Set in 1996, the movie is the story of an assassin who returns to his 10-year high school reunion in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. John 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 military, 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, but he doesn’t know the target yet, and he decides to win his high school sweetheart back in the process. While the twists and turns are a lot of fun to talk about, I’ll hold off for those who have yet to see the movie or want to watch it again. I will share that there is an awesome scene where Cusack finds himself in the gun fight, with his erstwhile girlfriend, Driver, is nearby and the two discuss the philosophy of life in the middle of a raging fire fight, and with some truly witty comments added by the bad guys.
In the film, Driver’s character is employed as a disk jockey allowing the film to use many great tracks from the ’80s, bringing to the movie a sentimental look 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 Cusack’s character. The original score for the film was composed by Joe Strummer of The Clash and the soundtrack features two songs from the band: “Rudy Can’t Fail” and “Armageddon Time.”
The soundtrack is a who’s who of ’80s alternative artists, featuring music from The Violent Femmes, The English Beat, The Specials, David Bowie with Queen, The Jam and more. The movie contains such great roster 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 (Ouch!).
“Armageddon Time” by The Clash plays in the background as Cusack drives into his old hometown of Grosse Pointe, “Pressure Drop” by The Specials plays as Martin reunites with Driver at the radio station she works for. Later, 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.
The movie can be seen to talk to the audience on several levels; the verbal dialog, the actual action, and then the language of Generation X, music. The movie is darkly comedic, speaks to us about the Generation X experience, and takes us back to time when musical culture informed who we were and how we saw the world as members of the “Lost Generation.”
Mark Burton is the visionary founder and a Managing Director at Pop-Daze Entertainment. Prior to creating the Pop-Daze Universe, he was an attorney and a partner in a private equity firm. His love of legacy music led him to leave the world of finance and find his own niche in the music industry. He is ultimately responsible for every aspect of your experience and always loves hearing from “Dazers!” It should be noted that while he does play the drums, he’s not very good at it, yet! He can be reached at [email protected]