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GROSSE POINTE BLANK (1997)

Tells the story of Martin Blank, a 28 year old hit man, becoming more and more unhappy with his work, decides to "go home again" to not only complete an assigned job there, but also attend his 10 year high school reunion, on the advice of his all-knowing secretary. Upon arriving home, he finds himself putting off doing the assigned job. Instead he is drawn almost against his will into rekindling a romance with an old high school flame. However, consequences of his line of work follow him home though. In-between romance, and opportunities for self-growth, he dodges attempts on his own life from hit men competitors, another hit man hired by one of Blank's unhappy clients, and the scrutiny of two federal agents waiting to kill him after he completes his assigned job.

The cast includes: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, Joan Cusack, Hank Azaria, K. Todd Freeman, Jeremy Piven, Mitch Ryan, Michael Cudlitz, Benny Urquidez, and a cameo by Barbara Harris.

Directed by: George Armitage. Story by: Tom Jankiewicz. Screenplay written by: Tom Jankiewicz, and John Cusack, Steve Pink, and D.V. DeVincentis.

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Promotional Line: "A comedy about a hit man, a high school reunion, and the girl he left behind."

Review:

The film begins on the second floor of a building, which is across the street from a high class hotel. As hit man Martin Blank (John Cusack) puts his assassin rifle with a silencer together, he is on his cell phone with his secretary, Marcella (Joan Cusack) who is enthusiastically reading him a rather corny invitation to Blank's 10 year high school reunion, making Blank a little uncomfortable. After ending the phone conversation, we see Blank's scruffy-looking human target riding a motorcycle, brandishing a gun, about to shoot an important looking man standing on the steps of the hotel across the street. Blank shoots his target off the motorcycle, scaring the man and his body guards. Right afterward, we meet Blank's crazy nemesis, rival hit man Grocer (Dan Aykroyd) , dressed as a doorman, who pops into the arena where he mows down the man and his body guards vigorously with his oozy.

Alarmed at seeing Grocer, Blank calls his secretary to find out what is going on, while standing outside his car. Grocer drives up in his car, and urges Blank to join his Assassins Union Association, which Blank turns down. UH OH! The audience knows that this means trouble for Blank, having getting a clear sense of the demented character of Grocer, a hyped up, hit man with no conscience, who has connections and some status in the field of assassination.

Things continue to go wrong for Blank. His next job entails dripping a liquid into a sleeping man's mouth, who wakes up in the nick of time, forcing Blank to have to shoot him, which ticks off the people who put the contract out on this man, who wanted the murder to look like a natural event. Blank is told to do the next hit for free, to make up for the mishap, which just so happens to be in his hometown, during his 10 year high school reunion weekend!

After a humorous session with a nervous, but honest Dr. Oatman (Alan Arkin), his psychiatrist who is reluctant to be Blank's doctor after finding out Blank's occupation, and urged to do so by his rather enthusiastic Secretary, Marcella, Blank makes his way back home, taking along his new assignment, sealed in an envelope, his tools of his trade and his invitation to his 10 year high school reunion, with aspects of his "work" following him home as well. He hopes to discover how he wound up being in this work and perhaps find a way out of it.

This trip home has some surprises awaiting him there. Upon arriving on Main St., he is shocked to hear the voice of his old high school flame, Debi Newberry (Mini Driver) over a loud speaker, broadcasting from the local radio station located in the down town section. Imagine her shock when he walks into the station and her booth! It seems he was supposed to take her to the Senior Prom, but stood her up and she hasn't seen him for 10 years! She does an impromptu, rather squirmy interview on the air with Martin, much to his embarrassment and then asks her listeners to call in with some advice on what to do.

After reacquainting himself with Debi, perhaps getting his foot into the door, he discovers that two agents are watching him, and an unidentified goon, Felix La PuBelle, (Benny Urquidez) seems to be keeping an eye on him. Can Groser be far behind? He meets up with an old high school pal, Realtor Paul Spericki (Jeremy Piven), visits his mentally ill Mom (Barbara Harris) in her care facility and discovers much to his outrage that a convenience store has been built on the property where his old boyhood home should be!!

The more he gets involved with Debi, the more he puts off doing his job, and the more the forces of his enemies circle around him, making themselves known, in between the personal growth he is experiencing. To make matters worse, Groser appears, and has a rather heated meeting, complete with expletives delivered in a machine gun fashion, during an intense stare-down with Martin over breakfast in a diner, offering him one more chance to join the Union or else!! In between escaping two attempts on his life - a shoot-out in the convenience store, which blows up in the end, and an attack by the same assassin, Felix La PuBelle, during the high school reunion dance, while reminiscing about his high school locker, Martin sees his purpose in life differently as he falls in love with Debi, causing him to have "a newfound respect for life, "changing his behavior and outlook on life. Martin sees for himself during the reunion what life could be like for him, if he changes professions, after a personal connection with both Debi in the nurse's office and with an old classmate's baby, who she had brought to the reunion.

