Grosse Pointe Blank

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Grosse Pointe Blank
Grosse Pointe Blank poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Armitage
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by Tom Jankiewicz
Starring
Music by Joe Strummer
Cinematography Jamie Anderson
Editing by Brian Berdan
Studio Hollywood Pictures
Caravan Pictures
New Crime Productions
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates April 11, 1997 (1997-04-11)
Running time 107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million
Box office $28,084,357

Grosse Pointe Blank is a 1997 American comedy film, directed by George Armitage, and starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Alan Arkin, and Dan Aykroyd. The film received positive reviews from critics. The soundtrack, produced by Joe Strummer, features mainly independent music from the 1980s.

Plot[edit]

Professional assassin Martin Blank finds himself depressed, irritable and dissatisfied with his work. A major irritant is his chief rival Grocer, whose effort to cartelize the hitman business puts him at potentially lethal odds with the solitary Martin. Following a botched contract, Martin receives an invitation to his 10-year high school reunion in his home town of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Initially reluctant to attend, he is pressured into it by both his therapist and his secretary, Marcella. She books him a contract in Michigan that coincides with the reunion, ostensibly to smooth things over with the client whose contract was botched.

Upon arriving in Grosse Pointe, Martin reconnects with his friend Paul and seeks out his high school sweetheart Debi Newberry, now a radio DJ, whom Martin had abandoned on prom night to enlist in the Army. When asked about his own livelihood, Martin readily reveals that he is a professional killer, a response taken as a joke by everyone he meets.

Meanwhile Martin is being stalked by Felix LaPoubelle, who attempts to kill Martin in the convenience store that stands in place of his childhood home. He is also tailed by two National Security Agency agents who were tipped off to Martin's contract by Grocer. Despite these dangers, Martin remains distracted by his desire to make amends with Debi and fails to open the background dossier on his prospective target.

At the reunion, Martin mingles with his former classmates, one of whom hands him her toddler. Martin then experiences a transformation, recognizing that his recent dissatisfaction with his work and his amends with Debi signify an opportunity to change his life. Moments later, while exploring the halls, Martin is attacked by LaPoubelle, whom he kills in self-defense. Debi stumbles upon the scene and, horrified to find that Martin was not joking about his work after all, flees the reunion. Paul arrives only moments later to find Martin, who corrals him into helping to dispose of LaPoubelle's body in the school furnace. Realizing that his friend was not joking about his profession, Paul walks away from Martin in disgust after they dispose of LaPoubelle.

Later Debi confronts Martin in his hotel room, where he reveals that psychological testing in the Army revealed he was suited to work as a hitman for the CIA; after leaving the CIA, he went into business for himself. His rationalizations for his work only horrify Debi even more; she rejects his attempts at reconciliation, and storms out. Martin, concluding that it is futile to attempt to change his life, fires his psychiatrist over the phone, notifies Marcella that he is laying her off (but directs her to a brick of cash hidden in the office, set aside for her severance pay) and finally opens the dossier containing the details of the contract that brought him to Grosse Pointe. He is startled to find that the target is Debi's father, Bart, who is scheduled to testify against Martin's client.

Grocer decides to kill Bart himself to impress Martin's client. Martin abandons the contract and rescues Bart from certain death, speeding him to the Newberry house and holing up inside, narrowly ahead of Grocer and his team of mercenaries. During the siege, Martin finally reveals that he stood Debi up on prom night to enlist in the Army to protect her from his homicidal urges. Martin gradually kills the team of mercenaries. The NSA agents are gunned down by Grocer and Martin. By this point, Martin has run out of ammunition, and when Grocer tries to trick him by "selling" him a weapon for $100,000, Martin kills him. Wounded and exhausted, Martin proposes marriage to Debi, who, shell-shocked from the day's events, does not respond. In the end, Debi and Martin leave Grosse Pointe together.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Screenwriter Tom Jankiewicz wrote the initial script for Grosse Pointe Blank in 1991 after receiving an invitation to his 10th high school reunion.[1] He picked the title while substitute teaching for an English class at Upland High School, writing the title on the classroom's whiteboard to see how it would look on a movie-theater marquee.[1] Jankiewicz decided to use Grosse Pointe, an upscale suburb of Detroit, Michigan, rather than his working-class hometown of Sterling Heights due to the contrast between the two towns.[1]

Jankiewicz simultaneously worked as a substitute teacher and a cashier at a Big Lots in Upland, California, to make ends meet before his script was picked up for production.[1]

