By Brad Laidman | December 5, 2001

“The Last Boy Scout” has a great opening scene. Wide Receiver Billy Cole (Tæ Bo King Billy Blanks), hopped up on God knows what, is having the game of his life, which somehow is not enough for the gambler who calls him at halftime and insists on a winning effort. Memo to wannabe gamblers: When you have something on an athlete, it is widely thought to be more effective to tell him to lose. Winning can be difficult, whereas even I could shave a few points in the other direction. On the final play of the game, Cole needing a touchdown breaks away into the open field, pulls out a revolver and starts shooting his way into the end zone. Upon scoring the winning touchdown, well sort of, he kneels down, says “Ain’t life a bitch!”, and blows himself away. Now there is an innovation in the game we can all get behind. I want to go on record as saying I think the arming of all ends and backs would lend untold stimulation to a game that has gotten sadly stale and overwrought.
The Last Boy Scout was writer Shane Black’s second effort at wringing out every bit he could from the dead body of the Eddie Murphy classic 48 Hrs. He hit big by doing a race reversal on the buddy formula in Lethal Weapon, and even managed a few thrills with this even more derivative Bruce Willis vehicle, before flaming out mightily with the similarly titled Last Action Hero.
I have to admit that at the time I thought Damon Wayans was well on his way to becoming the next Eddie Murphy. He was even funnier on living color than Jim Carrey was and I didn’t know that his righteous anger and credibility would soon be wasted on the likes of Blankman, Major Payne, and any number of really bad long distance commercials.
Bruce Willis stars as Joe Hallenbeck, a once proud secret service agent, who was screwed over by a Senator when he walked in and spoiled the politician’s rape of a young girl. For his heroism he gets to be a down and out detective, drink hard, smoke cigarettes, and scrape money together from lowly places. He is essentially a burned out version of Willis’ David Addison character on Moonlighting.
The best thing you can say about the Last Boy Scout is that it knows full well that it is a movie and a derivative one at that. Willis knows he is supposed to deliver cool, bravado and punch lines despite the gravest of circumstances. His Hallenbeck isn’t truly alive unless someone is pointing a gun at his head. “This is the nineties”, he tells Wayans,” you don’t just go around punching people. You have to say something cool first.”
Wayan’s plays Jimmy Dix, a drugged up equally down and out quarterback thrown out of the league for gambling. It’s amazing how the NFL has never had a player banned from it’s rosters yet disgraced All Pro Quarterbacks seem to be littered around Hollywood. Dix hooks up with Hallenbeck to avenge the death of his girlfriend played by Halle Berry, who gets killed by a guy who plows into her car, logically explaining her reticence to pull over after future accidents. Willis was supposed to be protecting her, but nearly gets blown away by a huge pimp. Together they do their best to pull their lives back together and redeem themselves.
The Last Boy Scout is overwrought, extremely violent, has a relatively unbelievable winding plot, perhaps the foulest mouthed teen ever, tons of low lives everywhere, lots of shots to Willis’ face, and is actually a pretty entertaining effort, an undeniable guilty pleasure. Willis’ Hallenbeck gives a nice argument for integrity at any price, and it’s hard to resist a movie where every pro football game takes place in the driving rain and may include avenging horsemen and high calabur ballistics. The public’s lack of interest was a bad sign for the buddy movie warhorse, but Rush Hours’ Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker had other thoughts.

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