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Film / Grosse Pointe Blank

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Martin: Hi, I'm Martin Blank, 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.

Grosse Pointe Blank is a 1997 romantic comedy action film about an assassin going home to attend his 10-year high school reunion. Hilarity ensues. The film stars John Cusack (who also receives a writing credit), Dan Aykroyd, Minnie Driver and Joan Cusack.

Martin Blank is a government-trained freelance hitman living under a decade-long existential crisis. When his latest job takes him to his old home town of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, on the very weekend of his high school reunion, his worlds collide and he's forced to confront some dangling threads of his past life. Complicating matters is the unwanted attention he's receiving from his professional rival Grocer, who's given him an offer Blank can't refuse to join his new Weird Trade Union of assassins. Blank has to dodge hitmen, elude the NSA, find his target, and (most alarmingly) reconnect with the girl he abandoned on graduation day.

Final film for Barbara Harris, who appeared as Martin's mentally ill mom.

Contains examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Well, dark action-comedy, but Martin and a baby(Katelyn And Zoey Rosen(who previously portrayed Matilda as a newborn baby in [[Matilda]] having a deep and profoundly spiritual conversation about life using only Facial Dialogue really stands out for how sweet and moving it is.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Grocer comes off this way. Martin too, to an extent, although he tends to be more "affably amoral."
    • Marcella, Martin's secretary/assistant/facilitator, is incredibly chipper and friendly for someone who helps her boss in committing murder.
  • 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.
  • Apathetic Clerk: The convenience store clerk is so wrapped up in playing an arcade game and listening to music on his headphones, that he doesn't notice the gun fight going on behind him.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Debi finds out that Martin's Sarcastic Confession is actually an Ignored Confession;
    Debi: How come you never learned that it was wrong?
  • As the Good Book Says...: During the final battle, Grocer quotes selections from Revelation 13:1-4.
    Grocer: "...And I saw a beast rise above the sea, with seven heads and ten horns...And they worshiped the beast, saying 'Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?'" Are you, Pinky?
  • The Atoner: Martin, near the end of the film.
  • Audible Sharpness: When Martin uncaps the pen to kill Felix.
  • Ax-Crazy: Grocer. There's not a lot of other killers in film that would think it's a good idea to tell someone they're going to kill him by singing a ditty set to "She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain".
  • 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:
    • In this scene, the villain is never seen/heard reloading, and fires way more bullets than his guns should theoretically be able to hold.
    • In the opening, Grocer fires about 27 shots from a pair of 6-shot revolvers.
  • Byronic Hero: Martin. Guy's got a list of neuroses a mile wide and tries to be a good person... except that he's a killing machine and the only way he knows how to make a living is by using said skills.
  • Burger Fool: The air-headed guy who works at the convenience store which used to be Martin's home and on account of "Ace of Spades" by Motörhead blaring in his headphones is completely oblivious to a brutal gunfight between Martin and another hitman.
  • 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.
  • Carnival of Killers: A disenchanted hitman attends his high school reunion only to cross paths with an assassin union who thinks he's trying to steal their hit.
  • 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.
  • Catchphrase:
  • 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. Lampshaded by Martin: "Dumb fucking luck."
  • 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.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Whichever automobile corporation wants Mr. Newberry (Debi's father) assassinated because they thought it would be cheaper and easier than fixing their newest model's leaky sunroof. Played for Laughs (dark ones, of course).
  • Creator Cameo: D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink, two of the co-writers of the movie, each play former classmates of Martin and Debi's.
  • 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.
    Dr. Oatman: On top of that, if you've committed a crime or you're thinking about committing a crime, I have to tell the authorities.
    Martin: I know the law, okay? But I don't want to be withholding; I'm very serious about this process. (Beat) And I know where you live.
  • Dead Air: Debi when Martin walks into her studio.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Martin, Dr. Oatman, Debi 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 his partner refers to "waxing" Martin. He complains about the partner using weasel words like that, wondering why he can't simply say "kill". Recurs briefly later on when the partner talks about "neutralizing" Martin.
  • Diegetic Switch: In this case, "Live and Let Die"-getic. Switches from the Guns N' Roses cover to an easy-listening instrumental version when Martin walks into the convenience store.
