An enormously witty dark comedy about a hit man, Grosse Pointe Blank follows the homicidal exploits of killer-for-hire Martin Blank, played by John Cusack, as he combines his latest assignment with a tenth anniversary high school reunion, stalked all the way by a rival assassin, a couple of CIA spooks, and a business competitor acted delightfully by Dan Aykroyd (who’s clearly having a ball with the role). Martin’s walking down the familiar hallways of his alma mater and having a nostalgic moment in front of his old locker when one of his antagonists, an extremely nasty character of indeterminate European extraction, finally catches up with him.
The average viewer probably doesn’t associate Cusack with Van Damme-level physical prowess, but in fact he’s an expert martial artist with a sixth-degree black belt in Ukidokan kick-boxing, and that’s actually his long-time instructor, a guy named Benny (The Jet) Urquidez – himself a full contact karate champion, on-screen sparring partner to Jackie Chan, and every inch the dangerous badass he appears to be – who’s going at it with him hammer and tongs. Thus the utter credibility with which these two very quickly beat the living beJesus out of each other, trading, so the story goes, a few actual blows to heighten the reality.
It’s rare that a film pulls off such a shocking, sudden, adrenalized change of pace, switching in the wink of an eye from light comedy to deadly-serious mortal combat, almost literally pulling no punches, the effect of which is mightily enhanced by the inspired soundtrack choice of the English Beat’s spooky, frenetic Mirror in the Bathroom, echoing from downstairs at the reunion dance. It’s at once frightening and exhilarating, and highlights the complete incongruity of the various worlds in which Blank operates. One minute he’s wooing his former high school sweetheart to the strains of the golden oldies, the next he’s dispatching his would-be killer with a ballpoint pen to the carotid.