Film & Water #37 – Grosse Pointe Blank

THE FILM & WATER PODCAST

Episode 37: GROSSE POINTE BLANK

Rob Kelly welcomes Darrin and Ruth Sutherland (WARLORD WORLDS) to talk about one of their favorite movies, 1997’s GROSSE POINTE BLANK starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, and Alan Arkin!

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13 responses to “Film & Water #37 – Grosse Pointe Blank

  1. What a terrific movie, and you guys really nailed what made it so great. Most films tend to feel like the characters only exist to take part in this one story, but everyone here feels like they have their own life that just happens to be intersecting with the story of the film. And like Rob said, it feels like a middle film in a series. I’m a huge sucker for that, and it’s annoyingly hard to find. This film has it, the first Pirates of the Caribbean film has it, Masters of the Universe has it (not that I’m saying that makes it a good movie, but I’m just saying,) and the Thin Man series had it in spades thanks to the fact that Nick Charles seemed to know and be known personally by pretty much everybody.

    Also I’m glad you remembered to talk about the music this time. I’m generally not a soundtrack guy, I prefer scores to assembled songs. However this is one of the few soundtracks like this I ever bought (despite being about a decade younger than most people who’d gravitate to it based off nostalgia,) and it’s a purchase I have no shame in.

  2. I bypassed this film when it hit theaters but picked up the soundtrack and loved it, which led to picking up the movie on dvd (it helped that it was cheap). Loved the film. Like you say, it has well rounded characters, snappy dialogue, and is a ton of fun.

    Getting back to the soundtrack, it was put together by The Clash’s Joe Strummer; and, though it reflects the era, much of the music isn’t something you heard widely in the period, unless you were a devotee of college radio. English Beat really didn’t get much exposure in the US until their third album Special Beat Services, which had the hit “Save it For Later,” and another song (forget the title and don’t have my cd handy) that was used in the tail end of Ferris Bueller. The song here, “Mirror in the Bathroom,” was from their first album. Maybe Grosse Pointe had more progressive radio. Regardless of the reality, the music fits so well and it’s a pretty diverse and eclectic mix. It was the rare film soundtrack that got a sequel, as did Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion and The Wedding Singer. The key connection is that all three have 80s music soundtracks and the films are right in the height of 80s nostalgia. A personal favorite from the soundtrack is Pete Townsend’s “Let My Love Open the Door (Ecola mix).” It’s a bit slower and more romantic version of the original. I played the soundtrack when my girlfriend and I had a romantic diner and we both fell in love with that version as it really summed us up well.

    One final note: that kickboxing instructor is Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, who won world titles in 5 weight divisions, and was one of the pioneers of full-contact kickboxing, in the US. He is a legend in the martial arts world; but, he had some acting credits before this. He can be seen in Jackie Chan’s Wheels on Meals (one of his Hong Kong films), and Dragons Forever, where he is the climactic opponent (in both films). He also appears in Roadhouse, in the scenes at the auto dealership and trained Patrick Swayze in fighting techniques, for the film. One story told about him (there are several, mostly legends) was that during the filming of Meals on Whells, Jackie Chan was keen to have a charity fight against Urquidez, until someone showed him films of Urquidez’s professional fights. Chan quickly dropped the idea.

    Another great choice and I will have to check out the Sutherland’s Warlord Worlds podcast, as I have been a fan of Mike Grell since he broke in, at DC (man that makes me feel old!)

  3. Jeff – I edited the soundtrack version of “Let My Love Open the Door” with the regular rock version for my wedding. I used the song to segue from a slow dance just for the wedding party to the fast part where all the guests got on the floor.

  4. GROSSE POINTE BLANK has long been one of my favorite movies because a) it’s a damn good film as you and the Sutherlands illustrated, and b) I saw the movie on one of my first real dates in high school. For reasons I never totally understood, some girls at my high school thought I looked like John Cusack. I wanted to believe they meant the Cusack from this film, but really they were thinking of Cusack from BETTER OFF DEAD.

    There is so much I’d like to praise about this movie, but the three of you hit on just about all of my points. The natural chemistry between the actors, especially Cusack and Piven; the effortlessly funny Joan Cusack; the scene with the NSA spooks in the men’s room; the scene with Martin and the baby to “Under Pressure”; Mini Driver’s weird accent when she lets him in her room; “the nada-omelette”; the legitimately awesome hand-to-hand fight between Martin and Felix; the fact that Martin keeps telling people the truth about his profession and nobody believes him because, on the surface, it’s a ridiculous assertion: all of these moments are so damn good and so wonderfully constructed.

    I guess the one other bit that I love that wasn’t covered is Doctor Oatman’s consultations with Martin, despite the fact that he keeps trying to sever their relationship. I love the phone chat that culminates in Martin holding a gun, looking at himself in the mirror, and saying, “This is me breathing.” I used to repeat that line in high school and college anytime I had something challenging to do.

