Way back in the year of our Lord, 1991 Tony Scott directed a little film written by Shane Black. The script for that film set an industry record for the price the studio paid for it. $1.75 million for the script, with over a $1 million guaranteed up front. That film is the excellent The Last Boy Scout.
The Last Boy Scout stars Bruce Willis coming off the very lame and stupid Hudson Hawk. He was paired with the then red hot Damon Wayans. There was also a small part for a very young Halle Barry. The film is a neo-noir action movie with clear LA detective genre vibes, and then a lot of very funny comedy added in.
The plot is pretty simple. Wayans is an ex-star football player who got kicked out for gambling. His girlfriend, played by Berry, tries to blackmail his old boss to get his job back. Knowing how crooked he is, she hires private detective Willis to be a bodyguard for her. She buys the rice paddy in a professional hit, so Wayans and Willis set out to discover what happened. What follows are the adventures of these two as they figure out what is going on, while dogging hitmen themselves and taking a hell of a lot of abuse along the way.
The movie is famous for having some of the best one-liners ever uttered in any action movie, ever. These include:
“I think I fucked a squirrel to death and don’t remember.”
“Water’s wet, the sky’s blue and women have secrets.”
“I spilled my warm cup of piss.”
“Boombah baby! Two for Two!”
“Satan Claus is out there Jimmy.”
“Why yes officer apparently this gun has too many bullets.”
Bruce is at his 1990s peak in The Last Boy Scout. He is the long suffering, everyman slob with a wife who has been cheating on him with his best friend, a daughter who hates him, and a booze and self-hating problem.
He is unable to get over being fired from his former job in the Secret Service after punching a corrupt senator who was beating-up an escort. No one plays slob-hero like Bruce Willis. Wayans has great chemistry with Bruce in this film. I would rate it his best film as well. Oddly enough, he isn’t even half as funny as Bruce Willis is in the film.
Both of them take a lot of licks and get the shit beaten out of them by the bad guys all the way through The Last Boy Scout. They manage to win through in the end from good detective work, being able to take a beaten and no small amount of luck. The end is extremely satisfying and you know that we are seeing the origin story of a beautiful future partnership.
The action is as stylish and as over-the-top as you would expect from Tony Scott. That is not a bad thing. It looks great with just enough of that 1980s style in it to place it firmly in that sweet spot of Hollywood action movies, between the end of the 80s and that time in the 1990s when movies became solidly that now familiar 1990s aesthetic. Think of Terminator 2, The Last Boy Scout, and Point Break. If you didn’t live through it, you would find that time and that look of movies hard to pin down.
Critics didn’t really like it and it was considered a box office let down (eye-rolls) yet it is an action masterpiece. There is no woke here. Woke wasn’t even invented then. This is all full on cynical action movie, cynical about authority, cynical about women, violent, glorious. It also has one of the best one-liners liners ever said in the genre, for my money.
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One of the best Bruce Willis flicks for sure. 16 Blocks is another good one; a little post-1990’s but all that grit with a sniff of disorder and decrepitude in the character he plays that Willis can do so well.