In 1997, John Cusack co-wrote and co-produced the film “Grosse Pointe Blank” with his high school friends Steve Pink and D.V. DeVincentis. The film grossed more than $31 million worldwide and has an 87 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Set in 1996, the movie is the story of an assassin who returns to his 10-year high school reunion in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Cusack stars as Martin Q. Blank, who sets out to win back his high school sweetheart Debi Newberry, played by Minnie Driver, after he stood her up for their senior prom because he left to join the Army. Once in the Army, his tests revealed he had a propensity for “moral ambiguity” and he is recruited by the CIA to become an assassin. He eventually becomes a contract killer for hire. He returns home to the reunion because it coincides with a hit he has been hired to complete and he decides to win his high school sweetheart back in the process.
Iconic Gen X Soundtrack Emerges
In the film, Driver’s character is employed as a DJ and the film is filled with tracks from the ’80s, harking back to the punk, ska and new wave days when the characters were in high school. It also features songs from the ’70s and ’90s, which were influential to Martin. The original score for the film was composed by Joe Strummer of The Clash and the soundtrack also features two songs from the band: “Rudy Can’t Fail” and “Armigideon Time.”
The soundtrack is a who’s who of ’80s alternative artists, featuring songs from The Violent Femmes, The English Beat, The Specials, David Bowie with Queen, The Jam and more. The movie is filled with such great music that it spun-off a second soundtrack, featuring Siouxie and the Banshees, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Pixies, The Pogues, Dazz Band, Melle Mel, A-ha and Tones on Tail.
The film is also peppered with songs from Martin’s childhood and the film’s present-day, and those songs are cleverly married to its movie scenes. Viewers first hear the ’70s hit “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash as the optimistic song opens the film and the transitions to “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes as we are shown scenes of Martin’s hometown where he grew up. The Guns N’ Roses cover of “Live and Let Die” musically scores the scene when Martin returns to his childhood home, only to find it has been replaced by a convenience store.
“Armigideon Time” by The Clash plays in the background as Martin drives into Grosse Pointe upon his return and “Pressure Drop” by The Specials plays as Martin reunites with Debi at the radio station. At the high school reunion, “Under Pressure” from David Bowie and Queen highlights the pressure felt by Martin upon his return. “Let My Love Open the Door” plays during an intimate conversation between Martin and Debi in the gym’s bleachers.
Cusack and his high school friends are all members of Generation X and they wrote this black comedy a decade after leaving high school. Now, more than 20 years later, the songs from the film perfectly comprise the soundtrack of their youth.