Grosse Pointe Blank Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

Everyone has his own past. Even if you're a killer, you'll still have classmates in your junior high. Every time I come into old pals, they'll ask the same questions
I often wonder if an insurance company would take on insurance for a professional killer.
- Wong Kar-Wai, "Fallen Angels"
They're clean guns, no serial numbers... untraceable. Explosive
head bullets, your favorite kind.
Easy to pick up... hard to put down.
Will you kill again?
I thought those I killed deserved to die. Now I believe everyone has a right to live. No, I won't kill again. I hope I can keep my promise.
- John Woo, "The Killer"

It seems that things are tough in the professional killer business, with the entire industry consolidating. Margins are down, there's an abundance of suppliers, and lack of coordination between the different parties, resulting in double-booking of hits. A veteran professional hitman, known as The Grocer (Dan Akroyd), wants to introduce collective bargaining to restore some dignity to the industry, and is pressuring Martin Blank (John Cusack) , a younger hitman, into joining. However, Martin is confused and losing his drive-- he can no longer morally justify doing the job that he has been doing, because it is simply not a reflection on who he is (ask anyone in an MBA program, and they'll tell you what this is all about). So after a botched hit in Miami, he is sent to Detroit to do a hit on a Federal witness to make up for the botched job. And while he's there, he'll go to his 10-year high school reunion and check up on the girl he stood up on the night of the Prom, Debbie (Minnie Driver), who is now a DJ at a local radio station. Unfortunately, he is followed into town by The Grocer and his cronies, who want to take him out. And the witness that Martin has to take out also happens to be Debbie's father.

So what do you do?
I'm a professional killer.
Good... I hear it's a growing industry.
Seriously, what do you do?
I'm professional killer.
Do you have to do graduate work for that, or can you just get right into it?

It has been awhile since I have seen a good take on the remorseful-killer-who-seeks-redemption. The beauty of this genre, when it is done correctly, is that it takes situations in which we find ourselves in every day and recontextualizes them into the life of an assassin, thereby making the message universal. GPB does this in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, with Martin having to face the endless barrage of "so what have you been up to in the last ten years?", and having tense stand-offs with other assassins in mundane locations, such as a diner or a convenience store. Though the pathos of Martin's character is relatively light compared to that of Jeffrey Chow in "The Killer" (the best film in this genre), the well-written comedic scenes make up for this: the hilarious sequence when Martin returns to his family home only to find that it has been replaced by an Ultra-Convenience; the comical stand-off over breakfast in a restaurant between Martin and The Grocer, and the final shoot-out at the end of the film.

You can't go home, but you can shop there.

It borrows many elements from the John-Woo-school-of-filmmaking, such as the double-fisted shoot-outs, the dropping-the-guns-when-they're-empty style of The Grocer (first seen in John Woo's "A Better Tomorrow"), and the internal conflict between duty and honor, and has a great retro-eighties soundtrack to boot. A must-see.

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