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Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Rated R

Starring: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, and Dan Aykroyd

Rating:
****
out of
*****

Have you ever wondered what all of those high school friends you haven't seen for years have gone off and done with themselves? Would you be particularly surprised if one of them had become a professional killer? Well, in Grosse Pointe Blank, that's what Martin Q. Blank (John Cusack) has done. After standing up his prom date, Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver), he joined the Army and was on his way to a lucrative career in the business of hired death.

Now, due to some pressing business in his hometown of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Blank returns to attend his 10 year high school reunion and to attempt to make amends with Debi. It seems that since Blank left Grosse Pointe, he has become quite popular with the wrong crowd. A fellow assassin, named Grocer (Dan Aykroyd), is a bit miffed at Blank for not joining his union of killers. So, while Blank is milling around town visiting his friends, Grocer is attempting to kill him. A group of government agents, who've been tipped off to Blank's appearance in town, are trying to nab him in the act so they can take him down.

Grosse Pointe Blank has intelligent dialogue, a bit of action, some romance and a lot of hysterical sitations involving Blank's line of business. High school reunions are awkward enough without having to conceal the fact that you have knocked off a few third world leaders for profit.

It's the actors who really make the movie highly enjoyable. John Cusack, who's one of the better, but frequently overlooked, leading men in Hollywood right now, is perfect for the role of Blank. His comic demeanor, facial expressions and wit bring the character alive. His real-life sister, Joan Cusack, plays his faithful office assistant, Marcella, with a demonical charm that steals some of the scenes she shares with John. Dan Aykroyd, who's played some lame parts lately, redeems himself with a nicely understated turn as Grocer.

The only negative to the movie is the poorly developed character of Debi Newberry. She really never comes alive as a person, through no fault of Minnie Driver's performance. The script, written by Tom Jankiewicz, D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink and John Cusack, seems to run out of cleverness where Debi's concerned. Whether that's a result of having four writers or a simple oversight, I can't say, but it would have been enjoyable to learn more about her life and what brought her to Blank originally.

The movie's promotional campaign may lead one to expect a light, romantic comedy when, in fact, Grosse Pointe Blank is a dark comedy in a Pulp Fiction vein. It's not as heavy or exaggerated as Pulp Fiction, but it's not Sixteen Candles: Ten Years Later either. If you're not expecting gunplay or assassinations, the opening scene, which involves Blank calmly aiming a high-powered rifle and picking off a man as he rides by on a bicycle, may seem a little alarming.

Grosse Pointe Blank is a pleasant surprise and well worth a trip to the theater to see.

Trivia: The Violent Femmes song "Blister in the Sun" is included on the soundtrack, but it is not the original version of the song. It was completely rerecorded by the band, because the original master tapes had been destroyed. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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