People are always pleased to see John Cusack. Be it as a soppy kickboxer in Say Anything, an alter-ego of Woody Allen in Bullets Over Broadway, or a stunt-happy marshal in Con Air, the ever- likable star usually fulfils his acting obligations with fine aplomb.
But Grosse Pointe Blank heralds a significant escalation in our relationship with the boy Cusack. It marks a new phase in his career, as he takes co-producing and co-writing credits, moulds the personality of the film in practically every respect and hands out supporting roles to most of his family and friends. The good news is that this is going to endear John Cusack even more to the cinema-going public, courtesy of an end product that is inordinately ace.
Cusack plays Martin Q Blank, a super-slick hitman with an identity crisis. Poor Marty's nagged by a sense of existential discontent that causes him to make mistakes with the day job. Now, if Martin Q Blank were, say, a writer, it wouldn't matter much. But he isn't a writer - he's a killer, and his errors are starting to have serious consequences.
Thus Blank heads back home to Grosse Pointe, Michigan, for a high-school reunion, hoping to confront his feelings for his parents, his past, former girlfriend Debi (Minnie Driver) and his old best friend Paul (Jeremy Piven, who plays the grumpy cousin in Ellen). Oh, and there might be some job-related odds and ends to distract him from all this, including the unwelcome attentions of competing hitman Grocer (Dan Aykroyd, likeably edgy), a couple of FBI agents and who knows who else.
Under any other circumstances, this mixed-up recipe would have resulted in a distinctly inedible cinematic cake. But the sheer strength of Cusack's personality, coupled with a glittering co-star, very witty script and eagle-eyed direction from the guy who handed us the superbly original Miami Blues, turns what could easily have been an uneven, embarrassing shambles into a hyperactive, hilarious and blindingly enjoyable piece of no-holds-barred fun.
Grosse Pointe Blank is overflowing with energy, style and humour, and somehow succeeds in being both heart-squeezingly emotive and intelligent. The movie looks at the compromises required to exist in a corrupt world; satirises the work ethic; relates a simple story of lost love regained; has two dozen scream-out-loud jokes; is backed by a great '80s soundtrack; and contains a timeless convenience store destruction scene. In short, it has it all.
It's to the pic's credit that even the less significant of the many supporting characters are fleshed out into memorable figures (watch out especially for Simpsons voicer Hank Azaria). Yet we never once lose sight of leads Driver and Cusack, who lynchpin the entire crazed merry-go-round together with supreme confidence.
Grosse Pointe Blank is awesomely smart, bloodily violent, rib-dissolvingly funny and tear-jerkingly romantic. It is, in short, the A to Z of elements that you always wanted from a film, but never expected to get. It will make you very happy people.