John Cusak has a rich history of performing in some of the most ingenious cult films of all time. The boombox scene from Say Anything is iconic. His comedic chops in the oddball comedy Better Off Dead… were deadpan lunacy. He brought Nick Hornsby’s High Fidelity to beautiful life. He also showed real darkness in some of his lesser-known roles. The Jack Bull TV movie, in which Cusak plays a deadly determined rancher named Myrl Redding was transformative. His intensity in that role explains why Danny Trejo, Machete himself, said Cusak is one of the few men in Hollywood he fears.
More To The Point
Grosse Point Blank is a celebration of all that is J.C. It was also my introduction to Mr. Cusak’s work. The cliff notes version of the film’s plot is that Cusak plays Martin Blank, a hitman on his way to his high school reunion. The film is a dark-er comedy – given that Blank is a hired gun – but it feels so surreal that the reaper’s grim specter is kept well at bay by a sense of unreality.
Minnie Driver is at her most adorable and charming as the girlfriend who got away, and Dan Akroyd plays hard against type as a glib psychopath looking to recruit Martin for a killer’s worker’s union. Killer’s union? Moving along. Repeatedly accused sexual harasser Jeremy Piven does show up, but if you can look around the man to the performance, it’s sidekicking done to perfection.
Character actors abound, such as the great Michael Cudlitz showing up as a trashed-out BMW salesman. Pursuing Martin in a Caprice Classic station wagon are Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman – who I recall best as Mr. Trick in Buffy’s 2nd season. Martin periodically calls his terrified therapist, played by Alan Arkin. Minnie Driver’s captain of industry father is Mitchell Ryan, Jim Carrey’s boss from Liar, Liar.
John’s sister Joan is the true scene stealer, as the mentally unbalanced assistant to her murderous boss. Between screaming obscenities, handing out recipes, giving advice, and then gleefully preparing to burn the business to the ground, she’s an unhinged delight.