  • Disappointed by the Motive: Mr. Newberry, Debi's father, is more than a little surprised that whistle-blowing his company placing a leaky sunroof in one of their vehicle models merits the company hiring multiple assassins to silence him.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Debi's father is to be killed because he's blowing the whistle on his company's leaky sunroof in a car they make.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: At the climax, after Blank and Grocer blow away the NSA agents in a brief moment of Enemy Mine alliance, they turn their guns on each other only for their guns to click empty. Grocer pulls out another pair of guns and tries to bait Martin into a trap by selling him one of them and tossing it into a place where he'll be wide open to Grocer's fire, while Martin instead improvises and kills Grocer by smashing his head with a TV.
  • Enemy Mine: Grocer and Martin briefly team up to kill the NSA agents. Lampshaded by Grocer:
    Grocer: Workers of the world unite!
  • 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.
  • 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 it's worth pursuing.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Grocer plays with it. He is not faking being affable but he has absolutely zero remorse in killing the guy he was being friendly to a second ago and treating it like some sort of prank or game.
  • 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.
  • Furnace Body Disposal: Martin is attacked by an assassin while at his high school reunion. He manages to kill the guy right before an old friend shows up. Convincing his friend to help him, they get the body to the school's basement and load it into the furnace. Points for realism when it's plain the door to the furnace is so hot they can barely touch it.
  • 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 right behind him.
  • Head Smashes Screen: Grocer gets dispatched by a TV set to the face that's thrown above a kitchen counter. Electricity is heard and the body twitches before it stops moving.
  • Heel Realization: Martin realizes how hollow his life is before the movie plays out, but it isn't until the reunion he's propelled to do something about it.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Martin.
  • Hidden Depths: The drunken former bully, still very much living the Jerk Jock persona, is effortlessly talked out of a fight by Martin and tries to read him some of his poetry.
  • Hitman with a Heart: The film is one of the best examples of this trope, with Martin showing earlier that he could be one if there was something he gave a damn about and then the rest of the plot being about getting that something he gives a damn about.
  • Hollywood Law: The NSA does not have field agents. Also, they're not supposed to do anything domestically. Their job is to monitor foreign communications. FBI agents would be the ones after hitmen like Martin.
  • Ignored Confession: Martin admits to everyone who asks that he's an assassin. No one takes him seriously.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: During the climactic gun battle, the NSA spooks burst in through the patio doors and both start firing at Martin, who while hiding from Grocer is in plain sight for them. Not only does neither of them hit him, they both get blown away by Martin and Grocer, when he stands up from where he'd been hiding from Martin.
  • 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. His outrage only increases when Martin only orders a club soda.
  • 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.
    • When Martin calls Dr. Oatman because he's stressing out about going to the reunion, Dr. Oatman tells him to "take a deep breath and realize that 'this is me breathing'". After the reunion, Martin calls him again and leaves a message telling him to "take a deep breath and realize that this is me firing you."
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Martin confesses at the climax that the reason he ran away from Debi was because he realised he wanted to murder someone, anyone, and didn't want her to be anywhere near him. The following speech (interspersed with a gunfight) yo-yos between a Motive Rant, a Heel Realisation and an Anguished Declaration of Love.
  • I Want My Mommy!: After Martin finds out his old home is now a mini-mart, he calls Marcella and tells her to find out where his mother is - "I want my mom."
  • 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.
  • Lame Rhyme Dodge:
    Martin: I should have brought a gun...
    Debi: What?!
    Martin: Uh... should be fun!
  • Large Ham:
    • Grocer. BOUDREAUX'S COMIN' FOR YA! and singing how he's going to kill Martin to "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" at the climax.
    • Martin's secretary Marcella is a marginally less sociopathic example.
  • Libation for the Dead: Martin spills wine on his father's grave. A whole bottle's worth. The whole scene plays like Last Disrespects and it's cemented when we find out later that the deceased was an alcoholic.
  • Licked by the Dog: The baby that really likes Martin at the reunion.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Justified in this instance, as assassin Felix gets a good look at the unused name tags before he picks one as an alias.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Blank is dealing with a pervading sense emptiness in his life.
    • Grocer wants to commodify the assassination industry, turning hitmen into interchangeable products like in a grocery store.
  • Microwave Misuse: Felix puts a potato-sized lump of plastic explosive in a microwave at a convenience store in an attempt to kill Martin.
  • 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. All the way to the climax.
    Martin: Will there going to be meetings?
