[The following review contains MINOR SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]
It took me way too long to discover Grosse Pointe Blank.
Which isn’t to say that the movie had previously escaped my notice—after all, its plot revolves around some of my favorite cinematic subjects: assassins’ guilds, hitmen with hearts of gold, and the twisted “morality” of murder for hire. Indeed, it’s been on my list for years… it just kept getting pushed down to the bottom by “worthier” titles. I’m glad that I finally set aside time to watch it; it’s a delightfully clever genre deconstruction—leagues better than the majority of the faux “postmodern” action flicks that emerged following the release of Pulp Fiction.
Grosse Pointe Blank’s greatest triumph is its unorthodox tone. Plenty of directors are capable of juggling comedy and suspense (see: Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese); George Armitage, however, never needs to consciously “shift gears”—his scenes are simultaneously and seamlessly funny and tense, without any clear distinction between the two extremes. In protagonist Martin Blank’s (John Cusack) numerous verbal duels against the villainous Grocer (Dan Aykroyd), for example, the “professional rivals” are unfailingly polite and affable, exchanging banal pleasantries and hilarious rapid-fire banter—all the while keeping their guns within easy reach, reinforcing the very real threat of violence. Later, when Blank convinces an old high school buddy (Jeremy Piven) to help him dispose of a corpse, the former’s cold, casual indifference is humorously juxtaposed with the latter’s numb horror.
Featuring strong supporting performances (including Alan Arkin as our hero’s emotionally conflicted psychotherapist) and an absolutely killer soundtrack (Nena’s “99 Red Balloons”, A-ha’s “Take On Me”, Queen’s “Under Pressure”, and many, many more ‘80s classics), Grosse Pointe Blank is the definition of a feel-good film. Don’t sleep on this one like I did—it knows where you live!