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Grosse Pointe Blank

by Robert L. Waring (January 1998)

You can image how easy this movie was to pitch in Hollywood.  An offbeat dark comedy that can be summed up in one sentence:  A hitman, beginning to doubt his career choice, returns to his hometown to attend his tenth high school reunion and attempts to reunite with the woman he left behind.  There is plenty of gunplay, for those viewers interested in action, and romantic tension for those who prefer a love story.  Sounds like the perfect date movie, but does it have anything else to offer the video renter?

The moral angst of the troubled hitman, played by John Cusack, is at times both amusing and thought provoking.  Given the common metaphor of the attorney as a hired gun, several of the hitman's problems seem relevant to moral dilemmas faced by attorneys.

Cusack's hitman is a generally sympathetic character.  As he is frequently rationalizing, he kills only people who deserve it (not members of Greenpeace, for example).  "There is a reason I show up at your door," he says.  Yet in the same breath, he takes no responsibility for the morality of his actions.   A recurring theme is the hitman's excuse to his victims or to those who merely question the propriety of his line of work.   "Look, it's not me [who is deciding that the victim's past acts justify his execution].  I'm just in this for the money."

Isn't this the same scenario that is played out daily in law offices, boardrooms and courtrooms across America?  Everyone wants to demonize their opponents, so as to justify the means used to exact retribution, but very few want to take actual responsibility for passing judgment or for justifying the sometimes disproportionate vengeance sought.  At the end of the day, most people leave the office secure in the knowledge that they are only doing it for the money.  Someone else has to take responsibility for that, whether it's the client or the system.

There are a number of memorable scenes in the film.   Among them:  an attorney proves that the pen is mightier than the gun, and the hitman demonstrates how television can ruin your mind.  To explain these here would give away too much.

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