I hail from a not-so distant land, where John Cusack can do no wrong. The man earned all my respect as I grew up in the 80’s pretty much loving everything he was in. From holding a boombox under the window of his dream girl in Say Anything, to his oddly suicidal fantasies in Better Off Dead, there was little the guy has done that I don’t consider awesome. But there is one John Cusack movie that seems to be under-the-radar of most. The under-appreciated cult comedy about a hit man in the middle of an existential crisis. Cusack can portray uncertainty like few others, but who knew he could portray that whilst simultaneously portraying a hit man? Grosse Point Blank gives us an existential crisis we can all relate to, yet it has aspects which most of us cannot relate to at all. It is that very hard-to-achieve balance that makes this film work so well, and makes me wonder why you haven’t seen it.
Not a very subtle hit man, but he gets the job done.
John Cusack plays Martin Blank. A hitman who is having an existential crisis about his life. While this sentence would normally be followed up with something generic like: because his marriage is sexless and his job is thankless and his kids could care less about him. What sets Grosse Point Blank apart is that none of those tropes are in play here. He is an unmarried hit man. His kids do not hate him, because they don’t exist. His marriage is not sexless, as there is no marriage. But all those elements are what plays off his angst and what makes the story work so well. This is a man who took the path he thought was he supposed to, but now is not so sure this is the life that is best for him. There is a interesting subplot to the movie about a botched job he does at the beginning of the film, but I will let that unfold for all of you, rather than ruin it here. Also, another actor plays a hit man, and though his casting seemed odd, I really liked him in the role. I will keep it at that. Anyhow, amid Martin’s confusion about what he should be doing with his life, he gets an invitation to his ten year reunion in Grosse Point. Though he laughs it off, both his therapist and secretary tell him it will do him some good and he should go. Feels like now this be a good spot for the trailer.
I am sure you figured out by now that Martin decides to go the reunion, and once he heads back to his home town, his crisis only seems to grow. He also gets tasked with a hit while out there (hey, might as well get some work done while you are there), and that adds a extra level of insanity to the madness he is already feeling from being back “home”. Before I start telling you some more plot points and tell you why you should watch it (as if it doesn’t already sound intriguing enough) I want to tell you that there is an utterly dark comedic tone that runs through the whole film that I should warn you about. Yes, this is charming Cusack, but he is also killing people. It never gets brutal, but it would help knowing that there is some blood before you go in. Also, Cusack does an amazing job at playing a man who seems perfectly approachable in one scene, and then seems like he would have no problem burying a bullet in someone’s head in the next. This is where Grosse Point Blank wins. Most directors and casting agents would have gone the Bruce Willis route for this kind of film. But you need to like Martin for this movie and his character to work. John Cusack somehow balances that perfectly here, and for that reason, it is a different role than you are used to seeing him in. This movie was the bridge between Cusack’s 80’s career and his current career, and what a perfect bridge it was.
Side profile does Minnie Driver’s massive skull no justice.
One of my favorite running gags in the movie, which I will ruin here because it is funny and worth mentioning is, every person he runs into from his old life asks him what he does now, and he tells them the truth. He is a contracted killer. But like you would expect if you said something like that, people just laugh it off. Over and over again, yet in no single scene does he lie about what he does. It seems insignificant, but shows just how smart the movie is. Had he been miscast, that joke, nor the premise of he movie itself, would have worked. But Cusack sells it all. There is a nice balance between confident and nearly broken, and we see that in every moment that Cusack is one screen. He is good at what he does, but somehow knows he is BETTER than it and needs to get out. The reunion acts as a sort of catalyst for that, but not before a bunch of shit goes wrong first.
Somehow, he can make us still like him as an audience even when he is a killer.
This is the point when I regretfully have to talk about his love interest in the film. Not as an insult to the film itself, but I have just never been a big fan of Minnie Driver and her oddly gigantic head. I liked that these were two people who looked like two actual people, and not the usual “gorgeous Hollywood”, but I really did find her giant head distracting. BUT, that out of the way, she does a great job at playing Debi. Martin’s former love interest, whom he blew off on prom night so he could go enlist in the army. Again, he makes no allusions to what he does for a living, yet she thinks it is a running joke. This is a film, so of course you would not be shocked to find out there is a fourth act reveal, but I will leave the details of that, setting of that, and the end result of that for you to discover. Suffice it to say, the actual reunion makes some things click for Martin, but that does not necessarily keep the shit from hitting the fan.
A fun final act, a lead we can all like even if he does some unlikable things, and the idea that it is never too late for redemption all work really well together here at telling us a story about a man who is stuck at the crossroads of life. Something we can all relate to, even though one of his paths involve killing people. Pretty sure not too many of us can relate to that. But you don’t need to be a hit man to see just how well this film hits the bull’s eye. Wow, I should NOT end with that pun. But guess what? I am.
As long as no one shoots the Jiffy Pop, we are fine. People under 25 wont get understand this joke.
So if ya’ll find yourself slightly amused by these ramblings, (remblings?), please check out my website, hit me up on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter. Wow, when I put it like that, it kind of does sound like I am asking a lot. Okay, well at least do ONE of the three. I have illegitimate kids to feed (probably).