4 out of 5
Directed by: Tony Scott
Hyper masculine as fuck, Tony Scott’s The Last Boy Scout was audience-tested and producer-mandated-tweaked to death, scrubbing off some of the delightful scuzz of Shane Black’s down and dirty noir script in favor of some “Die Hard In A Stadium” antics and slo-mo bloodshed, but dammit – this still succeeds as such a damn fun movie that mostly maintains its genre undercurrents and tongue-in-cheekness, while also giving us prime wise-cracking Willis and a tolerably-cracking Damon Wayans. Yes, before the flick devolves into action movie excesses, it’s at its best, giving us a great, deadbeat-PI turn from Bruce and allowing Damon to flesh out his role beyond snippy sidekick, but again, its wins so far outshine its eye-rolling, wow-we-were-pretty-pigheaded-back-then affects that it’s remained as a highlight of Tony Scott’s hyper-masculine-as-fuck oeuvre, Shane Black’s iterations on his underdog heroes, and Bruce’s prime output. Lines still make me laugh; Scott’s crooked, exciting camera work still amps me up during the action; and the way Shane’s script twists in and out of PI tropes and a validly overblown-for-the-big-screen conspiracy bit that makes sure that everyone gets their just desserts by film’s end still rather impresses me. That is: every time I rewatch Last Boy Scout, I expect it to be much dumber than it is. And it is dumb, but it’s like all of its Hollywood dumbness can’t suppress the badass-film-that-could at its core.
Bruce Willis plays PI Joe Hallenbeck, whose kid hates him, whose wife hates him, whose best friend sleeps with his wife, and who wakes up every morning with a mantra about how much he hates himself. On the morning of our film, he’s actually woken up by some pranking kids tossing a dead squirrel into the back seat of his car in which he’s sleeping, and his friend – also a PI – is blown up via carbomb after passing off a job to Joe. Joe smokes some cigarettes and does said job: protecting a stripper (played by Halle Berry) whose boyfriend is Jimmy Dix (Wayans), a pro footballer banned from the league due to drugs. Dix and Hallenbeck square off initially, but become our cinematic buddy cop teamup, and ping one-liners off one another as they stumble across a wayward bit of double-dealing in the league That Goes All The Way To The Top!!
Despite apparent trouble between its two stars, Bruce and Damon pair up well on screen; the script’s constant rewrites are apparent in the way that Shane seems to be digging into – to a degree – drug addiction in sports (in all its masculine-as-fuck bravado, the opening sequence has a pill-popping player produce a gun on the field and shoot members of the rival team) before swerving off onto a tangent, but the flick’s momentum throughout makes the loss of its potentially more interesting lower-key story totally acceptable, ’cause Bruce tells a guy he’s going to punch him and kill him and then he does.
You see I can keep going back and forth like this, right? The point is: The Last Boy Scout is the kind of big budgeted action movie that – say it with me – just isn’t made anymore. At some points in the flick, you can say that maybe that’s for the best – that maybe we’ve learned some things between now and then – but then every laugh out loud one-liner and brilliant bit of post-Die Hard casual savagery makes me think otherwise.