Film: Grosse Pointe Blank
Mr. Newberry: What have you been doing with your life?
Marty: Uh... professional killer.
Mr. Newberry: Oh! Good for you, it's a... growth industry.
A 1997 John Cusack
comedy about an assassin
going home to attend his 10-year high school reunion. Hilarity ensues.
Martin Blank is a disaffected hit man. After he ends up botching his most recent job because of the handiwork of Grocer, a rival hit man, he gets an offer from the same rival looking to form a Weird Trade Union
of assassins and professional killers
, to, in Grocer's words, "prevent embarrassing overlaps." Blank flatly tells him he's not interested, only to be told to reconsider, given that one way or another, Grocer's going to get him.
Then there's an invitation to his high-school reunion, which he also refuses, until the company he's on the hook with for the botch tells him he needs to make good by killing someone out that way. Reluctantly, he heads back to Grosse Pointe, followed by a slew of other hitmen from the union looking to change his mind and two overly enthusiastic NSA agents also out to get him. Along the way he comes to grips with his emotional issues and reconnects with Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver
), the girl he left behind ten years ago.
Contains examples of:
- Affably Evil: Grocer comes off this way. Marty too, to an extent, although he tends to be more "affably amoral."
- All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Somewhat lampshaded, as the character played by Jeremy Piven confesses that despite all of his successes, he feels worthless without gaining the attention of the Alpha Bitch from high school.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Grocer is anxious to recruit Blank into his Hitman Guild, so there won't be any more "embarassing overlaps."
- Arc Words: You're a psycho!
- The Atoner: Martin, near the end of the film.
- Audible Sharpness: When Martin uncaps the pen to kill Felix.
- Ax-Crazy: Grocer
- Bad Ass: Martin.
- Badass Adorable: Martin's chipper secretary Marcella (played by Joan Cusack) discusses recipes on one line while hardballing arms dealers on the other.
- Black Comedy: Well, the main character is a hitman, and it's about him going home for his 10-year high school reunion. It kind of screams Juxtaposition Gag.
- Bottomless Magazines: Blank is often seen reloading his weapons, but in this scene, the villain is never seen/heard reloading, and fires way more bullets than his guns should theoretically be able to hold.
- Byronic Hero: Martin
- Burger Fool: The air-headed guy who works at the convenience store which used to be Martin's home and on account of his headphones is completely oblivious to a brutal fight between Martin and an assassin.
- Cannot Tell a Lie: Martin tries to come up with fake jobs to tell people in private but winds up telling almost everyone he meets that he is a professional killer. No one believes him until they see him actually kill somebody.
- California Doubling: There are no palm trees in suburban Detroit.
- Cassandra Truth: Per above; Martin is very open about his job. No one believes him.
- Casting Gag: As a teen, John Cusack starred in several movies of the 1980s. Now he plays the Darker and Edgier lead in a movie filled with 80s nostalgia, both on a meta level and in-universe.
- Catch Phrase:
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Martin is given a pen by a former classmate, which he soon uses to kill an assassin who attacks him.
- He doesn't open the dossier on his target for some time, and it turns out to be his girlfriend's father.
- Averted: Terry the security guard shows Martin his gun at the dance with the assassin on the way, and it never comes into play.
- Cold Sniper: Martin appears this way when first encountered. Later averted, as he reconnects with his humanity and past.
- Combat Pragmatist: While in the middle of grappling with another hitman out to kill Martin, he winds up killing his enemy by stabbing him in the neck with a pen. He also ends up killing Grocer with a TV set.
- Concealment Equals Cover: Both combatants use the shelves in a convenience store as cover during a heated gun battle. It works.
- Contrived Coincidence: If Martin's target hadn't been Debi's father, the movie would have been half an hour shorter with a Downer Ending.
- Cool Teacher: Mrs. K comes across as this, especially since Martin only refers to her by that nickname. She also seems pretty astute; though she doesn't know anything about Martin's life, when he tells her, "I'm going home!" she asks him wryly, "Are you?"
- Corporate Samurai: Martin (and by extension Marcella too) combines the personality of a ruthless businessman with that of an assassin and all of the hits he does during the movie involve him being hired by an auto company to kill whistleblowers.
- Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: During one of his sessions, Martin revealed out of the blue that he was a career killer, and while his psychiatrist wants nothing to do with him, he keeps showing up.
- Dead Air: Debi when Martin walks into her studio.
- Deadpan Snarker: Martin, Dr. Oatman, Debbi and Marcella.
- Deadly Euphemism: Used a good deal by all of the assassin characters (e.g. after botching a hit, Martin complains to his psychiatrist about problems with "concept execution"), and is lampshaded by one of the NSA agents after referring to "waxing" Martin. He complains about the other using weasel words like that, wondering why the other can't simply say "kill".
