Grosse Pointe Blank

Grosse Pointe Blank is a 1997 American black comedy crime film directed by George Armitage and starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Alan Arkin and Dan Aykroyd. Cusack plays an assassin who returns to his hometown to attend a high school reunion. The film received positive reviews from critics and grossed $31,070,412.

Grosse Pointe Blank
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Armitage
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byTom Jankiewicz
Music byJoe Strummer
CinematographyJamie Anderson
Edited byBrian Berdan
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • April 11, 1997 (1997-04-11)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million[1]
Box office$31,070,412[1]


Hitman Martin Blank (John Cusack) finds himself depressed and disillusioned with his work. Grocer (Aykroyd), his chief rival, is attempting to "unionize" the hitman business, ostensibly to avoid situations in which members of their profession would find themselves pitted against each other. Martin refuses to join, putting the two at odds. Following a botched contract, Martin accepts an invitation to his ten-year high school reunion in his hometown of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. He is persuaded into going by both his reluctant therapist, Dr. Oatman (Arkin), and his secretary Marcella (Joan Cusack), who books him a contract in Michigan that coincides with the reunion, ostensibly to make amends with the client whose contract was botched.

In Grosse Pointe, Martin reconnects with his childhood friend Paul and his high school sweetheart Debi Newberry, now a radio DJ, whom Martin had abandoned on prom night to enlist in the Army. He freely admits to his former classmates that he is a professional hitman, but everyone assumes he is joking. He also visits his mentally ill mother in a retirement home and his father's grave.

While he reacquaints himself with the town and his old friends, Martin is stalked by Felix LaPoubelle, another hitman, who attempts to kill Martin in a convenience store built on the site of his childhood home. He is also followed by two National Security Agency agents who were tipped off to Martin's contract by Grocer. Despite these dangers, Martin remains distracted by his desire to reconcile with Debi and repeatedly procrastinates opening the dossier on his target.

Debi is conflicted about her feelings for Martin, but he manages to persuade her to attend the reunion with him.

At the reunion, Martin and Debi mingle with their former classmates and begin to fall in love all over again. Later, while exploring the halls alone, Martin is ambushed by LaPoubelle, whom he kills in self defense. Debi stumbles upon the scene as Martin is stooped over LaPoubelle’s corpse, and flees from the reunion in shock and horror. Paul arrives moments later and helps Martin dispose of LaPoubelle's body in the school furnace.

Debi later confronts Martin in his hotel room, still reeling from the revelation that he was telling the truth about his profession. He reveals that when he joined the army, his psychological profile indicated a certain degree of "moral flexibility" that prompted the Central Intelligence Agency to recruit him as an assassin, after which he decided to freelance. Martin attempts to assuage Debi by assuring her that he only accepts contracts on corrupt individuals saying, “If I show up at your door, chances are you’ve done something to put me there.” His efforts to rationalize his work further anger Debi and she rejects his attempts at reconciliation and walks out.

Debi’s rejection of him gives Martin an emotional breakthrough, and he abruptly decides to retire from being a contract killer. He fires Oatman over the phone, lays off Marcella and orders her to incinerate their office, and finally opens the dossier detailing the contract that brought him to Grosse Pointe. He is surprised to find that the target is Debi's father, Bart, who is scheduled to testify against Martin's benefactor.

Accompanied by several henchmen, Grocer decides to kill Bart himself to impress Martin's client. Martin abandons the contract and rescues Bart, driving him to the Newberry house and holing up inside. Grocer, his cohorts, and the NSA agents descend upon the house. During the siege, Martin finally admits to Debi that he left her on prom night to protect her from his homicidal urges, which were due to his troubled upbringing. Martin methodically picks off Grocer’s henchmen, and the NSA agents are gunned down by both Grocer and Martin. Martin then kills Grocer by smashing a television over his head. Injured and winded, Martin proposes marriage to Debi, who is too stunned and despondent by the killing spree to respond. Debi’s father quips, “You have my blessing.”

Debi and Martin then leave Grosse Pointe together, with Martin presumably feeling more psychologically well-adjusted.



