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Mr. Newberry: What have you been doing with your life?
Martin Blank is a disaffected hit man. After completing his most recent job, he gets an offer from a professional rival looking to form a Weird Trade Union of assassins and professional killers, which he refuses. Then there's an invitation to his high-school reunion, which he also refuses, until a job comes up in his hometown. He heads back to Grosse Pointe, followed by a slew of other hitmen from the union looking to change his mind and two overly enthusiastic NSA agents also out to get him. Along the way he comes to grips with his emotional issues and reconnects with Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver), the girl he left behind ten years ago.
Contains examples of:
- Affably Evil: Martin as well as all the other assassins in the film.
- All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Somewhat lampshaded, as the character played by Jeremy Piven confesses that despite all of his successes, he feels worthless without gaining the attention of the Alpha Bitch from high school.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Grocer is anxious to recruit Blank into his Hitman Guild, so there won't be any more "embarassing overlaps."
- Arc Words: You're a psycho!
- The Atoner: Martin, near the end of the film.
- Audible Sharpness: When Martin uncaps the pen to kill Felix.
- Ax Crazy: Grocer
- Badass: Martin.
- Badass Adorable: Martin's chipper secretary discusses recipes on one line while hardballing arms dealers on the other.
- Black Comedy: Well, the main character is a hitman, and it's about him going home for his 10-year high school reunion. It's kind of obvious.
- Bottomless Magazines: Blank is often seen reloading his weapons, but in this scene, The villain in this scene is never seen/heard reloading, and fires way more bullets than his guns should theoretically be able to hold.
- Byronic Hero: Martin
- Burger Fool: The air-headed guy who works at the convenience store which used to be Martin's home and on account of his headphones is completely oblivious to a brutal fight between Martin and an assassin.
- Can Not Tell a Lie: Martin tries to come up with fake jobs to tell people in private but winds up telling almost everyone he meets that he is a professional killer. Not that they believe him until later.
- California Doubling: There are no palm trees in suburban Detroit.
- Career Killers: A boatload of them.
- Cast the Expert: Benny the Jet, a legendary kickboxer as well as Cusak's personal trainer, has a role as an assassin.
- Casting Gag: As a teen, John Cusack starred in several movies of the 1980s. Now he plays the Darker and Edgier lead in a movie filled with 80s nostalgia, both on a meta level and in-universe.
- Catch Phrase:
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Martin is given a pen by a former classmate, which he soon uses to kill an assassin who attacks him.
- He doesn't open the dossier on his target for some time, and it turns out to be his girlfriend's father.
- Averted: Terry the security guard shows Martin his gun at the dance with the assassin on the way, and it never comes into play.
- Combat Pragmatist: While in the middle of grappling with another hitman out to kill Martin, he winds up killing his enemy by stabbing him in the neck with a pen. He also ends up killing Grocer with a TV set.
- Concealment Equals Cover: Both combatants use the shelves in a convenience store as cover during a heated gun battle. It works.
- Contrived Coincidence: If Martin's target hadn't been Debi's father, the movie would have been half an hour shorter with a Downer Ending.
- Corporate Samurai: Martin (and by extension Marcella too) combines the personality of a ruthless businessman with that of an assassin and all of the hits he does during the movie involve him being hired by an auto company to kill whistleblowers.
- Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: During one of his sessions, Martin revealed out of the blue that he was a career killer, and while his psychiatrist wants nothing to do with him, he keeps showing up.
- Dead Air: Debi when Martin walks into her studio.
- Deadpan Snarker: Martin, Dr. Oatman, Debbi and Marcella.
- Deadly Euphemism: Used a good deal by all of the assassin characters (e.g. after botching a hit, Martin complains to his psychiatrist about problems with "concept execution"), and is Lampshaded by one of the NSA agents after referring to "waxing" Martin. He complains about the other using weasel words like that, wondering why the other can't simply say "kill".
- Diegetic Switch: in this case, "Live and Let Die"-getic.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Martin, to himself, says that he'd kill nearly any of his classmates for the right price. However, earlier in the movie, he flat out refuses a job to blow up a Greenpeace ship on moral grounds.
- Expy: The film War Inc. which also stars both Cusack siblings is a Spiritual Successor to this one, and they play basically the same characters with different names (although more sociopathic in both cases).
- Fake American: Brit Minnie Driver as Cusack's old love interest
- Freudian Excuse: Lampshaded, as in one scene, Martin mentions his childhood problems (an alcoholic father and crazy mother) as probably having a role in his career choice. He even comments that while these don't justify his behavior, they explain it.
- Genre Savvy: Both Blank and Grocer.
- Grave Marking Scene: After visiting his crazy mother in an asylum, Martin is shown visiting his father's grave and pouring out a bottle of alcohol... then keeps pouring until the bottle is empty... and then drops the empty bottle on the grave. It's clearly not a tribute.
- Guns Akimbo:
- Martin does this during the film's climactic gun battle and the Store shootout.
- Grocer perforates his target with two handguns in the prologue, as well as in the climax.
- Headphones Equal Isolation: A guy in a convenience store playing Doom and listening to Motorhead is oblivious to a gunfight happening all around him.
- Heel Realization: Martin realizes how hollow his life is before the movie plays out, but it isn't until the reunion that propels him to do something about it.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Martin.
- Hitman with a Heart: The film is one of the best examples of this trope.
- Improvised Weapon User: "I killed the President of Paraguay with a fork". During the film, Martin also kills with a fountain pen, a frying pan and a TV Set.
