Thursday, 23 August 2012


 The following dry desert trek through my thoughts will not be about GROSSE POINT BLANK until later. If you want the junk about the movie, skip a few paragraphs down and save yourself from the moanings of someone who should know better.

I hated writing about film in school. It was an arduous process of checks, balance and iron clad scripture. I was passionate about the pictures that would flickered before my eyes in class, but my essays would come back stamped with harsh red words along the lines “THIS WOULD WORK BETTER IN A FAN ZINE” and “THIS SHOULD BE SCREAMED ON A STREET CORNER.  Look, I’m not going to pretend that I’ll ever be anything other then an enthusiastic fan doing back flips down the hall as I babble the joys of a swooshing camera move. I have no problems with my lot in life. I’m happy to churn out reams of work about the things I love.  It’s just that every time I sit down to put pen to paper, a sickening realization hits me…

I have nothing new to say about anything that was ever been made in the history of the universe.  Those people over in the corner of the internet already said it better then me. AND THEY HAD NIFTY PICTURES!

Sure, it’s EASY to write about myself and insignificant existential angst, but diving into critical analysis has the baggage of FACTS and TRUTHS.  I’m scared of those things. If you want to talk about something, and you get it wrong, it’s human nature to jump onto your mistake and gleefully torture the poor sap that was stupid enough to speak up in an uninformed fashion. I’ve been guilty of it before.

I need to stop being a sensitive baby.

These articles are just here to get me to write. They won’t all have a clear cut point, or mind breaking thematic links, but I’ll try my darndest to make them kinda fun to read. The whole point of this experiment is to talk about film, but at the same time, let the conversation veer off into whatever direction I feel like. These articles are not critical dissertations. They are simply personal musings on a particular picture with many diversions before the final word. I will get things wrong, and I will reiterate points that have undoubtedly been shared by a multitude of people in much more eloquent (and grammar perfect) ways, but at the end of the day, those things weren’t written by me. This is written by me. It’s a completely selfish exercise.  

Oh shit. Didn’t I have a movie I was supposed to talk about here? RIGHT!

The “Hitman goes to his Tenth High School reunion to confront his abandoned love” movie GROSSE POINT BLANK was a TBS cable stable. If you tuned in on a lazy Sunday afternoon there’s a good chance you’d catch it squished between a screening of RUSH HOUR and RUSH HOUR 2 right before RUSH HOUR started again. This would lead a viewer to believe that GROSSE POINT BLANK could be considered to be disposable entertainment. The viewer would be wrong.  It’s a perfectly tuned example of genre mash-up magic.

GROSSE POINT works because it plays all of its genre elements on the same level. The romance/existential searching gets more screen time then the hit man stuff, but they are all on the same level. The film never makes excuses for John Cusak being a professional hit man. He just is. All the elements mesh well with themselves because it never has to stick out and scream LOOK AT ME! The three action scenes that happen in the film – a gunfight, a fistfight, and a group gunfight, happen with zero build up. They just happen. It’s the key to making these elements organic. All the action scenes could have been carefully set-up, hinted at and finally delivered, but they would have felt at odds with everything going on around them. They would have forced the viewer to evaluate them separately from the relatable story line. Once you accept the basic premise that John Cusak is a hit man, and this is part of his life, you can accept anything else that pops up. It helps that Cusak can portray a morally ungrounded person, who kill people because “They probably did something wrong”, and still have an audience happily follow all of his lovable underdog emotional beats.  It’s inherent in his screen persona. People will always associate Cusak with Lloyd Dobler even when he’s blowing people away begging for their life.

For a goofy romantic comedy I was impressed to see how gleeful the director is in making Cusak suffer.   The violence on screen isn’t very visually gory, but it’s visceral. Cusak is burned, punched in the eye (suffering a bruise that stays around for the last third of the picture) and gets a nasty cut on his hand (which bleeds profusely) not at the service of any big gag, but because they are all interesting details that allows the audience to empathize with his character.  It’s this empathy that allows the relationship between Minnie Driver and Cusak to be charmingly engaging. The ground work has already been laid in both character’s pasts, so all the viewer needs to know are clues and elements (“Give me the airplane!”) that hint to that past to make it feel real and well rounded. It’s tough to build up a believable relationship from the ground up, but if you tell the audience it already existed, and have the characters talk about it in concrete terms, then the audience is much more likely to buy it.  It’s the same way that the hit man elements work – they simply already exist in this universe – they are nothing new – and you should just take them as day to day occurrences.

This is most evident in the scenes between Dan Akroyd and John Cusak. Both of them are hit man with a past behind them. Their dialogue is composed of rapid fire allusions to previous job, other assassins, and a unionized future.  . In effect, all the plot elements (except for the one that ties them all together for the final scene) exist fairly independently from one another and don’t have that much of a big impact in the grand scheme of things. They are simply backbones to let the characters wander through and react too.

My one beef it just doesn’t end satisfyingly. The final action scene works great, perfectly encapsulating violence and emotional outpouring, but the culmination of the journey that Cusak is going through is decidedly cut short. His constant insistence after every murder that “It’s not me.” is never addressed nor is the complications of his hit man past with Minnie Driver. They just drive off in the sunset with a smile on their face

I love the fact that Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez is the hit man after Cusak - only because I love seeing the guy on screen in all his goblin faced glory.  He helped popularize the sport of full contact karate! He’s worked mostly as a stunt choreographer and trainer on films, but you can catch him every now and then in the background of pictures he’s worked on. His most famous on-screen appearance will always be his epic fights with Jackie Chan (some may arguue some of Chan’s best) in WHEELS ON MEALS and DRAGONS FOREVER. He can also be seen in SPIDER-MAN and ROADHOUSE!

The genre mash up is a tough gamble – especially when you’re dealing with something that’s predominantly a romantic comedy running hand in hand with violent unrepetennt action movie trappings. Director George Armitage succeeds because he knows exactly how to present the material – which is often the most crucial step – and get the audience to buy into it completely.

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