a critiQal film review The Last Boy Scout (1991)

  • DVD

Plot: Joe Hallenbeck (Willis), a down-and-out detective, teams up with Jimmy Dix (Wayans), a down-and-out ex-quarterback, to solve the murder of a stripper (Berry), and stumble on corruption at the highest levels in the world of professional football.

643 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 12s)

Bruce Willis, ever since his Die Hard (1988) days has been, at heart, an action hero. Unlike Schwarzenegger and Stallone, however, his action heroes have never been larger-than-life. Instead, he plays the everyman action hero – the guy everyone thinks they could be themselves. And, like normal folk, all of his characters are a bit flawed, making them seem that much more realistic and attainable heroes.

Back in the 90’s, after already knocking out his first successful Die Hard (1988) sequel, he starred in a film opposite Damon Wayans, titled The Last Boy Scout. I remember liking this back in the early 90’s, but hadn’t seen it in awhile.

Would The Last Boy Scout be worth checking out again more than a decade after it’s release, or is this one of those action flicks of the 90’s that would be laughed out of theaters these days?

While Willis has made a career out of playing characters that are in the wrong place at the wrong time, his character this time around, Joe Hallenbeck, private investigator, is a bit of a difference. Instead of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, this P.I. seems to have gotten the short end of the stick too many times, and has now become cynical, depressed and uncaring about the world around him, drinking himself into a stupor just to pass the time.

When a client is murdered right in front of him, he’s resigned to shrug it off and slug on to the next case, but the client’s boyfriend, an ex-football pro named Jimmy Dix, gets him to stay on the case, and, eventually, is able to bring him out of the depression life has sunk him into, and gets him to realize just what he has left.

As Jimmy Dix, Damon Wayans turns in a surprisingly good performance. While he’s more known for goofing off in films (see Blankman), The Last Boy Scout lets him show viewers he’s not bad in action flicks either. Sure, his performance isn’t perfect, but it will surprise a lot of people, as it’s a lot better than most were expecting from him.

Taking it’s cues from films like Lethal Weapon (1987), The Last Boy Scout spends a lot of it’s time turning these two unlikely guys into a buddy cop-type team, complete with wisecracks and one-liners. It’s an unlikely pairing, but Willis and Wayans work decently well together, making their camaraderie a highlight of the film.

While the plot centers around the murdered stripper and goes on to include political corruption and high-stakes gambling syndicates, the action itself goes off the deep-end almost right from the start. From the opening sequence of a football player on PCP going on a rampage on the football field, the action is over-the-top all the way. From a car chase that leads down a 80 degree slope to a grisly helicopter finale for one bad guy, the film takes action movies to the extreme.

Unlike film like xXx (2002), the action sequences don’t ruin the film. Thanks to the slow fleshing out of the characters – along with their banter back and forth – the unlikely duo of Dix and Hallenbeck have wormed their way onto the viewer’s good side. As always, when the viewers are rooting for the good guys, the action sequences just don’t seem as pointless, and even the extremes they go to can be somewhat easier to play off with ruining the film.

Sure, The Last Boy Scout goes to somewhat silly extremes in it’s action sequences on more than one occasion, and sure, the film isn’t without it’s other faults, but the unlikely duo of Willis and Wayans keep this action roller coaster on track for the viewers, and turn the film into something worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a fun (if somewhat mindless) action flick.

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