- Incestuous Casting: Joan Cusack's character seems to be harbouring a crush on Martin. Then again, the Cusacks have a long and disturbing history of this trope.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: An old schoolfriend of Martin's at the reunion, after helping him dispose of a body.
- In Love with the Mark : Or in this case, his daughter.
- Ironic Echo: Grocer's "Popcorn!", later used when Martin kills him with a TV.
- Justified Title: His name is Martin Blank, and he returns to his hometown of Grosse Pointe. He shoots people.
- Karma Houdini: Martin murders several people over the course of the film, including at least one who was at least notionally innocent of wrongdoing, and gets away with it.
- Large Ham: Grocer.
- Loners Are Freaks: Parodied with a Lampshade Hanging:
Martin: I don't wanna join your goddamn union! Loner, get it? Lone gun! That's the whole point!
- Mirror Monologue: Blank rehearsing for the reunion dance.
"Hi! I'm Martin Blank, do you remember me? I'm not married, I don't have any kids, and I'd blow your head off if someone paid me enough."
- Mood Whiplash: Most of the fight scenes pop out of nowhere side by side with the "man comes home and reconnects with his past" story. It's hilarious and deftly handled. The fact that 80s hits often play over the fights doesn't hurt.
- Motor City: Or rather, its poshest suburb, Grosse Pointe.
- Mysterious Middle Initial: Martin Q. Blank
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Arguably, Martin's justifications make him an example of this type.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: It's never stated outright, but basically, Martin's employer for his hits during the film is an automobile company that wants to prevent its execs from testifying against it. That there are several auto companies in Michigan makes this plot sufficiently ambiguous that it doesn't slander any one company.
- Nothing but Hits: Justified, as the film's soundtrack comprises 1980s hits played by one character on a radio station, choosing this playlist in honor of the the reunion.
- Oblivious Janitor Cut: The Ultimart clerk plays an arcade game while a gunfight rages all around him. He doesn't notice until the protagonist yanks him out of the shop before it explodes.
- Once Killed a Man with A Noodle Implement: "What am I supposed to say to people? 'I killed the President of Paraguay with a fork. How have you been?'"
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Felix the Frenchman claims the name tag of a no-show to gain entry to Martin's reunion.
Felix: It is I...Sidney Feldman!
- Pet the Dog: In a memorable scene, Martin holds a baby and the infant takes to him immediately. More importantly, Martin takes to the baby just as quickly. Or, at least, has a revelation about people, life, etc... This is somewhat subverted, as the positive impression the audience and his love interest receive of him is shaken by a brutal killing (although in self defense) he commits soon afterward.
- Punny Title: The title is a pun on Grosse Pointe (the setting), "point blank," and the main character's last name (Blank).
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Grocer and Blank, respectively.
- Sassy Secretary: Marcella.
- Sarcastic Confession: Whenever a character asks what Martin's profession is, he tells that that he is an assassin, but everyone assumes he is joking.
- Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: He tries to reestablish his bullying relationship with Martin, who's moved on so far in his life that he can't even be bothered to beat him up. In response, the bully tries to open up to him and read some poetry, but Martin has no interest in reconcilliation either.
- Service Sector Stereotypes: There is a ditzy waitress in the diner Martin and Grocer go to; the guy who works at the convenience store (formerly Martin's home) has a Burger Fool personality; two of the assassins Grocer wants for his Weird Trade Union are Filipina maids who are described as "queens of the hotel hit".
- The man on a bicycle in one of the assassination set pieces recalls a bit of recurring physical comedy in Cusack's earlier Better off Dead.
- In one scene, Martin attempts to assassinate someone by dripping poison down a thread hanging from the ceiling. This method was taken from You Only Live Twice. which itself borrowed the idea from a Japanese Ninja movie Shinobi no Mono (Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay to the former and had seen the latter while in Japan).
- The failed assassination that gets Martin a lot of ribbing is either a shout-out or a case of Strange Minds Think Alike to a method successfully used in the Jack London story Moon-Face.
- Strange Minds Think Alike:
"I'm in love with your daughter and I have a newfound respect for life."
- Strawman Political: Both Grocer and Martin. Grocer is a psychotic version of a corrupt blue-collar teamster type, although the union he intends to form is one of assassins; Martin expresses some conservative/objectivist statements to the effect that being a hired killer is a perfectly acceptable job, and is implied to have participated in some of America's less savoury actions during the late Cold War. John Cusack gave an interview where he commented on the film from his political perspective.
- Sympathetic POV: When the protagonist is an assassin, it makes it easier for the NSA agents antagonistic to him to seem like Those Two Bad Guys.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Played with in the conversations between Martin and Grocer; also, the two NSA agents.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer reveals that Martin's target is his girlfriend's father. It seems pretty clear that this was intended to be a big reveal in the third act.
- Trash the Set: Ultimart gets turned to ash in the middle of the film.
- Weird Trade Union: Lampshaded/Parodied as Dan Aykroyd's character is interested in creating a union for assassins. Martin considers this idea stupid, given that people become assassins precisely because they are loners who don't work well with others.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Martin's best friend and girlfriend eventually find out he wasn't joking about his job. Neither of them are happy, and let him know it.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Martin Blank returning to his childhood home and visiting his mother.
"But I guess you can shop there."
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Subverted. When Martin tells his secretary that he's retiring and has left something in the office for her, she thinks that he's having her killed, but it's actually a retirement fund for her.