Because the immensely likable John Cusack understands the subtleties of understatement, he gives this movie the essential ingredient of absurdist comedy: style.
"Grosse Pointe Blank" is the next generation in the oddly satisfying new genre pioneered by "Pulp Fiction." Entirely absurdist, it is romantic comedy among professional criminals whose lives are ordinary, with the small exception that they kill people for a living. There is a mine of implied humor in the fact that the killers, in their off hours, might be barbers, brokers, businessmen, or bakers. It's a wacky juxtaposition of crime and the commonplace played out against an incessant flow of rational dialogue that takes no notice of irrational behavior.
Director George Armitage and his actors hit their note early on and hold it throughout this story of a hired gun and the girl who might make a career change worthwhile. We learn quickly that Martin Blank (John Cusack) is a hit man who runs his operations from an office staffed by his loyal assistant, Marcella (Joan Cusack); that he's in therapy with Dr. Oatman (Alan Arkin); and that he absolutely refuses to return to his 10th Grosse Pointe high school reunion.
"What would I say to them?" he wonders. "That I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork?" When he is assigned to eradicate someone in Detroit, Martin changes his mind about the reunion. Grosse Pointe, after all, is right next door to his next job. Getting into the spirit of things, he tracks down Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver), the prom date he stood up during their senior year. Martin has to iron out his past if he's going to straighten up his future.
For Debi, morality is an assumption, "There are some things in a civilized society that you just don't do." While for Martin, a devilishly devious code has served well up to this point: "A psychopath kills for no reason. I kill for money."
Because the cartooned guns, blood, and bodies have no connection whatsoever to real-life violence, they become the perfect comic backdrop for the banality of everyday conversation.
Anyone who loved watching "Pulp Fiction's" Quentin Tarantino and Harvey Keitel clean up a bloody car to return a murder scene to one of domestic tranquillity will love watching Martin wrap his attacker in a high school banner in order to get on with the evening.
Set in the land of Midwestern swank with a lighthearted, breezy score, the movie gleefully follows Martin's quick-witted journey through life's choices, which, in his case, are very much of the moment if he is to stay alive long enough to enjoy them.
Supported by a strong cast of experts in deadpan delivery, Director Armitage knows he has the real goods in John Cusack and Minnie Driver. Delivering the action in sharp bursts, he showcases the considerable talents of his stars, who are clever enough to avoid even one excessive word or expression that would turn wit to slapstick. Because the immensely likable John Cusack understands the subtleties of understatement, he gives this movie the essential ingredient of absurdist comedy: style.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : Hollywood Pictures
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h47m
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