Film: Video Watch

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Those of you itching for ex-brat-packer John Cusack to make a duff movie will be sorely disappointed by this cracking black comedy. Disillusioned assassin-with-compassion Martin Blank (Cusack) returns to Grosse Point for the Class of '86 reunion to kill two birds with one silenced revolver, planning to bin the despatch career after one final "contract" and find redemption in the arms of his "prom" sweetheart, Minnie Driver. Other than the matter of Blank's career choice, the plot is standard-issue romantic comedy, crisply handled by director George Armitage. The film's real stopping power lies in its high-calibre dialogue, taking its refreshingly black tone from the trade which Blank is finding difficult to abandon. Driver and Cusack keep the cuddles pleasingly spiky, but it's the latter's exchanges with Dan Akroyd (back to form as a rival hitman promising to unionise the profession) and his sister, Joan Cusack, (Blank's quirky PA) that lift the film above the potentially dreadful Nikita with laughs it could have been. Best of all, Alan Arkin pops up in a cameo role as Blank's edgy shrink, appalled by his patient's dispassionate attitude to his brutal occupation, yet too terrified to stop treating him. A sure thing even without Arkin, Grosse Point Blank is a dead cert with him.



Dangerous things, trailers. Bean's confined itself to a second-person shot of Rowan Atkinson's rubber-faced fool gurning in a passport photo- booth. A metallic sample from Terminator and a snatch of screaming strings from Cape Fear rammed home a half-decent, if obvious, joke, and it crossed your mind that everyone had maybe been a bit sniffy about Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis's internationally successful creation. Like I said, dangerous. As the Royal National Gallery's worst ever employee, Bean is (of course) called upon to deliver Whistler's portrait of his mother to a gallery in the US. Mel Smith could have done a worse job of directing Richard Curtis and Robin Driscoll's risible assortment of slapstick, sight- sags and low-grade Bean-abroad mishaps - but not much. To see Sir John Mills (yes, that Sir John Mills) degrade himself in this sub-Benny Hill farce saps the will to live. It's often said that Bean is a character you either love or hate, so how come everyone I know seems to hate him or really hate him? The ultimate movie disaster.



As if to illustrate how tough it is to deliver wit with a chill, along stumbles this queasy marriage of jilted love and pathological obsession. It opens with a nicely sour conceit for the most saccharine of leads: Matthew Broderick's ex has left him for Meg Ryan's ex, so the left-overs shack up together across the street to plot the downfall of their lost loves' fledgeling relationship. It's a pity it's all downhill from there. While Broderick's timid astronomer sets up a camera obscura to provide the "I spy" visuals, Ryan's feisty photographer lays on the sounds with some high-powered bugging devices and each night the pair kick back on the sofa to nurse their grievances. Except that they don't seem more than mildly peeved. Just when director Griffin Dunne seems to have geared himself (and us) up for a self-reflexive, dysfunctional Rear Window, he loses his nerve and settles uneasily for an oddball romance. The flat script barely raises a chuckle though, and you're palmed off with Ryan's and Broderick's mannered attempts to portray the near-psychotic obsession of their characters. Broderick's dementia amounts to nothing more than a slight beard, with the result that he wears the moue of a chipmunk with five o'clock shadow throughout. Worse still, we're meant to infer that Ryan's crazed, devil-may-care habits obviously reveal her innate derangement: riding a motorbike and wearing second-hand clothes could damage your mental health.


Mike Higgins