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Grosse Pointe Blank

So let's be perfectly clear here: films with puns for titles are rarely any damned good at all. So imagine my surprise with this film. Have a mental picture? Huh? Hey, you're not trying to imagine my surprise at all! Fine; be that way, you antisocial bastard.

Speaking of antisocial bastards, this film is about a professional hit man who heads home for his ten-year highschool reunion. Already it sounds a tad gimmicky, but you could, if you had the heart to try and understand someone else's feelings, you son of a bitch, imagine my surprise again when it turned out to have a really terrific script. John Cusack stars as Martin Blank of Grosse Pointe (see how cleverly the whole pun works out?), a lone gunman the likes of which cut down John F. Kennedy and Kurt Cobain, who's having an attack of job fatigue and suffering from a ten-year-long obsession with his highschool sweetheart, whom he left without a word on prom night after freaking out, joining the Army, and becoming a professional killer. He runs afoul of an old colleague (Dan Ackroyd in his best role since Ghostbusters) who wants the reluctant Martin to join his unofficial union for hit men, and the wacky hijinks ensue.

I'm going to pause for just a moment to say that if you're planning on watching this on DVD, which, unless you're one of those masochists who still subject themselves to VHS, is the only way to see it now that it's been out of theaters for several long years, do yourself a big favor and do not watch the theatrical trailer first; it appears to have been cut by someone who left his brain on the city bus whilst heading in to work and didn't realize it was missing until it was too late to track down the wayward lump of thinking power before some hobo found it and pawned it for drugs. I don't know what they're teaching people at those hoity-toity film schools out there in SoCal, but here's a piece of totally free advice: do NOT blatantly give away the ending of the film in the trailer, you dipshit. There is NO GODDAMNED GOOD REASON FOR THIS! People watch a movie to find out what happens. They don't watch advertising to find out what happens-in fact, if they're smart, they don't watch advertising at all.

The writing is witty and fast-paced, and the film is anchored by two very strong lead characters. I have to give serious praise to Minnie Driver as the longsuffering Debbie Newberry for creating (you know, with the screenwriter's help) one of the most convincingly believable screen characters I've ever seen, the sort of cool chick we all wish we knew in highschool but, if we have my sort of luck, didn't. She nearly steals the show away from Cusack, though he puts up a good fight, especially in light of the fact that his character is far less like anyone we'd probably ever meet in real life. It would've been easy enough to make Martin a completely farcical character and play him strictly for laughs, but instead he's portrayed as a pretty believeable guy you might actually like if you didn't know what he did for a living. The most unsettling and simultaneously funny thing about the character is how little like a cold-blooded killer he seems; when he's not actually killing anyone, he tends to make a good deal of sense and has a very intelligent view of the world. It's always refreshing to see such a well-developed characterization in a film, but having two side-by-side makes it all the better.

If the film has a weakness, and unfortunately it does, it's an overly rushed ending. When the details of Martin's life are inevitably exposed, Debbie reacts as any normal human would; their confrontation is one of the best-written parts of the film, in fact. However, the realism of it pulls the story away from its comedic bent, and it spends too little time and effort in getting back to it; as a result, the end comes across as one the screenwriter felt was necessary and most pleasing, and less like one the film was actually earning. It probably wouldn't have been right to end such a humorous film on a dour, depressing note, either, but it seems as though it really needed at least one more scene of a serious nature in order to end with a modicum of honesty.

This gripe aside, it's a worthy watch just for the fun of seeing Cusack and Driver act and interact, plus that shot of Dan Ackroyd running up a walk holding two guns as if they were hot potatoes is a riot. You have my leave to watch and enjoy this flick. If you're an attractive girl who's anything at all like Driver's character here, you also have my leave to drop me a line, before the boring tedium of my present life leads to a thrillseeking spree of breaking more pointless laws that can only end with prison. And who the hell ever benefited from that?

-review by Matt Murray

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