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GROSSE POINTE BLANK
Blu-ray Edition

Stars: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd
Director: George Armitage
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Hollywood/Buena Vista
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: August 7, 2012

You’re a psychopath.”

A psychopath kills for no reason. I kill for MONEY, it’s a JOB. That didn’t sound right.”

Film ****

At long last, one of my most eagerly awaited Blu-ray releases is finally here!

The best way I can describe Grosse Pointe Blank is perhaps the most manic multi-genre movie as one can ever hope to find. A film of this type can easily be made into an absolute mess, even in the hands of the most faithful filmmaker. But this gem from 1997 managed to hit every single target in that regard, which is why it is on my personal all-time best list.

It manages to be each of the following things: an intense action thriller, a hilarious comedy, an 80s high school reunion movie, a love story and a most eccentric character study. Can you name another such movie? Nope, me either. When thinking of a movie that is a pure work of originality, it’s impossible for this not to be one of the very first to leap to my mind.

Right from the very first scene, you know you’re in for a film unlike any other, as we see Martin Blank (John Cusack), a professional government assassin, is preparing to take out his latest target with a sniper rifle from high-rise window. As he is doing this, his secretary (Joan Cusack) informs him via ear piece that his ten year high school reunion is just around the corner, which he immediately shrugs off. And during this entire sequence, which ends rather violently, we are treated to Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” on the soundtrack.

Martin, as it turns out, is quite hapless at the moment, and is starting to lose his edge in his profession. Following a somewhat botched assignment, one of his employers demands that he make up for it by carrying out an assignment in Detroit, which is not too far away from his home town of Grosse Pointe, where his ten year reunion is about to take place. After persuasion from his secretary, and advice from his put-upon shrink (the always great Alan Arkin), Martin gives in to the idea of setting foot in the place he abandoned a decade ago.

The main ingredient in the luring of Martin back to his hometown is that of Debi (Minnie Driver), a local radio DJ. Martin stood her up on the night of their senior prom, and hasn’t seen or spoken to her sense. He still has feelings for her though, and doesn’t hesitate a bit to crash in at her radio station to say hi…during a live broadcast, that is, resulting in a most awkward moment.

As if that weren’t enough to deal with, Martin is dealt with a few other sucker punches upon his return visit. The very home he grew up in has now become a convenience store, resulting in one of the film’s most priceless lines. Following that heartbreaking piece of news, he finds that his mother has somehow landed in a mental home.

To make matters worse, he finds himself being tailed by several suspicious characters. One of whom is a rival assassin named Grocer (Dan Aykroyd, doing some of his best work ever here), who wants Martin taken out for two reasons: he feels he snagged the current contract that was first promised to him, and because he rejected Grocer’s offer to join him in the first ever assassin’s union, which he really took offense to. To cover his tracks, Grocer has hired two NSA goons to wipe out Martin should he carry out his assignment.

And there’s another deadly assassin (iconic martial artist Benny “The Jet” Urquidez) who’s after Martin for revenge following an unfortunate piece of business. Their encounters result in two the film’s most exciting sequences: a maddening shootout inside the convenience store/Martin’s former home…and one of the most phenomenal hand to hand combat sequences I’ve ever seen. (Fun fact: Urquidez also served as Cusack’s martial arts instructor for the movie).

But Martin isn’t worried at all about getting killed, because he’s simply more worried about patching things up with Debi, who eventually agrees to be his date for the reunion. Also at this point, Martin doesn’t know what’s worse: having Debi find out about his true profession, or the fact that he may have a newfound respect for life as a result falling back in love with the girl he left behind.

Then we get to the reunion, which for my money is still the best one ever depicted in any movie. For one thing, the soundtrack (which has already been loaded with great 80s tracks up to this point) never dies down. As we see Martin experience one awkward moment after another, we are treated to such great 80s tracks as Take on Me, Walk Like an Egyptian, Under Pressure and 99 Red Balloons. This is one of few movies to have a soundtrack split into two volumes and, as you can expect, they’re worth every penny.

And what other movie has featured a brutal hand to hand combat scene in a school hall while English Beat’s Mirror in the Bathroom blasts on the soundtrack? When I first saw the film, it was during this sequence that I uttered the word, “GENIUS”. Not simply because I had just seen one of the most fantastically original fight scenes ever, but because it was at this point when I realized this movie had literally thrown in everything but the kitchen sink in terms of balancing different genres and moods, and was scoring 100% with each item thrown…a feat that is rarely ever accomplished.

What’s more, the movie concludes with a bang, in more ways than one. Through circumstances I won’t reveal, a ferocious gun fight between Martin and Grocer at the home of Debi and her father. As Martin takes out multiple gun men, he confesses his true love for Debi and tells her that he’s ready to commit to her for good. This sequence also happens to include the best use of a gun and frying pan as a combo killing method you’ll ever see, not to mention a television set.

As a lifelong fan of John Cusack, who also co-wrote the film, I can easily say that this remains my absolute favorite film of his. His unique charisma has never been more perfected than in the role of Martin Blank. In fact, everyone in the cast is on their A-game (especially Arkin and Aykroyd) and even smaller supporting roles from the likes of Jeremy Piven and Hank Azaria are indeed memorable.

Grosse Pointe Blank was an absolute gem of a flick when first released, and it’s only gotten greater with age. We rarely get films this original in today’s movie market, and rarely has a single movie been able to successfully juggle so many different genres at once. This film is so many different things, all of them spectacular!

Video ***1/2

After years of having to deal with a dreadful non-anamorphic DVD release, which is even more depressing when it’s a movie you love so much, I can’t put into words how happy I am to finally have an appropriately restored/anamorphic widescreen presentation…and on Blu-ray, no less! Even if the presentation itself wasn’t that remarkable, I honestly I’d still give it bonus points just for finally being anamorphically enhanced. But as it turns out, Disney did a more than decent job with this HD release. Colors are quite fantastic, especially in bright daylight shots, and dark interiors play off just as good (most notably that of the high school reunion setting). Image detail is better than it’s even been for this film. To make a long story short, you would do yourself a huge favor by chucking away your DVD copy and upgrade to this!

Audio ****

I couldn’t wait to finally hear this film in a lossless audio track for two precise reasons: the shootouts and the soundtrack! In fact, the best thing about the original DVD release was the sound mix…so you can imagine my thoughts of what a Blu-ray release could pull of. And sure enough, Disney did not disappoint whatsoever! The DTS HD mix is nothing short of explosive, especially when it comes to the action set pieces and the consistent lineup of music playing throughout the movie! And as for the shootout sequences, all I can say is…bloody well done! Dialogue delivery is thoroughly superb and balanced terrifically between the aforementioned areas!

Features ½*

A “15th Anniversary Edition”…and the only extra provided is a Theatrical Trailer. I’m at a loss for words.

Summary:

Grosse Pointe Blank is simply a brilliant, one of a kind piece of work. And it’s only gotten greater in the 15 years since its release. With the exception of the extras (grrrr), this is one Blu-ray release that is truly worth celebrating!

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