After the reunion fiasco, the fireworks and gun battles begin anew once Martin finally does open the dossier which reveals his next "hit," which horrifies him when he sees who it is, because he knows this is his moment of truth, his chance to change the course of his life. Will he protect the innocent against Groser and his posse, fulfill this last job, or simply run away?

The action -packed battle finale is both humorous, touching and violent, as Martin finds these two worlds, his personal and his professional, colliding, in a final showdown of flying bullets, aggressive bullies, flying TV's, and just deserts for all involved, including the growing love and courage of our heroes.

This very well done screenplay was the product of a talented team of writers; Tom Jankiewicz, and a bunch of old friends; John Cusack, Steve Pink and D.V. DeVincentis, who are all actors in this film. Thus, its no surprise that this story was written in a sometimes subtly humorous style, bordering on black, satirical humor in some scenes, which is all interwoven into a story about one man's journey of self-discovery, remembering the joy of love, the fulfillment of positive relationships, which channels his behavior and thoughts into a more socially acceptable frame of mind. It is a creative, comical twist on the old standby plot about how a person's work has overwhelmed his personal life. Instead of a Wallstreet hotshot, it is a hit man! Much of the humor revolves around what kind of work problems would follow a hit man home, competing for his attention. Work pressure takes on a different light!

Jonathan Glickman was the executive producer, well experienced in directing action comedies, such as:Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon, Rush Hour 2, Shanghai Knights. John Cusack, Steve Pink and Brent Armitage were producers of the film as well.

Well-known musical hits from the eighties are heard as background throughout the film. Music from such musical artists as David Bowie, John Deacon, Mark Goldenberg, Mick Jones, Steven Severin, and Pete Townshend can be heard through out the film.

George Armitage was the talented director who inspired the best out of this dynamite cast, kept the story going at a great pace and did a find job intermingling humor and action.

John Cusack, known for "playing underdogs and odd men out," does a wonderful job portraying Martin Blank, a conflicted hit man having second thoughts about what he does for a living, finding that he no longer enjoys it, and begins searching for a healthier, happier way to live, which he finds back home.

Mini Driver is convincing as reflective, witty radio personality Debi Newberry, who once again is drawn to Martin Blank, slowly trusting him again, and agrees to be his date to the reunion, and finds out that evening that he really is a hitman, much to her horror and disgust.

Dan Aykroyd shines as Groser, in his humorously satirical portrayal of an aggressive, ruthless, foul-mouthed competitor, who is determined to unionize all the hit men into his association, or eliminate those who refuse. Dan had a lot of fun with this role, but he manages to keep a straight face, being the professional that he is.

A favorite scene between Groser and Martin Blank is the coffee shop scene, where Groser drops in on Martin's breakfast time, with his gun in a paper bag. What enfolds is what a business meeting between 2 rival hit men would be like, in the creative minds of the screen writers.

Joan Cusack offers comic relief in her portrayal of Martin Blank's loyal Secretary, Marcella, his eyes and ears in his business dealings, providing vital information in close situations, unsolicited advice and knows how to "close the office" permanently with relish.

Benny Urquidez gives a classic portrayal of assassin goon, Felix La PuBelle, who was the hit man hired to kill Martin Blank, because Blank had accidentally killed a prized dog of a Mafia Boss, which was on loan to a fellow with a contract put out on his life, making him Martin's "JOB." Benny Urquidez has accomplished much in the field of martial arts. He earned black belts in nine different martial arts and trained in other styles. Before retiring, he "retained six world titles in five weight divisions for 24 consecutive years." He also is a martial arts instructor, written instruction books and made videos. He works in the movie business as an actor and a martial arts teacher. His specialty is training actors for fight scenes, though he also does some acting. John Cusack looked awfully good in his fight scene with Felix La PuBelle, probably because Benny was a great teacher.

Rated R for strong violence, language and some drug content. This film is a very funny, adult action comedy film with some rather violent moments, some blood and some potty words. It is definitely for the over 17 crowd.

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If you enjoyed GROSSE POINTE BLANK, you may like GET SHORTY, OUT OF SIGHT, SOME LIKE IT HOT, HIGH FIDELITY, SISTER ACT, and THE FAMILY MAN.

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Quotes:

Martin to Dr. Oatman: "They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs, and, you know, they've all made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. What am I gonna say? "I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How've you been?"

Dr. Oatman to Martin: " Don't kill anybody for a few days. See what it feels like."

Marty: "If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there."

Debi: "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's, well, broken."