Whilst feverishly writing a piece for OPM the other night I was alerted to the presence of a classic on the TV. John Cusack’s classic Grosse Point Blank, a film I’ve watched innumerable times before, was on the BBC. I left it on in the background.
It’s as brilliant as it was back when I was first falling in love with the movies. The script is razor sharp, the performances are elegant and genuine and the action/drama all hit the spot. It also features a fight that I would still rate as one of the best in any movie, the scruffy martial arts scramble between Cusack’s Martin Blank and the faintly satanic-eyed hitman, Felix La Poubelle (played by martial arts supremo ‘Benny the Jet‘). It’s not hard to explain the good things about Grosse Point Blank but it is, to me, far more than the sum of all these parts. It’s one of a clutch of films made in the indie movement of the 90s that really cemented my interest in the movies.
The film weaves a clichéd storyline, about a hitman on a job finding a new respect for life, into a meditation on a mid-life crisis all with a whirl of 80s nostalgia summed up by the excellent soundtrack. But more than that, it hit a fair few notes with me. I knew when I was watching it that it’d be time for me to leave the area I grew up in, I knew that I had a chance to reinvent myself and I knew that I’d like to be as cool as Martin Blank. Two of the three actually happened. It’s easy to associate a song with a specific time or mood, when something captures the sense of an important point in your life but people rarely seem to associate this to cinema. I do, and Grosse Point Blank is a film that merits this periodical revisiting because its meaning to me subtly shifts but remains relevant as I grow older.
Initially the character who can disappear and mysteriously return with a new, arse kicking sensibility appealed. Now I look at the idea of returning and I find myself associating with the returning and revising aspect of Martin Blank, his determination to repair and atone. The parallels aren’t as clear but I now sympathise with the idea of putting things right and achieving that horrible, terribly tactile, new age, wishy-washy bullshit word – closure.
The other thing that occurred to me whilst watching was the depth and detail of the characters back stories. Each one has allusions made in snatches of brilliantly fast snapped dialogue. Particularly Blank’s accidental killing of a dog and the strained relationship with his parents. The repetition of the phrase ‘It’s not me.’ serves to cleverly link Blank’s abrogation of his responsibilities and personality with his growing sense of moral turpitude at his job. Or, simply put, he isn’t a real person with a real life because he’s in denial and he needs to reconnect with the last time he had a life because taking life is no life at all. Quite neatly summed up in those three words.
Really, all this post is about is why I love the film. The warm feeling of nostalgia I get from watching it and the sense that smart indie movies with mainstream sensibilities and great casts aren’t being made anymore. It makes me yearn for a time that no longer exists in movies, a time when everything felt fresh and new and potentially brilliant and it would last just as long as we wanted it to because it was so good. And didn’t we have it so damn good? A time where the VHS rentals I made on a Friday after school/college would help determine the mood of the weekend. A time when Steve Buscemi was the fucking king of anything and everything, because he was in almost anything and nearly everything. A time when Quentin Tarantino was prolific.
For big business financial reasons, and host of smaller reasons, that time doesn’t exist anymore and it likely can’t. Fellow film blogger Nathan Ditum could probably point out a few more specific reasons as to why, but regardless the more I think about it the less interested I am in modern cinema – which is a crying shame, because I quite like films.
Anyway, as I was saying, things I love about Grosse Point Blank. I love the musical cues, Minnie Driver’s insanely smart and real portrayal of Debbie, Dan Ackroyd, Jeremy Piven and Hank Azaria being sensational comedy character actors, the use of the frying pan with the ‘I love you’ line, the school bully, the brilliant opening assassination, Alan Arkin, Doom 2 Arcade, G’n’R Live & Let Die smoothly transitioning into muzak, the omelette argument, John Woo influenced gunfights, the cutest baby in the history of cinema…