Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

I’m Martin Blank. Do you remember me? I’m not married, don’t have any kids and I’ll blow your head off if someone paid me enough.

So John Cusack wears a trench coat about as often as Julia Roberts expels a hearty chuckle and Tom Cruise runs. What of it? Yes, it features multiple Cusack family members and friends. So what? Everyone’s either trying to squeeze some deeper meaning out of it or point blank doesn’t get it. Yeah? Get what? Get back. I haven’t come across such swift witty dialogue since “The Big Sleep.”

Here’s the sitch: a profession hit man has a job to do back in his home town of Grosse Pointe, which happens to coincide with his ten year high school reunion. While in town he crosses paths with the ex-girlfriend he stood up on prom night to join the army (before he dropped out and went into business for himself), a rival hired to eliminate him and an old frenemy with a ‘join or die’ proposition, all with two government agents on his tail.

They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs and, you know, they’ve all made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. What am I gonna say? ‘I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How’ve you been?’

Corinna, Corinna (1994)

Before “The Help” was a sweet and sassy little movie about the reality of systemic prejudice that actually radiated warmth. But it was by no means light and fluffy. Picture the tail end of the 1950s (when the whitewash had nearly peeled off): a widower hires a woman of color to keep house and babysit his consequently mute daughter. The three form an unlikely family, which obviously infuriates the neighbors, without an ounce of antagonism.

Arlington Road (1999)

The eerily plausible premise of this political thriller plants a tenacious seed of doubt about every “lone gunman” type of conspiracy theory since the assassination of JFK. Who’s to say seemingly random acts of terrorism aren’t at least heavily influenced by unseen players in the game we never seem to know we’re playing until we’ve lost?