(Air Date: 4/9/97)
Imagine you're at your 10th year high school reunion. You see a guy you haven't seen since graduation, so you ask him what he's been up to. He tells you he joined the Army and became a professional killer. You smile and say, "Good for you. It's a growth industry."
That's the premise behind "Grosse Pointe Blank," a new comedy starring John Cusack. Cusack plays a hitman named Martin Blank, and his latest job happens to be around the same time and place as his 10th year high school reunion in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.
Blank needs a little convincing before he decides to go to the reunion, though, and in a hilarious sequence, he talks it over with his psychiatrist, played by Alan Arkin. Let's just say, psychiatrists don't like professional killers very much.
Complications arise, of course, when he bumps into Minnie Driver, the girl he stood up at the Senior Prom 10 years ago. Driver doesn't get to do much in this role, but she's more than passable as the love interest. Dan Aykroyd throws another wrench into the machinery, as he tries to recruit Blank for his assassin's union.
OK, I'll give you this: it's a one-joke film. But that one joke provides a surprising amount of dark humor, and I found myself laughing out loud at a good deal of the gags. Joan Cusack, John's sister, is splendidly over-the-top as Blank's assistant. There are plenty of pretty good puns about the assassin business. And when there's a shootout in a convenience store, you get a special thrill when they blast the heads off of a Pulp Fiction poster.
Director George Armitage is able to mix in a little dab of plot, too, just enough to keep our interests. And Cusack gives a great performance as a hitman who has to face his past. The only problem I had was that Aykroyd is oddly miscast as someone who's supposed to be one of the best killers in the business, but instead comes across as just another goon.
"Grosse Point Blank" is the smartest black comedy since "Flirting with Disaster," and if you liked that film, I recommend you give this one a shot.
Copyright 1997 Alex Lau
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