Grosse Point Blank (1997)
Director: George Armitage
Writer: Tom Mankiewicz (story) Tom Mankiewicz, D.V. DeVicentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack (screenplay)
Actors: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Akroyd
Streaming on Netflix
Thanks in large part to John Cusack’s intensely likable portrayal of a remorseless killing machine, Grosse Point Blank stands as one of the weirdest, funniest, and most entertaining romantic comedies of all time. Feeling like the inspiration of several coked-up movie executives on a bender (“Let’s put The Killer together with Peggy Sue Got Married”), this movie is pure crackerjack entertainment from start to finish. For instance, in the same ten minutes, Martin Q. Blank (Cusack) has an emotionally weighted reunion with the love of his life (Minnie Driver), and has an insane gun duel with an eastern European hit man (Benny Urquidez) holding two submachine guns. The gun duel is far from outstanding, and the romance at times seems preposterous, but when married, these two seemingly oppositional styles of filmmaking combine to paste a wide grin on every viewers’ face.
This movie exists in the (likely heavily fictionalized) world of killers for hire, and as it begins, Martin Q. Blank (Cusack) turns down fellow hit man Grocer’s (Dan Akroyd) proposal to begin a union of contract murderers. This plot line provides the grist for the action, of which there is plenty, in the movie, but it might have been tiresome were it not for Dan Akroyd’s sensational turn as the villain. Akroyd exhibits such loud, boorish machismo that in every scene of his he is simply hilarious. Alan Arkin, another fantastic comic talent from Chicago’s Second City, brings a superb touch to the role of Blank’s psychiatrist Dr. Oatman. Early in the movie, Arkin and Cusack have a scene together filled with so much perfect timing and comic invention that I almost wish the movie focused purely on the interaction of these two characters. However, as the movie draws on, the amount of exemplary comic acting becomes simply staggering.
Joan Cusack is exceptional as Blank’s “handler” Marcella, while Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman have some very funny moments as the frustrated NSA agents tracking Blank as he winds his way through the movie’s ludicrous criminal underworld. All of this, however, is secondary to the movie’s central plot line: Blank’s reunion with Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver), the true love he abandoned ten years earlier on prom night to join the army. Minnie Driver does her best to create emotional heft in this crazy story, and while I’m not sure how successful she is in making the characters seem emotionally real, she is extremely charming and gives the movie the closest thing it has to an emotional focal point. Jeremy Piven also makes a notable appearance as Paul Spericki, Blank’s old high school buddy, creating even more laughs and good will in this already stuffed movie.
Everything about Grosse Point Blank exists in a fantasy realm, occurring in a world where everyone has something funny to do or say, and a world where high-paid assassins use two pistols at the same time. This is a movie that seems made by committee, and judging by the fact that five people get writing credits on it, that is the case. While in most instances, this would likely be a considerable drawback, for this movie it’s an absolute boon. By packing the cast with wonderfully adroit comic performers, this movie is able to throw everything it can imagine on screen, confident that the actors will make everything (I use this term loosely) believable. Every piece of Grosse Point Blank lends itself to a delightful movie watching experience. The screenplay sizzles with whip-smart joke lines, the action is frenetically silly, and the performances are delightful with each actor putting their own twists on classic tropes. This movie might have been made in a lab, but it’s a hell of a good time.