Jankiewicz, who was raised in Sterling Heights, Michigan, based many of the film's characters on his real-life friends from Bishop Foley Catholic High School in Madison Heights, Michigan.[2] For example, Jeremy Piven's character, Paul Spericki, was originally named after Jankiewicz's best friend during high school, though the name was changed during filming.[2] It was rumored that the film's script was based on an actual high school student from Jankiewicz's past who became a professional hit man, which is untrue.[2] Joan Cusack's character, Marcella, was named for Jankiewicz's manager at Big Lots.[1]

Only the aerial footage of Lakeshore Drive was actually shot in Grosse Pointe.[2] The city of Grosse Pointe Farms did not allow the filmmakers to use any shots of Grosse Pointe South High School for the movie due to the presence of alcohol in the reunion scenes. The majority of the film was shot in Monrovia, California.[2] In a 1997 interview, actor John Cusack, who shares the film's screenwriting credit along with Jankiewicz, Steve Pink, and D.V. DeVincentis, said he would have liked to film on location in Grosse Pointe, but they were unable to move production to Michigan due to budget constraints.[2]

The scene where Martin is attacked by LaPoubelle while exploring the halls of his old high school was filmed at Reseda High School in the San Fernando Valley.

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a normalized score of 79% based on 65 reviews, and declared it "Certified Fresh".[3] Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 76% based on 27 reviews.[4]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4. He praised the chemistry between the lead actors and enjoyed the dialogue, but considered it a near-miss, wishing for a wittier, more clever ending.[5]

Box office[edit]

The film earned an estimated $6,870,397 in its opening weekend, ranking #4 at the box office. It went on to earn $28,084,357 in the United States.[6]

Soundtrack[edit]

Grosse Pointe Blank
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released March 13, 1997 (Volume 1)
October 7, 1997 (Volume 2)
Genre Rock
New Wave
Punk rock
Post punk
Ska
Pop
Label PolyGram
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars Vol. 1
4/5 stars Vol. 2

The score for Grosse Pointe Blank was composed by Joe Strummer, formerly of The Clash, and includes two songs from The Clash, "Rudie Can't Fail" (from the album London Calling) and their cover version of Willi Williams' "Armagideon Time".

In addition to The Clash, the tracks featured are a mix of popular 1980s punk rock, ska, and New Wave from such bands as Violent Femmes, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Specials, The Jam, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and a-ha.

The soundtrack album reached #31 on the Billboard 200 chart, prompting the release of a second volume of songs from the film.

While most songs played throughout the film (especially at the reunion) recorded about the time of the students' graduation (circa 1986), several songs are later:

Several songs in the film are not featured on the soundtrack albums.

Volume 1
  1. "Blister in the Sun" (Violent Femmes) – 2:08
  2. "Rudie Can't Fail" (The Clash) – 3:31
  3. "Mirror In The Bathroom" (English Beat) – 3:09
  4. "Under Pressure" (David Bowie and Queen) – 4:03
  5. "I Can See Clearly Now" (Johnny Nash) – 2:46
  6. "Live and Let Die" (Guns N' Roses) – 3:02
  7. "We Care a Lot" (Faith No More) – 4:03
  8. "Pressure Drop" (The Specials) – 4:18
  9. "Absolute Beginners" (The Jam) – 2:50
  10. "Armagideon Time" (The Clash) – 3:53
  11. "El Matador" (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs) – 4:34
  12. "Let My Love Open the Door (E. Cola Mix)" (Pete Townshend) – 4:58
  13. "Blister 2000" (Violent Femmes) – 2:58
Volume 2
  1. "A Message to You, Rudy" (The Specials) – 2:53
  2. "Cities in Dust" (Siouxsie and the Banshees) – 3:49
  3. "The Killing Moon" (Echo & the Bunnymen) – 5:44
  4. "Monkey Gone to Heaven" (Pixies) – 2:56
  5. "Lorca's Novena" (The Pogues) – 4:35
  6. "Go!" (Tones on Tail) – 2:32
  7. "Let it Whip" (Dazz Band) – 4:24
  8. "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight" (Dominatrix) – 3:40
  9. "War Cry" (Joe Strummer) – 5:58
  10. "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" (Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel) – 7:24
  11. "Take on Me" (a-ha) – 3:46
  12. "You're Wondering Now" (The Specials) – 2:37

Unofficial sequel[edit]

According to Joan Cusack, the 2008 film War, Inc. is an informal sequel. Both films are similar in style and theme, and both films star John as an assassin and his sister Joan as his assistant, with Dan Aykroyd in a supporting role.[7]

References[edit]

External links[edit]