April 13, 1997 [Grosse Pointe Blank]

If Tom Hanks is the new Jimmy Stewart--and I'm not sure he is--then John Cusack is his smirking younger brother--and maybe that makes him the new John Garfield, a little smaller, a little less lucky, with a secret or two keeping him from looking in your eyes too long.

This fits his postmodern hitman in Grosse Pointe Blank--and the title is as cute as the locale is fitting, Grosse Pointe a Midwestern Point Zero where normal meets weird and strikes a bargain--we can see it in Minnie Driver's level gaze, her broad face apprised of the situation with nary a wrinkled brow.  Sure she's pissed at him, taking off all those years ago and returning now with the jitters and a smile that's a little too charming, the glib fratboy with a glimmer of doubt.  But she just keeps watching and waiting, and moves when she figures it's safe to tell him she still loves him.

The movie's soundtrack works well with this pogo-stick uncertainty, late '70s-early '80s New Wave and almost punk, Elvis Costello and the Specials and the Clash, Two-Tone and Stiff Records working overtime to keep the two of them dancing around each other--with a demented Dan Aykroyd--as usual in love with the specs and details of mechanisms and procedures, another hitman in the mix--but so precise he's driven himself just mad enough to pay attention to the voice in his head (his own) that leads him to a showdown as bloody-weird as the Cusack-Driver second chance.

I'm not sure what to make of all this.  It's funny and scary, sad and psychotic, casual in its excesses, a parody of various genres--with a thumbed nose at Genre itself, the conventions of character and plot.  This is Cusack's doing, mostly, his bland face like a pale sky with one ghost of a cloud passing over it, almost darkening, certainly obscuring things just a little.


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