Authorguy's Blog

Tying it together 1

Posted on: December 23, 2010


Well, a bit of a revision is in order. For reasons I have no desire to get into the release date of St. Martin’s Moon is being pushed back to May 2011. This is a good thing; it gives me time to work myself up to consider not panicking at the thought of a blog tour, for example.  It also gives me time to do more posts about my favorite stories, which would be most helpful if I ever actually started writing posts about my favorite stories. So here I am.

There is a problem though, in that I have so many favorites that I don’t really know where to start. So I decided to ask my daughter to bring me any movie at all from our DVD rack. So the topic of the day is Grosse Pointe Blank.  Be warned, there will be spoilers in here.

First of all the movie stars John Cusack. That’s a draw right there, since I’ve loved almost everything he’s been in since I first saw him in Say Anything. He  creates such quirky characters, usually with a tendency to run on at the mouth, and the dialog he utters is clever and interesting.

Second, he’s playing an assassin who wants to stop being one.  This by itself makes for a good movie, but the reason why he wants to stop is what makes this movie great. All his life he’s been the Outsider, never really belonging to or with any person or group with the exception of the woman he ‘loves’, who he leaves since he wants to kill something and he’d rather it not involve her in any way. The backstory to all this is brilliantly brought into the present in a number of scenes: pouring a bottle of something alcoholic on his father’s grave, a scene with his addled mother, who forgets his name when he walks around a column, and his home, turned into a convenience store while he wasn’t looking by his best friend. (This is very similar to a scene in Burn Notice, where Michael’s mother says, “You have to trust us”, and he replies “Where would I have learned that?”, or words to that effect.) So instead of taking the girl to the prom he joins the Army, learns to be a killer, and spends the next decade plying his trade.

Then something happens, a satori experience that only gets a line, during the final climactic battle sequence. A feeling of connectedness between all living things. The Outsider is becoming an Insider, but he doesn’t know how.

What he does know is that his work is suffering, little mistakes that mar what should have been perfection, leaving his clients unhappy. The most crucial of these is the death of a dog that takes place before the movie begins, but for which he is held responsible. It was his operation, and he even feels guilty that an animal came to harm during it. In addition a second mistake forces him to take on a job he doesn’t want, forcing him to go home and earning the wrath of another assassin who planned to do the job himself.

His ambivalence is displayed in two ways: he insists on ‘therapy’ sessions with a psychiatrist who’s afraid of him, yet he says nothing of what he does to the friends he meets again, even though they all want to know. He does tell them he’s a professional killer but they all take it as a joke, and he makes no attempt to convince them. I’ve seen the therapy idea since, both in the Sopranos and in Analyze This, but I saw it first here.  The bulk of the movie is spent with him reconnecting with his past, all while being shadowed by other professional killers who have no idea what’s going on.

Another great effect is the soundtrack, which essentially narrates his journey of self-discovery (although I had to wait until I saw it on DVD before I realized this).  At the reunion he receives a second satori experience, called a shakabuku in the film (“a swift spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever”), when he holds a friend’s baby while the bridge of ‘Under Pressure’ is playing, singing of love and second chances.  The climactic battle occurs almost immediately after, in stages, the one assassin after him for the dog, whom he fights in the school with ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’ as the backdrop.

The girl, with whom he’d been reconnecting under slightly false pretenses, runs away from the real him. This matches his self-loathing, and at his lowest ebb he fires his therapist and goes to find his target, expecting to get killed in the process. The only real contrivance of the film is here, that the target is the girl’s father, thus giving him a second second chance. Faced with the reality of violence, she comes to accept that sometimes violence is a necessary response, perhaps the only one. The movie ends on this note, ambivalent to the end.

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