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Professional assassin Martin Q. Blank (John Cusack) finds himself depressed, irritable and dissatisfied with his work. A major irritant is his chief rival Grocer (Dan Aykroyd), 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 class of 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 (Alan Arkin) and his secretary (Joan Cusack). 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 seeks out his high school sweetheart Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver), now a radio DJ, whom Martin had abandoned on prom night to enlist in the Army. While Debi's visit suggests hope for redemption, Martin's depression is only deepened by visits to his demented mother, his alcoholic father's grave, and the site of his childhood home where a convenience store now stands. Reconnecting with friends like Paul (Jeremy Piven) (who brokered the sale of his childhood home) is likewise depressing, as many have seemingly become well adjusted adults with normal jobs. 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 fellow hitmen Grocer and Felix LaPoubelle (Benny Urquidez), a Basque former terrorist who is hired to kill Martin as revenge for one of his past jobs, and attempts to do so in the convenience store that stands in place of his childhood home. He is also tailed by two National Security Agency agents (Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman) 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 an existential 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 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 Bart Newberry (Mitchell Ryan), Debi's father, 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 channel his strong homicidal urges away from his family and friends. Martin gradually kills the team of mercenaries. During a tense standoff between Martin and Grocer, the NSA agents enter the fight, where they 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 surprises him by smashing a TV over his head and killing him. Wounded and exhausted, Martin then proposes marriage to Debi. Debi, shell-shocked from the day's events, does not respond, although her father readily gives his blessing. The film ends with Debi and Martin speeding out of Grosse Pointe together.
- John Cusack as Martin Q. Blank
- Minnie Driver as Debi Newberry
- Alan Arkin as Dr. Oatman
- Dan Aykroyd as Grocer
- Jeremy Piven as Paul Spericki
- Joan Cusack as Marcella
- Hank Azaria as Steven Lardner
- K. Todd Freeman as Kenneth McCullers
- Benny Urquidez as Felix LaPoubelle
- Carlos Jacott as Ken
- Mitchell Ryan as Mr. Bart Newberry, Debi's father
- Jenna Elfman as Tanya, the alumna in the neck brace
- Steve Pink as Terry Rostand, the security guard
- Michael Cudlitz as Bob Destepello
- Ann Cusack as Amy, the drunk alumna who says hi to Martin and Debi in the restaurant
- Screenwriter D.V. DeVincentis as Dan Koretzky
- Barbara Harris as Mary Blank
- Belita Moreno as Mrs. Kinetta
- K.K. Dodds as Tracy
- Bill Cusack as Waiter
Grosse Pointe is an upscale suburb of Detroit, Michigan.
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.
Only the aerial footage (of Lakeshore Drive) was actually shot in Grosse Pointe. 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. Nor was any other part of the city filmed. Large portions of the film were shot in Monrovia, California.
Benny Urquidez, who plays LaPoubelle, is mentioned in Say Anything, in which Lloyd Dobler (Cusack), an aspiring kickboxer, cited Urquidez among famous kickboxers. As a result of his role in Say Anything, Cusack became a fan of kickboxing as well as a student of Urquidez. Cusack was responsible for casting his instructor in Grosse Pointe Blank.
The film features four of the five Cusack siblings: John stars as Martin; Joan as Marcella, Martin's secretary; Ann as Amy, the drunk girl in the Hippo Club; and Bill as the waiter who serves them in the same club. The fifth sibling, Susie, is not primarily an actress.
Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a normalized score of 78% based on 65 reviews, and declared it "Certified Fresh". Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 76% based on 27 reviews.
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.
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.
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:
- The Guns N' Roses version of Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" was recorded in 1991.
- "El Matador", playing during the dance scene at the reunion, was released by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs in 1993.
- The Specials' version of "Pressure Drop" was recorded in 1996. The song was first recorded by Toots and the Maytals in 1969.
Several songs in the film are not featured on the soundtrack albums, released on March 13, 1997 and October 7, 1997 by PolyGram Records.
- Volume 1
- "Blister in the Sun" (Violent Femmes) – 2:08
- "Rudie Can't Fail" (The Clash) – 3:31
- "Mirror In The Bathroom" (English Beat) – 3:09
- "Under Pressure" (David Bowie and Queen) – 4:03
- "I Can See Clearly Now" (Johnny Nash) – 2:46
- "Live and Let Die" (Guns N' Roses) – 3:02
- "We Care a Lot" (Faith No More) – 4:03
- "Pressure Drop" (The Specials) – 4:18
- "Absolute Beginners" (The Jam) – 2:50
- "Armagideon Time" (The Clash) – 3:53
- "El Matador" (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs) – 4:34
- "Let My Love Open the Door (E. Cola Mix)" (Pete Townshend) – 4:58
- "Blister 2000" (Violent Femmes) – 2:58
- Volume 2
- "A Message to You, Rudy" (The Specials) – 2:53
- "Cities in Dust" (Siouxsie and the Banshees) – 3:49
- "The Killing Moon" (Echo & the Bunnymen) – 5:44
- "Monkey Gone to Heaven" (Pixies) – 2:56
- "Lorca's Novena" (The Pogues) – 4:35
- "Go!" (Tones on Tail) – 2:32
- "Let it Whip" (Dazz Band) – 4:24
- "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight" (Dominatrix) – 3:40
- "War Cry" (Joe Strummer) – 5:58
- "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" (Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel) – 7:24
- "Take on Me" (a-ha) – 3:46
- "You're Wondering Now" (The Specials) – 2:37
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.
- Grosse Pointe Blank at AllRovi
- Grosse Pointe Blank at Box Office Mojo
- Grosse Pointe Blank at Rotten Tomatoes
- Grosse Pointe Blank at Metacritic
- "The Recesses of High School" by Jo Scott-Coe, in River Teeth 9.2 (Spring 2008)
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