- Detroit: Or rather, its poshest suburb, Grosse Pointe.
- Diegetic Switch: In this case, "Live and Let Die"-getic. Switches from the Guns N' Roses cover to an easy-listening instrumental when Martin walks into the convenience store.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Martin, to himself, says that he'd kill nearly any of his classmates for the right price. However, earlier in the movie, he flat out refuses a job to blow up a Greenpeace ship on moral grounds, and later gets insulted when it's believed he killed a dog.
- Expy: The film War Inc. which also stars both Cusack siblings is a Spiritual Successor to this one, and they play basically the same characters with different names (although more sociopathic in both cases).
- Facial Dialogue: During the reunion, Martin has a deep and profoundly spiritual conversation with a baby using nothing but facial expressions. The baby manages to convince Martin that cynicism isn't the way, and that there really is some good in this life, and its worth pursuing.
- Freudian Excuse: Lampshaded, as in one scene, Martin mentions his childhood problems (an alcoholic father and crazy mother) as probably having a role in his career choice. He even comments that while these don't justify his behavior, they explain it.
- Genre Savvy: Both Blank and Grocer.
- Grave Marking Scene: After visiting his crazy mother in an asylum, Martin is shown visiting his father's grave and pouring out a bottle of alcohol... then keeps pouring until the bottle is empty... and then drops the empty bottle on the grave. It's clearly not a tribute, and we later learn he was an alcoholic.
- Guns Akimbo:
- Martin does this during the film's climactic gun battle and the Store shootout.
- Grocer perforates his target with two handguns in the prologue, as well as in the climax.
- Headphones Equal Isolation: A guy in a convenience store playing Doom and listening to Motorhead is oblivious to a gunfight happening all around him.
- Heel Realization: Martin realizes how hollow his life is before the movie plays out, but it isn't until the reunion that propels him to do something about it.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Martin.
- Hitman with a Heart: The film is one of the best examples of this trope.
- Ignored Confession: Martin admits to everyone who asks that he's an assassin. No one takes him seriously.
- Improvised Weapon User: "I killed the President of Paraguay with a fork". During the film, Martin also kills with a fountain pen, a frying pan and a TV Set.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: An old schoolfriend of Martin's at the reunion, after helping him dispose of a body.
- In Love with the Mark : Or in this case, his daughter.
- Ironic Echo: Grocer's "Popcorn!", later used when Martin kills him with a TV.
- Justified Title: His name is Martin Blank, and he returns to his hometown of Grosse Pointe. He shoots people.
- Karma Houdini: Martin murders several people over the course of the film, including at least one who was at least notionally innocent of wrongdoing, and gets away with it.
- Large Ham: Grocer. BUDRO'S COMIN' FOR YA!
- Licked by the Dog: The baby that really likes Martin at the reunion.
- Loners Are Freaks: Parodied with a Lampshade Hanging:
Martin: I don't wanna join your goddamn union! Loner, get it? Lone gunman! That's the whole point!
- Meaningful Echo: "This is me breathing." Dr. Oatman reminds Martin to say it to himself as part of his therapy, and then Martin repeats it later when cocking his gun.
- Mirror Monologue: Blank rehearsing for the reunion dance.
"Hi! I'm Martin Blank, do you remember me? I'm not married, I don't have any kids, and I'd blow your head off if someone paid me enough."
- Mood Whiplash: Most of the fight scenes pop out of nowhere side by side with the "man comes home and reconnects with his past" story. It's hilarious and deftly handled. The fact that 80s hits often play over the fights doesn't hurt.
- Murder, Inc.: The creation of one of these, to avoid overlapping contracts, is a major plot point.
- Mysterious Middle Initial: Martin Q. Blank.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Arguably, Martin's justifications make him an example of this type.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: It's never stated outright, but basically, Martin's employer for his hits during the film is an automobile company that wants to prevent its execs from testifying against it. That there are several auto companies in Michigan makes this plot sufficiently ambiguous that it doesn't slander any one company.
- Nothing But Hits: Justified, as the film's soundtrack comprises 1980s hits played by one character on a radio station, choosing this playlist in honor of the reunion.
- Oblivious Janitor Cut: The Ultimart clerk plays an arcade game while a gunfight rages all around him. He doesn't notice until the protagonist yanks him out of the shop before it explodes.
- Once Killed a Man with a Noodle Implement: "What am I supposed to say to people? 'I killed the President of Paraguay with a fork. How have you been?'"
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Felix the Basque assassin claims the name tag of a no-show to gain entry to Martin's reunion.
Felix: It is I... Sidney Feldman!