    Grocer: ...Of course!
    Martin: No meetings. (keeps firing)
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: In a Black Comedy about assassins it's obvious that a lot of the jokes will revolve around this, but the climax merits mention by The Reveal that Mr. Newberry, the whistle-blower some automobile corporation wants silenced and it's the main reason all of the murderers are in town, was only revealing the fact that the company's most recent car model had a leaky sunroof. Newberry is actually surprised that his act earned such (literal) overkill.
  • 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.
  • No Indoor Voice: Paul at first, because he can't get over the fact Martin's back.
    TEN YEARS, man! TEN!
  • Nostalgia Filter: A hyperactive Terry ridicules people pretending how everything was great at school.
  • 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.
  • Nothing Personal: To Martin's continual insistence.
    Mr. Newberry: So design division wants me dead because of a leaky sunroof? You wanna kill me because of that?
    Martin: It's not me! Why does everybody think it's personal?
  • 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.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Grocer is anxious to recruit Blank into his Hitman Guild, so there won't be any more "embarrassing overlaps."
  • Oh, Crap!: Martin's delayed reaction when he stares down a potato bomb in a microwave at Ultimart.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: The death of little Boudreaux, the retriever. Made even worse by the fact that Boudreaux's death was not only an honest-to-God accident, it was also an accident Martin was not even tangentially involved in. It didn't stop him from being "the guy who blew up a dog".
  • 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!
    • When you consider the name Sidney can be male or female, it's even funnier.
  • 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. He earlier gets very angry (hell, it's the only thing he gets angry about) at the implication he killed a dog as collateral damage of one of his jobs.
  • Professional Killer: A boatload of them. The Big Bad wanting to make a Weird Trade Union is even one of the plot points.
  • 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 Herring: One of Martin's old friends brings a gun to the reunion and literally dangles it in front of the camera, but it never ends up being used.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Grocer and Blank, respectively.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Martin receives an offer to target a Greenpeace boat, that happens to be worded in French.
    Martin: (crumpling up the fax) No way! I have scruples.
  • 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".
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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 Doom in an arcade cabinet. However, there is no actual arcade version of Doom.
    • In the climactic shootout, Martin kills Grocer by smashing a TV on his head.
  • Signed Up for the Dental: When Martin tells Debi 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.
    Marcella: It was supposed to look like a heart attack! It was supposed to look like he died in his sleep!
    Martin: Well, he moved.
  • Stepford Smiler: Arlene Oslott-Joseph seems to be this. She's heavily involved in organizing the reunion, works the door and provides introductions with a fixed grin, but never actually enters the hall and socializes with her former classmates and seems to sit alone the entire evening.
  • 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."
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: When the protagonist is an assassin, it makes it easier for the NSA agents antagonistic to him to seem evil. 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 sound 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.
  • Throw-Away Guns: After emptying two revolvers into his target in the opening scene, Grocer drops them on the man's corpse and walks away. In the final confrontation, Grocer is carrying six to eight of the same subcompact pistol, emptying them in pairs, then tossing them away and drawing fresh ones.
  • 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.
  • Twerp Sweating: Attempted by Debi's father ten years after his daughter was stood up on prom night, but his heart's not really in it.
    Mr. Newberry: ...Aww, fuck it. Let's have a drink and forget the whole thing.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Martin and Grocer's conversation about "the good old days" contains a boatload of references that assume the audience is well-read on recent history:
    Grocer: Remember Burma?
    Martin: Yeah, I do.
    Grocer: That nut General Kwang? You were like a colonel in that army, weren't you?note 
    Martin: Yeah, yeah, he sold you all those tanks, you shipped 'em to Alabama...note 
    Grocer: T-34s, I took a bath on that...note 
    Martin: Yeah, that was fun.
  • 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.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: During the climax, Martin shoots someone through the front door, without even looking at them or waiting for them to attack first.note 
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: A large part of Grocer's reason for setting up his "union" is due to recently available former Soviet and Eastern Bloc assassins flooding the market.
  • 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 is coming to get her, she thinks that he's coming to kill her, but he's actually left a retirement fund for her, and is coming to pick her up.