Grosse Pointe Blank - * * *

Grosse Pointe Blank is a darkly amusing black comedy that needs a better title. John Cusack is Martin Blank, a hitman for hire, who has just been invited to his 10 year high school reunion in Grosse Pointe, Michigan (hence the title). At first he is reluctant to go. As a hitman, he doesn’t know what he has in common with his classmates anymore, and things at work are heating up. A rival, Grocer (Dan Aykroyd), wants him to join a new hitman union, or die. As things turn out, Martin’s next contract takes him to the Detroit area anyhow, and, at the advice of his psychiatrist (Alan Arkin), he reluctantly agrees to attend his reunion at the same time. This puts him in the awkward situation of reuniting with Debi (Minnie Driver), the girlfriend whom he stranded on prom night as he disappeared without a trace for the next ten years. The film follows him through the weekend as he pieces together his life, reminisces about the past, and avoids the plotting of Grocer and another rival hitman. With its casting of Cusack and Aykroyd as hitmen, you know Grosse Pointe Blank doesn’t take itself too seriously. The film’s best scenes come from the juxtaposition of Martin’s morally ambivalent career among the seeming normalness of his old hometown. But there’s more to it than that. Grosse Pointe Blank aptly captures the awkwardness of revisiting your (and your old friends’) youth. (As the first of three reunion comedies this year, though, this may get tiring fast). To top it off, the film has a great soundtrack for fans of eighties music. Grosse Pointe Blank’s subplots are hit and miss. Martin’s dialogue with his traumatized psychiatrist is hysterical. His secretary (Joan Cusack), is a mixed bag, amusing at times, distracting at others. Dan Aykroyd as his rival actually plays better than it sounds. Minnie Driver as the old girlfriend unfortunately doesn’t have much to do, and is possibly the film’s least intriguing character. At the reunion itself, the film drifts a little, but soon it’s back on the mark. Grosse Pointe Blank actually succeeds in creating a romantic black comedy.

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