Tony Scott's The Last Boy Scout arrived at a time when the macho action thrillers popularised in the 1980's were starting to die out. This, combined with its odd Christmas-time release, meant that the film would go on to underwhelm at the box-office, although it would prove a hit in the rental market and reignite Bruce Willis' action career after the failure of Hudson Hawk. It also took a beating from critics, many voicing their displeasure at the foul-mouthed dialogue and particularly brutal violence. It's a shame really, as looking back, The Last Boy Scout really represents the pinnacle of this overly masculine sub-genre, even though it arrived at a time when audiences were growing tired with it. Yes, it's preposterous, crude and slightly misogynistic, but it's also funny, clever and features screenwriter Shane Black at his most quotable best.
The movie begins with making a mockery of American Football's televised musical intros, before diving right into the thick of the action on a particularly dark and rainy night. Running back Billy Cole (Tae Bo guru Billy Blanks) is having a great night on the field before outside pressures and a hit of PCP lead him to shoot up half of the opposition before turning the gun on himself. Deadbeat private investigator Joe Hallenback (Bruce Willis) is acting as a bodyguard for young stripper Cory (Halle Berry), whilst dealing with his own marital problems in a cheating wife and brat daughter. When Cory is killed, her boyfriend - disgraced former quarterback Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans) - finds himself reluctantly buddying up with Joe to slowly unravel a conspiracy that may expose corruption on a massive scale, and offer an explanation for Billy Cole's mysterious suicide. Their snooping isn't appreciated however, and they soon find themselves the target of a criminal gang desperate to cover their tracks and see their plan through to the end.
The Last Boy Scout was famously dogged by production problems, where producer Joel Silver was often cited as the cause of it all. Silver and Willis allegedly took over production, forcing Scott to film scenes he didn't approve of and altering Black's script so much that the finally story barely resembled his original idea. Scott would take revenge in his next film True Romance, where the role of a controlling, cocaine-fuelled producer was modelled on Silver. On top of everything else, Willis and Wayans hated each other. Impressively, these troubles somehow can't be seen in the final product. The chemistry between the two leads is one of the movie's strongest suits, and the plot unravels coherently with more car chases and shoot-outs than you could ever hope for. Scott shoots the film with a glossy commercial aesthetic that works well in the context of the tacky world the film is looking to expose. But the real winner here was Black, who pocketed a cool $1.75 million for his efforts after suffering a setback in his personal life. Despite the changes, this still has the writer's fingerprints all over it, even eclipsing what is undoubtedly his most popular work, Lethal Weapon. They just don't make 'em like this anymore.
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