    Great episode, as always, and great to hear the Sutherlands on another show!

    1. Apparently there’s a metal band called This is Me Breathing and some of their songs include titles like “It’s Not Me” and “You’re a Handsome Devil.” Can’t say I actually cared for the music but I smile at the existence of these things.

  5. Great episode. Somehow still a criminally underrated movie.

    Another great scene: When Cusack and Piven are disposing of the assassin’s freshly pen-neck’d body in the furnace. They way they slide the body down the stair rail and violently toss it around is so hilariously disturbing.

    Amazing performances from top to bottom. Hip, quick paced film that still manages to not be some dumb’d down action flick in on 1hr and 47min! Seriously, remember when movies were under 2 hours?

    There are no excuses for 2 1/2 hour train wrecks, when films like this and The Usual Suspects (1hr 46 min) can tell a complete story packed with character development, and limited plot holes in nearly an hours less time.

  6. I absolutely love this movie for many of the reasons you guys say here. There is a sly wit throughout the movie that makes intelligent and funny.

    I also like that Martin keeps telling people he’s a killer. It is only after Jeremy Piven helps him push the dead body into the incinerator that he asks, this time with feeling, ‘what do you do Martin?’

    I have two small segments from the High School Reunion scene that I would add to the ‘favorite bits’. One is Jeremy Piven telling the hot woman that he wrote a paper for her in high school on Precious Metals. He is still trying to get some play from that. I also love that the high school bully pulls out a bad poem he wrote and reads it to the perplexed Martin. Those reunions can be painfully weird and this film pulled it off.

    I also love Joan Cusack. There is a scene where she is screaming expletives over an arms sale only to switch to the other line and calmly talk about a soup recipe. That is awesome.

    And yes, young Anj was a child of 80s/90s alternative rock (I even DJ’d in college) so this soundtrack is about as perfect as you can get.

    Thanks for a great episode!

  7. Excellent episode (as always). Like about half of the movies that are featured on this podcast, I have never actually seen this one. Thanks for turning me onto yet another modern classic.

  8. Just rewatched this movie after listening to your show. Both were excellent.

    Regarding Martin closing the blinds in the radio booth, I believe he did that because he was uncomfortable having his back to a window. He knows Grocer and the two feds are out to kill him. As soon as Debi gets up to close the other set of blinds, Martin trades seats with her. Back to the wall, he can see anyone approaching from the street or interior of the building.

    Or maybe it was just to show he was OCD.

  9. Late to the party, but had to comment. I really enjoyed this movie, but I think I’ve only seen it once! Cindy and I both liked it quite a bit, so now I gotta go see if it’s on Netflix or just buy it.

    As for it feeling like a sequel…is it wrong that in my “head cannon”, this is a sequel to “Better Off Dead”? Given how messed up Cussack’s Lane Myers was in that film, I could see him growing up to be a hitman. I know it doesn’t really work, but given the “continuing adventures” feel of this film, somehow it just fit. Plus, I love “Better Off Dead”.

    Great to hear the Sutherlands on the show!

    Chris

  10. Funny Chris should mention seeing one unrelated John Cuzack movie as a prelude to Grosse Pointe Blank, since I went into High Fidelity with the notion of it being a stylistic sequel, but it was not, and I did not enjoy it the first time as a result. Then a friend I was talking to about it thought that was odd, since I was Rob, the record store was my comic shop, and the two sidekicks were amalgamations of my friends/customers. Narcissism and corrected expectations led me to rewatch Fidelity, and now I’ve seen it many more times than Blank.

    I think it was Illegal Machine that turned me on to Grosse Pointe Blank, though I believe I had to go out and rent it. Also, in our aborted second and final comic shop RPG campaign, Mac wanted his new character to be like Martin Blank, but I cocked that up, which is part of why our group fizzled out. We were only geeky enough for one half-baked clumsy trek before we all had better things to do.

    I saved Grosse Pointe Blank for the entire 7+ years of my relationship as a “rainy day” movie for when my girlfriend could use some cheering up. Inspired by this podcast and a bad day, I finally played it for her… and she is now the only person I know who doesn’t like Grosse Pointe Blank. In fact, I was so put off by her b.s. rationales (so violent!) and poor taste that it left me in an extremely bad mood where I wondered what I’m doing with this person in my life.

    I worked in an adult boutique for 3 years when new management started to take the fun out of the joint. The dude insisted via the new email system that we had to have a mandatory staff meeting on my day off when I had a personal matter to attend to that I wasn’t open to discussing. When he insisted, I offered a cleaned up, work safe summary of Grocer’s attempts to organize an environment meant to be loose, and quit that job via email with the line “No meetings.”

    Excellent actors, script, and soundtrack with transcendent moments of cinema makes Blank a great reply when anyone tries to make out like the ’90s weren’t a seriously cool decade. For instance, one of the ’80s movies that produced a soundtrack sequel? Dirty Dancing.

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