Screenwriter Tom Jankiewicz wrote the initial script for Grosse Pointe Blank in 1991 after receiving an invitation to his 10th high school reunion.[2] He picked the title while substitute teaching for an English class at Upland High School, writing the title on the classroom's whiteboard to see how it would look on a movie-theater marquee.[2] Jankiewicz decided to use Grosse Pointe, an upscale suburb of Detroit, Michigan, rather than his working-class hometown of Sterling Heights, Michigan, due to the contrast between the two towns. There is also the wordplay ("point blank"), which is a ballistics term of reference to the distance a bullet travels before dropping from the firearm's bore axis.[2]

Jankiewicz simultaneously worked as a substitute teacher and a cashier at a Big Lots in Upland, California, to make ends meet before his script was picked up for production.[2]

Jankiewicz, who was raised in Sterling Heights, based several of the film's characters on his real-life friends from Bishop Foley Catholic High School in Madison Heights, Michigan.[3] For example, Jeremy Piven's character, Paul Spericki, was originally named after Jankiewicz's best friend during high school, although the name was changed during filming.[3] The film's script was based on an urban legend about a student who became a professional hitman.[3] Joan Cusack's character, Marcella, was named for Jankiewicz's manager at Big Lots.[2]

George Armitage later claimed, "I did as much as anyone did in terms of writing", but did not seek credit.

The script, when I met with John [Cusack] and the writers, was 132 pages. I said: "Look, I'm not doing anything over 100 pages." They said, "Okay," and they did a rewrite, and it came back 150 pages. So I said "Okay, you guys are fired," and I spent most of preproduction rewriting the screenplay, getting it down to 102 pages. Then we would improvise, and I noticed that some of the stuff I'd cut out was in the improvs, they were bringing back stuff that I'd cut out, but we had a good time with it.[4]

Only the aerial footage of Lakeshore Drive was actually shot in Grosse Pointe.[3] The city of Grosse Pointe Farms did not allow the filmmakers to use any shots of Grosse Pointe South High School for the movie due to the presence of alcohol in the reunion scenes. The majority of the film was shot in Monrovia, California.[3] In a 1997 interview, actor John Cusack, who shares the film's screenwriting credit along with Jankiewicz, Steve Pink, and D.V. DeVincentis, said he would have liked to film on location in Grosse Pointe, but they were unable to move production to Michigan due to budget constraints.[3]

The scene where Martin is attacked by LaPoubelle while exploring the halls of his old high school was filmed at Reseda High School in the San Fernando Valley.

Armitage later recalled:

With Grosse Pointe Blank I shot three movies simultaneously. We shot the script as written, we shot a mildly understated version, and we shot a completely over-the-top version, which usually was what was used. We cast that movie—and I've cast most movies—by having the actors come in and read, then throwing the script out and saying: "Okay, let's improvise." That's what I was comfortable with. I say to the actors: "You are creating the character. This is written, these are the parameters, this is the outline. Now you take this, make it your own, and bring me, bring me, bring me."... I'm very fond of Grosse Pointe Blank because of that, the insanity of it was trying to keep things working with three different registers to choose from.[4]

Armitage says he shot several endings:

I'm usually rather rough on studio heads in terms of creative help, but after seeing the audience so angry at Alec Baldwin dying in Miami Blues, I decided that on Grosse Pointe Blank, this time, dealing with another psychopath, another sociopath, John's character—I just wanted him to survive, and we shot so many different endings. They were so generous at Disney, we had Michael Ovitz and Joe Roth running the place, they were really great with us. We shot two or three different endings, the two of them getting together, talking about things, and everything didn't work. And Joe Roth said at one of the screenings: "When the father says 'You've got my blessing' in the bathtub at the end, after the shoot-out, just cut to the two of them leaving." I thought, "Let's give it a shot," and it worked beautifully.[4]


Critical response

Grosse Pointe Blank received positive reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 80%, based on 70 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The website's critical consensus states that the film is "a high-concept high school reunion movie with an adroitly cast John Cusack and armed with a script of incisive wit."[5] Metacritic gave the film a score of 76 out of 100, based on reviews from 27 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine wrote a positive review. Travers praises the writing as "smart, not smartass", praises director George Armitage for smashing action scenes that reveal character, furthermore he praises Aykroyd and the talented cast in smaller supporting roles. Ultimately he says the film "flies on Cusack’s seductive malevolence" calling him a marvel.[8] Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4. He praised the chemistry between the lead actors and enjoyed the dialogue, but considered it a near-miss, wishing for a wittier, more clever ending.[9]

Box office

The film earned an estimated $6,870,397 in its opening weekend, ranking number four at the box office. It went on to earn $28,084,357 in the United States, and a total of $31,070,412 worldwide.[1][10]


Grosse Pointe Blank
Soundtrack album by
various artists
ReleasedMarch 13, 1997 (Volume 1)
October 7, 1997 (Volume 2)
GenreRock, new wave, punk rock, post-punk, ska
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic Vol. 1
Vol. 2

The score for Grosse Pointe Blank was composed by Joe Strummer, formerly of The Clash, and the soundtrack includes two songs from The Clash: "Rudie Can't Fail" and their cover version of Willi Williams' "Armagideon Time".

