Our “Back to School” retrospective continues with the hitman/high school reunion comedy Grosse Pointe Blank. John Cusack proves that you can always go back to your high school reunion, and sometimes going home is the perspective change that you need to make a course correction in your life.

The Plot

Martin Blank is in a rut. His life as a hitman is successful, but his ability to see joy in his work is diminishing. Pursued by another hitman named Grocer to form a union which would provide better wages and jobs, Blank shuns the offer and is encouraged to go home to his high school reunion by his secretary Marcella.

Blank is questioning his visit home, until he runs into his high school sweetheart Debi. Apologizing for standing her up at prom, the two reconnect. But the dangerous world of killing comes calling on Blank, and sooner than he knows it, Blank is fighting off assassins in his old high school and saving Debi’s dad from Grocer.

His love for Debi makes Martin reevaluate his life. It’s time to abandon the contract killing world and ride off into the sunset with Debi.

Cinematic Compliments

John Cusack is wickedly funny in this film. I found myself switching from laughing to cheering as he woos his high school sweetheart and then murders a guy with a pen. This satirical black comedy is something we don’t see often. Cusack looks like he is having the best time of his career and the joy that comes through his performance makes Grosse Pointe Blank an incredible film.

Dan Aykroyd is a joy as Grocer. His desire to form a union for assassins is funny, but his character is something I would expect if Ray Stantz was angrier and had an urge to kill. The dinner scene where Aykroyd and Cusack meet with guns concealed as the patrons surround them is not only hilarious for the dialogue but the physical comedy as they reposition their guns is slapstick physicality at its best.

Minnie Driver is perfectly cast as Debi. She’s no push over, and the moments she and Cusack share on screen make perfect chemistry for the romantic comedy ingredient to this film.

Cinematic Complaints

Grosse Pointe Blank is borderline violent, so if you are squeamish in any way, then skip the picture.

Fun Film Facts

  • This was the feature film debut of Jenna Elfman. She plays one of the reunion attendees. Elfman’s character is wearing a body brace in tribute to Joan Cusack’s character from Sixteen Candles.
  • Grosse Pointe Blank is reportedly John Cusack’s favorite film.
  • Beyond John and Joan, the film also features Ann and Bill Cusack.
  • Quentin Tarantino was such a huge fan of George Armitage that he gladly lent a lobby card of Pulp Fiction for the Ultimart shootout. A planned cameo by Tarantino never materialized.
  • Hank Azaria plays one of the government agents trying to kill Martin.
  • Azaria, John Cusack, and Alan Arkin would all reunite for 2011’s America's Sweethearts.
  • John Cusack and Jeremy Piven were high school friends who would go on to costar again in Serendipity.
  • Kiefer Sutherland was originally linked to the film in the early nineties but couldn’t get the film off the ground.
  • The film shot the high school scenes at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles.
  • There is only one shot of the real Grosse Pointe High School in the film. The school board turned down permission to film in the building because they felt it would be a negative connotation to connect their school with a film about an alumni member who grows up to be a hitman.
  • There are multiple references to James Bond films throughout the film.
  • This is Barbara Harris, who plays Martin’s mom, final film role.

The Golden Popcorn Bucket Award

Grosse Pointe Blank is hilarious. This is a 4 Golden Popcorn Bucket film that will leave audiences entertained. The quality of the story and the talent of the actors will ensure that this film is regarded as a classic for decades to come.

Coming Attractions

Next week we conclude our “Back to School” retrospective with Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow’s high school reunion comedy, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.

Production Credits

Directed by George Armitage

Produced by Hollywood Pictures/Caravan Pictures

Starring:

  • John Cusack as Martin Blank
  • Minnie Driver as Debi
  • Dan Ackroyd as Grocer
  • Joan Cusack as Marcella

Release Date: April 11, 1997

Budget: $15 million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $28,084,357