in ritual killings, but alas not.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 03:08pm on 21 June 2022

    I have no idea whether my school had a reunion. Given that all the correspondence I had after I left was a combination of "(name you remember) has (died/retired)", "(person you've never heard of) has (done something)", and "we need lots of money urgently for (project we knew twenty years ago we'd have to do now)", I was happy to leave it behind several addresses ago.

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 03:43pm on 23 June 2022

    My school never once got in touch with me after leaving. Given I was the third Oxbridge student they'd ever had, and a short number of years later they went through a phase of trying to get more of their students to apply to Oxbridge (they actively discouraged me), you'd have thought they'd ask all their Oxbridge alumni to come and give talks or write something. But no, nothing.

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