Alright, I gotta get The Last Boy Scout off my chest. It’s been fuckin’ nagging at me for weeks and the only way to set my mind at ease is to talk about why this is such a disappointing piece.
Here’s the deal, this was a powerhouse production. You got mega-producer Joel Silver (way too many important movies to name but here’s a few: Die Hard, The Warriors, The Matrix), mega-writer Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Iron Man 3), mega-actor Bruce Willis (Colorof Night, Last Man Standing) and mega-director Tony Scott (The Fan, Top Gun). Jesus, what could go wrong? Unfortunately, almost everything.
Too much talent for one production? Perhaps. Too much goddamn ego for any situation? Definitely.
Let me point out the negatives and then I’ll end on a few positives.
The story is slightly confusing. We don’t know what’s going on for at least half the movie but that’s by design because it’s supposed to have a film noir vibe with mystery and conspiracy. What’s eventually uncovered (Spoilers for the rest of this paragraph) has to do with the owner of a football team bribing a congressman to legalize sports gambling. The politician doesn’t go for it which makes you think he’s a good guy but it turns out he’s actually a piece of shit that beats women. Bruce Willis used to be secret service and was assigned to the congressman but decked the bastard when he couldn’t ignore his disgusting behavior any longer. Now he’s a down on his luck private investigator. There’s also the team owner’s henchman guy that seems to act like the main bad guy because you see him more and the final showdown is with him. I guess there are too many assholes vying for the villain role and they all come up short in one way or another. The attempt to craft a plot that has more to it than your average action film is appreciated but it mostly fails. Having a football team owner strong arming gambling legislation in order to skyrocket interest in the game is great. But Willis’ backstory and the congressman is too contrived of a way to tie things together.
Bruce Willis is monotone throughout which he tends to do a ton in his pictures. Personally I like him more animated like in Die Hard or Death Becomes Her where he can show off more of a range. In Boy Scout he’s far too depressing and delivers his lines in a very stilted manner. Nothing phases him which makes the stakes feel a lot lower and that’s not as much fun to watch.
It’s not just Willis though, no one’s very good in this. Damon Waynes (I’m Gonna Git You Sucka) plays a disgraced football player that partners with Willis to find out why his girlfriend (Halle Berry (Boomerang)) was murdered. He does a better job than Willis but I have a hard time buying him as a tough guy. His monologue about treating football injuries with painkillers as a gateway for drug addiction is poignant however and one of the few bright spots in here.
And then of course there’re the motherfuckin’ jokes. Goddamn the fucking jokes never stop flying. We’re talking Tango & Cash number of shitty fuckin’ jokes crammed into one movie. None of them are good and what makes it more insulting is that the bad guys always laugh at them. Willis gets out of at least two situations where he totally should’ve died but he makes the scumbag laugh and then miraculously kills him.
I was trying to figure out why the jokes in this film bother me so much but the ones in Tango &Cash and Lethal Weapon are more tolerable. Tango & Cash is a dumb movie but it seems like they were kinda going for dumb (Kurt Russell in drag, the over the top monster truck finale, etc.), as opposed to Boy Scout where they were definitely trying to make a serious action film but with a heavier dose than usual of Shane Black humor. Also, no one in the movie laughs at the shit Tango and/or Cash says, it was totally for the audience. Boy Scout’s comedy bounces around inside its own universe so both the audience as well as the characters within the film take notice and laugh. Lethal Weapon has a bunch of Mel Gibson goofy shit but it seems to be directed at no one in particular. Riggs spits the funny to amuse himself almost exclusively throughout the picture. That’s a very strange idea which sounds like it shouldn’t work. And it probably doesn’t on its own but the rest of the film is so strong that the jokes don’t even really factor in when I watch. I don’t think of Lethal Weapon as an action comedy in the slightest; it just happens to have these silly moments every so often where I think to myself “that’s just Lethal Weapon” (and that goes for Lethal Weapon 2 as well, but not 3 or 4 where the scale started to tip a little too much towards comedy).
Anyway, let’s talk about some good points. One of the cool things the movie has going for it is Tony Scott’s visual panache. He knows how to make a picture look goddamn beautiful and this is no exception.
Another highlight is the Michael Kamen score. He’s a master and doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the excellent work he’s done on films like Die Hard 1-3 (wow that movie came up a lot during this), the Lethal Weapons (damn, that one too), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Brazil and a million others.
Finally there’s the opening sequence. The film as a whole may be pretty terrible but the first five minutes is kinda one of the best things I’ve ever seen. After the incredible credit sequence (made to look like the intro to a real (90’s) football broadcast where it’s basically a music video with a rockin’ song, clips of football shit, crowds, cheerleaders and the whole nine yards (pardon the pun)) we jump into the action at half time. It’s a night game with only a couple of bright spotlights barely illuminating the field. It’s pouring rain so visibility is cut down even further. One of the players in the locker room gets a phone call to step up his game or they’re gonna kill him. That’s a bit of stress. So naturally he gets back out there and whips out a fucking gun during a play and starts running for the end zone (ball in hand by the way) shooting any player that gets in his way. He comes to a stop, takes a knee, utters “ain’t life a bitch” and blasts one through the temple. Wowie holy shit wow. Look, no matter how hard I try I’ll never be able to do this scene justice so here:
I dunno at times the script feels like Shane Black (white and black guys team up, plenty of sarcastic jokes, a kidnapped daughter, LA setting, etc.) and at other times it doesn’t (the mostly uninspired action, the unlikeable/unenjoyable characters, Willis’ self-loathing seems baseless considering he still has his wife and daughter (imagine if Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon was the one that was suicidally depressed and not Riggs, wouldn’t make a lot of sense right?), no Christmas setting even though football season totally encompasses that time of the year, etc.). From what I understand though a lot was changed during filming and the picture was re-edited in an attempt to save it. Sounds like too many cooks to me.
Apparently absolutely no one enjoyed working on this sonuvabitch and boy does it come off that way. There are too many things wrong to point to one particular culprit. The script is muddled, the performances are really flat, there are too many jokes and none of them are funny. Also, the action is scarce but I think they were going for more of a detective thriller type picture so I can’t fault them for that. But the action that we do get aren’t the best ideas and they’re poorly executed to boot, especially for the time.
So bottom line: watch the first five minutes and then put on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang which is the murder mystery comedy Shane Black joint that works much better.