Arlene: Oh, been overseas? [looks at name badge with yearbook photo] My, you have changed!
- Pet the Dog: In a memorable scene, Martin holds a baby and the infant takes to him immediately. More importantly, Martin takes to the baby just as quickly. Or, at least, has a revelation about people, life, etc... This is somewhat subverted, as the positive impression the audience and his love interest receive of him is shaken by the fact he has to stab a guy to death in self-defense with a pen.
- Professional Killer: A boatload of them.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Shown somewhat when Debi) accepts Martin's profession and nature in the end (with her father even proudly approving). Though to be fair, there's not really a smoother option, given the film's premise...
- Pun-Based Title: The title is a pun on Grosse Pointe (the setting), "point blank," and the main character's last name (Blank).
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Grocer and Blank, respectively.
- Sassy Secretary: Marcella.
- Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: He tries to reestablish his bullying relationship with Martin, who's moved on so far in his life that he can't even be bothered to beat him up. In response, the bully tries to open up to him and read some poetry, with Martin's (admittedly rather hollow and back-handed) praise possibly providing some sort of minor closure/reconciliation for the guy.
- Service Sector Stereotypes: There is a ditzy waitress in the diner Martin and Grocer go to; the guy who works at the convenience store (formerly Martin's home) has a Burger Fool personality; two of the assassins Grocer wants for his Weird Trade Union are Filipina maids who are described as "queens of the hotel hit".
- The man on a bicycle in one of the assassination set pieces recalls a bit of recurring physical comedy in Cusack's earlier Better off Dead.
- In one scene, Martin attempts to assassinate someone by dripping poison down a thread hanging from the ceiling. This method was taken from You Only Live Twice, which itself borrowed the idea from a Japanese ninja movie Shinobi no Mono (Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay to the former and had seen the latter while in Japan).
- The failed assassination that gets Martin a lot of ribbing is either a shout-out or a case of Strange Minds Think Alike to a method successfully used in the Jack London story Moon-Face.
- The game the gas station clerk is playing is an arcade version of Doom. Double shout out, as a similar machine appeared on Seinfeld.
- Signed Up for the Dental: Averted; when Martin tells Debbie that he's a professional killer, she asks if he gets dental with that, but he tells her no.
- Slain In Their Sleep: At one point, Martin attempts this via poisoning, but he botches the mission and has to shoot the now awake target.
- Strange Minds Think Alike:
"It's either because I'm in love with your daughter or I have a newfound respect for life."
cut to other car
"That punk is either in love with that guy's daughter, or he has a newfound respect for life."
- Strawman Political: Both Grocer and Martin. Grocer is a psychotic version of a corrupt labor organizer trying to force someone into joining, although the union he intends to form is one of assassins; Martin expresses some right-wing sounding statements to the effect that being a hired killer is "just business," and is implied to have participated in some of America's less savoury actions during the late Cold War.
- Sympathetic P.O.V.: When the protagonist is an assassin, it makes it easier for the NSA agents antagonistic to him to seem like Those Two Bad Guys. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they are dirty agents looking for a scapegoat rather than a real terrorist.
- That Came Out Wrong:
Debi: You're a psychopath.
Martin: No, no. Psychopaths kill for no reason. I kill for money. It's a job...That didn't come out right.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In the climactic fight, Martin continues firing bullet after bullet at one of Grocer's henchmen even after the guy is obviously dead. Later on, both Martin and Grocer do the same to the two NSA agents.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Played with in the conversations between Martin and Grocer; also, the two NSA agents.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer reveals that Martin's target is his girlfriend's father. It seems pretty clear that this was intended to be a big reveal in the third act.
- Trash the Set: Ultimart gets turned to ash in the middle of the film.
- The Villain Knows Where You Live: The assassin protagonist tries to convince his psychiatrist to continue seeing him (the psychiatrist freaked out when his patient revealed his profession). The protagonist mentions doctor-patient confidentiality as a reason why their continued visits wouldn't be a problem and then adds, "And besides, I know where you live". Given the protagonist's admitted profession and the fact that he would know the psychiatrist by name, that's not so hard to believe.
- Weird Trade Union: Lampshaded/Parodied as Dan Aykroyd's character is interested in creating a union for assassins. Martin considers this idea stupid, given that people become assassins precisely because they are loners who don't work well with others.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Martin's best friend and girlfriend eventually find out he wasn't joking about his job. Neither of them are happy, and let him know it.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Martin Blank returning to his childhood home and visiting his mother.
"But I guess you can shop there."
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Subverted. When Martin tells his secretary that he's retiring and has left something in the office for her, she thinks that he's having her killed, but it's actually a retirement fund for her.