In addition to The Clash, the tracks featured in the film are largely a mix of popular and alternative 1980s punk rock, ska, and new wave from such bands as Violent Femmes, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Specials, The Jam, Siouxsie and the Banshees and A-ha. While most songs played throughout the film (especially at the reunion) had been recorded by the time of the students' graduation in 1986, several songs were recorded later:

The soundtrack album reached number 31 on the Billboard 200 chart,[11] prompting the release of a second volume of songs from the film.[12]

Grosse Pointe Blank - Music From the Film

  1. "Blister in the Sun" - Violent Femmes (2:08)
  2. "Rudie Can't Fail" - The Clash (3:31)
  3. "Mirror In The Bathroom" - English Beat (3:09)
  4. "Under Pressure" - David Bowie and Queen (4:03)
  5. "I Can See Clearly Now" - Johnny Nash (2:46)
  6. "Live and Let Die" - Guns N' Roses (3:02)
  7. "We Care a Lot" - Faith No More (4:03)
  8. "Pressure Drop" - The Specials (4:18)
  9. "Absolute Beginners" - The Jam (2:50)
  10. "Armagideon Time" - The Clash (3:53)
  11. "Matador" - Los Fabulosos Cadillacs (4:34)
  12. "Let My Love Open the Door (E. Cola Mix)" - Pete Townshend (4:58)
  13. "Blister 2000" - Violent Femmes (2:58)
  • This version of "Blister in the Sun" is a new recording that mirrors the original 1983 arrangement. It does not appear in the film.
  • "Blister 2000" is a newly recorded, drastically rearranged version of "Blister in the Sun", which also does not appear in the film.

Grosse Pointe Blank - More Music From the Film

  1. "A Message to You, Rudy" - The Specials (2:53)
  2. "Cities in Dust" - Siouxsie and the Banshees (3:49)
  3. "The Killing Moon" - Echo & the Bunnymen (5:44)
  4. "Monkey Gone to Heaven" - Pixies (2:56)
  5. "Lorca's Novena" - The Pogues (4:35)
  6. "Go!" - Tones on Tail (2:32)
  7. "Let It Whip" - Dazz Band (4:24)
  8. "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight" - Dominatrix (3:40)
  9. "War Cry" - Joe Strummer (5:58)
  10. "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" - Melle Mel (7:24)
  11. "Take On Me" - A-ha (3:46)
  12. "You're Wondering Now" - The Specials (2:37)
  • "Go!" is the short version, originally issued as the B-side of "Lions".
  • "Let It Whip" is the LP version from Keep It Live.

Soundtrack omissions

Many songs from the film do not appear on the soundtracks.

Songs that appear in the film (in order of film appearance):

  1. "Blister in the Sun" (LP Version) - Violent Femmes
  2. Johannes Brahms' "Fugue in A-Minor" - Jacques van Oortmerseen
  3. "Live and Let Die" (Muzak Version) - Adam Fields
  4. "Ace of Spades" - Motörhead
  5. "In Between Days" - The Cure
  6. "Your Lucky Day in Hell" - Eels
  7. "Sharks Can't Sleep" - Tracy Bonham
  8. "Little Luxuries" - The Burros
  9. "Big Boss Man" - Jimmy Reed
  10. "Detroit City" - Bobby Bare
  11. "Walk Like an Egyptian" - The Bangles
  12. "99 Luftballons" - Nena
  13. "Doors of Your Heart" - The English Beat

Songs in the trailer but not in the film:

  1. "I Got You Babe" - UB40 and Chrissie Hynde
  2. "Friend or Foe" - Adam Ant
  3. "Modern Love" - David Bowie

Home media

The film was released on VHS and DVD in 1998 in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and New Zealand.

Unofficial sequel

According to Joan Cusack, the 2008 film War, Inc. is an informal sequel. Both films are similar in style and theme, and both star John as an assassin and his sister Joan as his assistant, with Dan Aykroyd in a supporting role.[13]


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