ďThey 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? ĎI killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How've you been?íĒ
- Martin Blank
Say Anything is close to perfect. So are The Sure Thing, Eight Men Out, The Grifters and Being John Malkovich. Virtual classics all, each film holding up so remarkably well I feel like Iím fairly safe stating all five are motion pictures weíre going to be looking at, salivating over, enjoying and learning from for numerous decades to come.
But for my money? If I had to pick the one John Cusack movie above all of the others that I love, cherish, adore and thoroughly enjoy no matter how many times I watch it? That film would be Grosse Pointe Blank, the actorís finest achievement (as a lead, he was just part of the massive ensemble in Terrence Malickís The Thin Red Line and as such I donít include it in this particular conversation) in my opinion, and Iím sure Iím not close to being alone in that assessment.
The 1997 release was a decided labor of love for Cusack. He co-wrote the script with Tom Jankiewicz, D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink, helped convince semi-retired director George Armitage (Miami Blues) to take the reins and had a big hand in persuading The Clash's Joe Strummer to compose the score and help with selecting just the right pieces of music for the filmís now iconic soundtrack. He was the driving force that brought it all together, the one that convinced the folks at Disney (in this case the now defunct Hollywood Pictures) theyíd keep the budget low in order to secure an R-rating, making the film his baby no matter how you choose to look at it.
The plot is simple enough. Hitman Martin Blank (Cusack) finds himself heading home for his tenth High School reunion when an upcoming job just so happens to coincide with the weekend bash. While there he decides to drop in on former sweetheart Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver), the girl he just so happened to stand up on prom night ten long years ago. He also reconnects with an old friend (Jeremy Piven), stops by the old family homestead to see itís been transformed into a mini-mart, does his best to convince sociopathic rival Grocer (Dan Aykroyd) he doesnít want to join his Ďassassins union,í keeps an eye on two suspicious NSA agents (Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman) and elude a driven Hungarian killer (Benny Urquidez) hired to get revenge on Martin for accidently slaughtering a targetís prized pooch. On the phone heís got both his wisecracking assistant (Joan Cusack) and his timid shrink (Alan Arkin) waiting on the line, needing to speak with both as he discovers heís either got a newfound respect for life or is in love with the woman he left on the doorstep a decade prior.
See? Simple. All kidding aside, Grosse Pointe Blank is a finely tuned comedic gem that bounces along with energy, pizazz and flair barely making a false step. The entire cast rises to the occasion (Aykroyd, Arkin and sister Cusack in particular), each keeping pace with the snappy dialogue as they bounce from moment to moment and scene to scene with confident cocksure ease. There are more sublime moments than you can shake a stick at, Armitage deftly handling it all with a deadpan moxie fitting the material perfectly.
But this is Cusackís show, plain and simple, and he does not disappoint. His monologues feel fresh and unhindered, his delivery of each and every line a delectable symphony of pithy sarcastic whimsy filled with bits of truth that consistently hit the bullís eye. Even when his eyes appear deadened and empty the man himself is constantly alive, and whether moving in skulky slow motion or awakening to the appearance of a soul he long ago drove to virtual insignificance the man is a force of proverbial nature you canít take your eyes off of.
Grosse Pointe Blank has held up remarkable well these past 15 years. Itís one of those small-scale gems thatís stood the test of time and then some. Violent, foul-mouthed and uncouth yet also emotional, loving and surprisingly wholesome, the movieís mixture of tones and styles is something to be savored. This is a great movie, without question, and for Cusack itís an undeniable high-water mark deserving of continued celebration.
Grosse Pointe Blank is presented on a single-layer 25GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.85:1/1080p transfer. What the fÖ? Seriously, whatís Disney thinking with this transfer? You can tell right away this was probably not mastered directly from the negative, the sometimes milky quality of the image decidedly off-putting. Flesh tones are flushed in pinkish hues from time to time, while edge enhancement is noticeable even to the eye of one unaccustomed to seeing it. Sure this Blu-ray is an improvement over the DVD but thatís really not saying very much, and for my money at least from a visual standpoint this has got to be one of the most disappointing hi-def releases of a semi-classic title Iíve ever seen.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack along with Spanish and French Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks and comes with optional English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
The only extra is the filmís Original Theatrical Trailer, not exactly a lot considering this disc is being sold as a 15 Anniversary Edition, thatís for sure.
Grosse Pointe Blank is a confident, intelligent and fitfully entertaining comedy that only seems to get better and better with each passing year. Disneyís Blu-ray hardly does the film justice, and calling this a 15th Anniversary Edition is close to a travesty. Still, even with the schizophrenic transfer at this low a price this disc will be hard for fans to pass up, while newcomers will at the very least want to give it a rental so they can discover for themselves what all the fuss is about.