"Don't tease me. You know what I do for a living."
Martin Blank

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Director: George Armitage
Screenplay: Tom Jankiewicz, D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack
Genre: Comedy / Romance

Martin Q. Blank is a hitman who has reached a fork in the road of life. Ten years earlier, on the night of his senior prom, he stood up his date, Debi, and joined the army. Military testing revealed Martin had a certain “moral flexibility” and he was enlisted in a special training program. He became a trained assassin for the United States Army and once discharged, he and his current profession sort of found each other.

But since killing the president of Uruguay with a fork and accidentally offing Budro the pup, Martin finds himself lacking job satisfaction. At the prompting of his secretary, Marcella, and his somewhat nervous shrink, Dr. Oatman, he reluctantly takes a job in Detroit with plans to stop by Grosse Pointe for his ten year high school reunion.

Here’s where the fun begins. Martin arrives in town to find things somewhat the same yet disturbingly different. His house has been turned into an Ultimart. His mother is in a home and on lithium. His buddy Paul is in real estate, the class jock is selling Beamers and writing bad poetry, and Debi is working as a DJ at the local radio station. Having no clue how to explain what he’s been doing for the past ten years, Martin decides to be honest, but no one seems to take “professional killer” as a serious occupation.

Martin’s primary objective while at home is reuniting with Debi, who is obviously more than a tad gun shy. But persistence pays and eventually Martin gets his date for the reunion with the woman who’s starred in his recurring dreams for the past five years, all for the price of a quick airplane.

Things would be lovely for our friend if it weren’t for Mr. Grocer and his Assassins Union, the government spooks looking for a pigeon, and the ghoul hired by Budro’s owner, all trying to kill Martin for various reasons. As Martin continues putting off doing the Detroit job, his safety becomes more of a concern for Marcella back at the office. Poor Marcella ends up “taking down the office” with a giant can of gasoline and a very large hammer.

Will Martin ever again be content with his career? Will Dr. Oatman be able to sever his scary doctor/patient relationship with Martin? Can Debi live happily ever after with a hitman? Will Paul ever get to dance with Jenny Slater? Find out! Rent the movie!

Honestly, this is on my list of top ten favorite movies of all time. The dark humor is amusing. The 80's music soundtrack is great. I love seeing John and Joan together; they make a great comedic team. So do John and Jeremy. Though it's worth seeing just for John...c'mon, girls love John Cusack! No matter how many times I see it, I still laugh. Sadly, there isn't much extra stuff on the DVD. I was hoping for some outtakes or deleted scenes, but no dice.

Cast (first billed only, from www.imdb.com):
John Cusack – Martin Q. Blank
Minne Driver – Debi Newberry
Alan Arkin – Dr. Oatman
Dan Aykroyd – Mr. Grocer
Joan Cusack – Marcella
Hank Azaria – Steven Lardner
K. Todd Freeman – Kevin McCullers
Mitch Ryan (of Dharma and Greg fame) – Mr. Bart Newberry
Jeremy Piven – Paul Spericki
Michael Cudlitz – Bob Destepello
Benny Urquidez – Felix La PuBelle
Duffy Taylor – Ultimart Carl
Audrey Kissel – Arlene
Carlos Jacott – Ken McCullard
Brian Powell – Husky Man

There are a couple of notable cameo appearances in GPB. First is a neck-braced Jenna Elfman, whom Martin and Debi run into at the reunion. Her character, Tanya, just died and lived to tell about it. Apparently, heaven is music, Mozart, flowers, and poetry. Then there’s also a third Cusack to be found…Ann Cusack plays Amy, a slightly tipsy Pointer who intrudes on Martin and Debi at a local bar.

The Meaning of "Blank" in "Grosse Pointe Blank"

Aside from the obvious reference to the surname of the main character1, the title is an obscure reference to the campy, real estate sales-y names of the suburbs that make up Grosse Pointe: Grosse Pointe Woods, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Shores, Grosse Pointe City, Grosse Pointe Park (I lived in these last two!), etc. or if the point one is making could apply to any of them, Grosse Pointe ______.

Few natives in my experience referred to them collectively as Grosse Pointe Blank, but any native would know exactly what you mean.

Is the place at all like the movie?

The movie title nicely captures a angsty-hip vibe the movie producers clearly want to tap in to. Probably they've seen, or even read, Less Than Zero. Such a vibe (or at least the hip part of it) is completely lacking in the real Grosse Pointes, which are socially very conservative. Even the yuppies there shy away from hip, because it screams "new money".

One of the character revealing devices in the movie is the cool, independent radio station where Debi works, called Pointe Radio or something like that. Such a radio station doesn't exist. Now, movies take artistic license all the time, what's the big deal? Well, if anyone tried to start such a station, the powers that be would do everything in their power to ban it, and would probably succeed!

True story from about 1981: On the commercial strip of Grosse Pointe Park there was a movie theater, called the Esquire I think, that wasn't doing too well. To bring in youth business, they installed...gasp...video games in the lobby. Quickly a new zoning ordinance was passed, and these games were gone within the month. The explanation I heard was, there was a concern that kids might go there, not to watch movies, but just to "hang out". When I learned to drive, a major milestone was when I figured out to use the highway and Gratiot Ave to get to the nearest video arcade...some four suburbs away.

A similar thing happened when in I think 1984 a new ice cream parlor opened on Kercheval Ave in Grosse Pointe Woods. It was far from the only place to get ice cream, but for some reason it became a huge hit with the junior high school (ages 10-14) crowd. On a weekend, it would be packed 4 or 5 kids deep at the counter. You see, if you're too young to get invited to the main high school social thing, the house-party-cum-keg, there's really no social scene that kids can call their own in Grosse Pointe. Sure enough, after newspaper articles and a scandal, the ice cream place was branded another dangerous kid hang-out and shut down.

I'm glad the movie created an independent radio station, Grosse Pointe really needs something like that. The movie soundtrack was quite good, I especially liked the impromptu beat-down scene in front of the hallway lockers, to the tune of Mirror in the Bathroom. Sadly, if the Grosse Pointes ever did have a radio station during the era I grew up there, it would have been all easy listening, all the time. You can read a little more in my contribution to the Grosse Pointe write-up.

End Note

1. "Also there is the pun, point blank as in shooting someone "point blank", since the main character is a hit man." I want to give a 'shot out' to Miles_Dirac and TenMinJoe for pointing this out. Any such shooting would certainly be pretty "gross".
When Martin's mother, Mary Blank (played by Barbara Harris), is seen in a mental hospital babbling incoherently, she exits stage right and recites several lines from a poem followed by the line "Silly. Bye, Martin". The poem is actually a distortion of the last few lines of The Ladies by Rudyard Kipling.

Mary says:

The Colonel's lady, like Judy O'Grady
Are twins under the skin!

Kipling's original text:

For the Colonel’s lady an’ Judy O’Grady,
Are sisters under their skins!

You can find the poem in it's entirety at http://www.everypoet.com/archive/poetry/Rudyard_Kipling/kipling_the_ladies.htm

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