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I've had 10 years to kill since our prom night

Grosse Pointe Blank

Directed by George Armitage.

Written by Tom Jankiewicz, Tom Jankiewicz, D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, and John Cusack.

Starring John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Aykroyd, Alan Arkin, and Joan Cusack.

By David V. Rodriguez

Arts Editor

It's a good sign when a studio wants people to see their movie before it opens. Word of mouth is important in determining who sees a movie, and Disney is so confident that talk of Grosse Pointe Blank will be good that they seem to be giving advanced screenings to everyone in sight. (Compare this to The Pest or Carpool, which snuck into theatres without giving the press the chance to preview it.) And Disney has good reason to be confident: Grosse Point Blank is one of the funniest movies this year.

The story is about Martin (John Cusack), a hired killer with some personal problems. 10 years ago, on the night of his high school prom, he ran off and joined the army, leaving his date and everyone else in town wondering where he went. But now he feels that his life is lacking meaning and can't get thoughts of his old flame, Debi (Mimi Driver), out of his mind.

Then he receives an invitation to the Grosse Pointe High 10 year reunion. He doesn't want to go, but his work forces him to be in the town neighboring Grosse Pointe on the weekend of the reunion. His nosy secretary, who's heard plenty about Debi, thinks it's fate. He asks his psychiatrist for advice, who tells him to go to the reunion and confront Debi so he can get some closure. "And try not to kill anyone while you're there."

Martin returns to find to Grosse Pointe to finds his old classmates in more conventional jobs. One friend is a real estate agent, another sells cars. Debi is a disc jockey for the local radio station, and Martin brings the show to a dead halt when he suddenly shows up in the studio. They all ask him what he does and where he's been for the past 10 years. "Business," he tells Debi. A few others he tells that he's a professional killer, but none of them believe him. "Do you need post-graduate work for that?"

Soon Martin's focus changes from the job to getting back together with Debi, and he asks her to be his date to the reunion - a second chance at a prom. Although she still doesn't know what to make of this mysterious reappearance (or the original disappearance), she agrees to go.

Grosse Pointe Blank is the first role leading role in some time for John Cusack, and it's one of his best. The story is centered on efforts to get back with Debi, but it never turns sappy (as it did in Say Anything), largely because Debi doesn't jump into Martin's arms the minute he walks in the door. She makes him work for it.

The dialogue is sharp, and you get the impression that much of what is on the screen was improvised. The story moves along at a quick but natural pace, never getting bogged down in sentimentality or unnecessary plot details.

An extra treat is the soundtrack, comprised mostly of popular 80s tunes.