Classic gem on steelbook, with video impressive a decade ago.
Effortlessly blending punchy fists-and-guns assassin-vs-assassin action thrills with 80s-themed high school reunion romantic comedy, Grosse Pointe Blank is a rare, underrated gem.Boasting a career-high performance from John Cusack – back when he still had that spark and energy, and when he made it work for him too – and an acerbic, offbeat wit to its snappy screenplay, few films before or since have blended such a multitude of flavours with such precision. Co-written by Cusack, who undoubtedly improvised plenty too, particularly opposite a rare on-form Dan Ackroyd, the film introduced us to Cusack’s Martin Blank, a trademark character who Cusack attempted to resurrect several times across his career in various different guises (including the hit-and-miss unofficial sequel, War Inc.). Delivering equal parts bullets and banter, this 1997 flick works almost as well as an engaging action thriller as it does a romantic comedy – and that’s even before you throw in the high school reunion.With the perfect cast assembled, Cusack holds his own against a number of superb counterparts, from Alan Arkin to Dan Ackroyd; Jeremy Piven to Minnie Driver, with whom he shares some great chemistry. It’s not all just comedy, romance, and warm reminiscing – although the actual reunion itself has some fantastic, true-to-life interplay – as the film also boasts some surprise action, from a convenience-store shootout to a fabulously unexpected corridor kickboxing bout (yes, surprisingly, Cusack is a 20 year veteran and level 6 black belt in kickboxing). Grosse Pointe Blank injects just enough wit into the comedy, just enough thrills into the action, just enough poignancy into the drama, and just enough spark into the romance – and rounds it all off with one of the best soundtracks of all time.
Picture QualityThree years after the in-name-only “15th Anniversary Edition” came out in the States, Disney’s Region Free release of Grosse Pointe Blank finally makes it to this side of the pond, at least thankfully not boasting any such pretentions, although sporting the same disappointing video presentation that the US got all those years back.
Although normally trite hyperbole, this presentation actually comes dangerously close to earning that infamous “little more than an upscaled DVD” tag.
Ostensibly a 1080p/AVC-encoded video rendition framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, this is often little more than a poster child for everything you don’t want to see from a presentation. Edge enhancement, banding, variable softness, unstable contrast levels, haloing – there’s no denying that this is still an ‘upgrade’ from its DVD predecessors, however only in the loosest form, and a far cry from what this film might look like had they actually bothered to do a new master for the film’s “15th Anniversary Edition” in the first place. Who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky at the magic 20 mark.
Sound QualityThe DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is much easier to warm to, doing justice to the film’s outstanding soundtrack, and delivering the array of memorable tracks (predominantly 80s) with passion and presence. Dialogue remains reasonably clear and coherent throughout – even Cusack’s rapid-fire wordplay – dominating the fronts and centre channels. Effects are handled adeptly, with the LFE dishing out some respectable oomph to the myriad gunshots that crack out across the stage. Car engines, keyboard taps, and background hubbub remain well-presented, with a nice atmosphere to many sequences.
Despite the problematic video, the audio largely comes up trumps, which is great news for fans of the film’s classic soundtrack.
With everything from Queen & David Bowie’s Under Pressure to A-Ha’s Take On Me; Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now to Violent Femme’s Blister In The Sun; the Guns and Roses version of Live And Let Die to Pete Townshend’s Let My Love Open The Door, the soundtrack – with a score by The Clash’s Joe Strummer (as well as two further tracks from the band) – is a superb blend of 80s (and 70s and 90s) tracks which both serves the 80s Highschool reunion theme, and the equally eclectic blend of action, comedy and romance. Overall, the track may not quite earn its stripes as a demo offering, but it’s still a very good accompaniment for the movie.
ExtrasMirroring the 15th Anniversary release from 3 years ago we get... nothing.
Steelbook Blu-ray Verdict
Not exactly an impressive package on the inside, it's still hard to ignore the fact that this is the film's Blu-ray debut in the UK.
Despite the exclusive Steelbook packaging, this is still just the same 3 year old disc left over from the US '15th Anniversary' release, complete with disappointing video and zero supplements. Thankfully at least the audio is decent enough - allowing you to make the most of the outstanding soundtrack - and fans will struggle to resist picking up this gem in the only guise that it is available in here in the UK.
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