My God, what a violent holiday season!
Like the majority of the films that have been written and/or directed by Shane Black, The Last Boy Scout takes place in December. It’s not quite as Christmas-y as some of Black’s other films. I think that I may have spotted a few decorations in the background of some of the scenes. And there’s a scene where private investigator Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) discovers that his daughter (played by a very young Danielle Harris) has been drawing pictures of “Satan Claus.” Otherwise, there’s not a lot of Christmas to be found in this December-set film and perhaps that’s for the best. Seriously, this movie is violent! Not even the comedic relief characters are safe from getting a bullet to the head. This is a film that actually begins with a football player shooting three other players during a game and then saying, “Ain’t life a bitch,” before shooting himself in the head.
The film’s plot isn’t always easy to follow. Joe is a private investigator who drinks too much and whose partner has just been blown up in front of his house. (His partner was also sleeping with Joe’s wife so guess who is now a suspect!) Joe is also hired to act as a bodyguard for a stripper named Cory (Halle Berry). Cory is dating Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans), a former quarterback who used to be Joe’s hero. Then Jimmy got kicked out of the league for gambling and Joe stopped watching football. Cory says that she has a tape recording that will get Joe back into the NFL. But then, Cory is brutally gunned down in the middle of the street and the tape is accidentally destroyed by Joe’s crappy tape player. It’s time for Jimmy and Joe to team up, trade one liners, and uncover the conspiracy.
It all links back to the efforts of football team owner Shelley Marcuse (Noble Willingham) to legalize gambling. Senator Calvin Baynard (Chelcie Ross) is standing in Marcuse’s way because Marcuse didn’t offer him a big enough bribe. Marcuse is planning to assassinate the senator and he’s going to frame Joe for the crime because, in an amazing coincidence, Joe used to be a secret service agent until he caught Senator Baynard torturing a sex worker. Of course, the actual assassination will be carried out by Marcuse’s chief henchman, Milo (Taylor Negron, who is absolutely chilling in the role). Milo rarely shows emotion and always refers to everyone by their formal name. (Joe is called Joseph. Jimmy is called James.) Milo is also a total sociopath, one who will shoot anyone in the head without a second thought.
Shane Black, who is a genius regardless of what I may think of this particular film, has said that he wrote The Last Boy Scout after he broke up with a longtime girlfriend and he was suffering from depression. Disillusionment hangs over almost every frame of the movie. Joe did the right thing and lost his career. Jimmy lost his family on the same night that he played the best game of his career. The Senator is opposed to Marcuse’s scheme solely because he’s not getting enough of a cut. Marcuse is a respected businessman who thinks little of killing strangers. Jimmy and Joe are heroes not because they’re particularly good but because everyone else around them is just so bad. This is also very much a movie about guys doing guy things. I watched it with my brother-in-law and I have to say that I think he got a bit more out of the film than I did. Then again, I also think my sister Megan also got more out of it than I did so maybe I just wasn’t in the mood to watch so many people get shot in the head. It happens.
The Last Boy Scout was directed by Tony Scott so, no matter what else you might want to say about it, the movie looks great. Willis seems a bit bored with the film and Wayans sometimes struggles with the more dramatic moments. In many ways, the film feels like a precursor to Shane Black’s The New Guys, though Willis and Wayans never have the same chemistry as Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling did in that underrated film. However, The Last Boy Scout’s action moves quickly and the screen is always full of neon lights. It’s a well-made action movie though, unlike Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and The Nice Guys, it’s not one that really sticks around in your head after the end credits roll. Personally, I think it needed a little more holiday spirit.