The Last Boy Scout (1991)

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*. Whatever happened to Damon Wayans? I remember when he left In Living Color to make it big in Hollywood, starting with this high-concept picture. And that was pretty much all she wrote. I think he mainly does stand-up now.
*. Sadly, we know what happened to Taylor Negron. He’s the guy who plays Milo here, a memorable henchman, sadistic and fey. He died too soon of liver cancer.
*. Whatever happened to Shane Black? Oh, I know he made his money. At the time, the script for this one set a record at $1.75 million (a mark that only stood for a couple of months before Joe Eszterhas’s Basic Instinct script blew it away). But this was sort of the high point of his career churning out such garbage. Or at least I thought so until I heard he wrote and directed Iron Man 3, which made a lot of money. So I guess he’s still somehow . . . relevant.
*. It was not a happy shoot. Producer Joel Silver hated it. Director Tony Scott hated it. Composer Michael Kamen hated it. The expensive script was changed on the fly. And in the end Warner Bros. had to do a massive re-edit job. Which didn’t help much because in my opinion it’s still crap.
*. A lot of the blame has to be laid at the feet of that script. Did I mention it set a record? I did. And for what? A tired re-tread of Black’s buddy theme (the one that he made his name with on the Lethal Weapon franchise).
*. But no! Joel Silver saw something more here. In his words, what he saw “went far beyond the standard ‘two-guys-who-don’t-like-each-other-at-first-but-learn-to-respect-each-other’ plotline.” Apparently what appealed to him (and made it different?) is that “at its very heart it’s a tale of redemption . . . two lost souls who find themselves through helping each other and joining efforts in a common cause.” Oh. Well. That’s different.
*. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. There is nothing different about this at all. Willis seems downright bored with his role, which is just another tough-talking private dick up against a complex conspiracy involving L.A.’s high and low elements.

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*. But it’s all very silly. I mean, take the opening. It’s quite memorable with the football player blasting his way into the endzone with a handgun, but what does any of it have to do with the rest of the movie? Almost nothing. And What’s the point of callilng Billy Cole and telling him he has to play better? Don’t you usually pressure players to throw games? “You better start scoring some touchdowns”? What? Do they think he’s not trying hard enough to win?
*. Or take the scene where Wayans decides to fast forward the tape in Willis’s car. What, he’s bored? And then the tape is ruined? When a tape machine “eats” the tape you can usually take it out and it isn’t too damaged. It happened to me all the time, back in the day. So what’s the big deal? Why did they even bother introducing the tape as potential evidence in the first place, just to get rid of it with such a contrived and stupid scene?
*. Then there is the dialogue. Someone calls Willis a bastard and he replies “and then some.” This was apparently such a good line we get to hear it three times. And Wayans’s deathless claim that danger is his middle name? We get that twice. Somebody should have asked for their $1.75 million back.
*. Joe is a crafty dick because he can disarm people with guns by making them laugh. He does so by cracking jokes about sex with fat women, like having to roll them in flour and go for the wet spot, or get this one: he slaps them on the thigh and rides the fifth wave in! My god. Those jokes were ancient when I was a kid.
*. The fat jokes are part of another dismaying part of the script, which I’ll leave to Roger Ebert to break down: “The only consistent theme of the film is its hatred of women. The two heroes (Willis and Wayans) have a wife and a girlfriend, respectively, who cheat on them – the wife with Willis’ best friend, the girlfriend by prostituting herself. Both men are at home in this screenplay, which hates women with a particular viciousness; the verbal violence begins by calling them bitches and whores and worse, over and over again, and the message is that a man can only really trust another man. The end of the movie is peculiar in the way it insists on this; the hero, reconciled with his cheating wife, embraces her and whispers vile obscenities into her ear. We are intended to read them as tender. Then he strolls off lovingly with his buddy.”
*. Well, it comes with the territory. Buddies do complain about their bitches and hos. But what really confused me is the ending, when Joe’s wife says “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.” Huh? What is she asking forgiveness for? Their marriage had clearly broken down completely before any of the adventures we see here. Is it because Willis has successfully demonstrated that he’s a true action hero (read: he-man) that she has to be shown crawling back to him?
*. Such is the conclusion reached by Desson Howe writing in the Washington Post. He sees Willis’s violence as scoring points: “In “Scout,” if a woman isn’t a slut or a bimbo, she’s a bitch. Harris [Danielle Harris, playing Willis’s daughter], like her mother, is estranged from Willis. He’ll have to earn her love by killing large numbers of criminals. See, the world is ranked in muscle or armament strength; you show your love through the body count you’ve achieved.”
*. There are other problems with the script. The ending is ludicrous. I don’t know how the hell Milo was supposed to get away. Killing the senator seems like a rather extreme fall-back plan. Then the idea that everyone has a direct line of sight to the crooked owner’s house where he blows himself up and they can all laugh at his destruction is itself laughable.
*. In the final scene, which holds out the (vain) hope for a franchise as Joe adopts Jimmy as his partner, we stand at the cusp of irony. Joe explains how a real detective/action hero has to deliver lines with panache and humour. When you hit a bad guy with a surf board you cay “Surf’s up!” It’s not a funny lline, but at least it’s self aware. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie (which is to say, all of it) is stuck looking backward. Way, way back.

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