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The Last Boy Scout

Warner Home Video

Starring Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans

Written by Shane Black and Greg Hicks
Directed by Tony Scott

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Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) is as low as he can get. Once a heroic Secret Service agent who took a bullet for the president, Hallenbeck was later fired for knocking four teeth out of a senator engaged in violent S&M. Now a private dick, Hallenbeck has lost his and his family's respect — to the point that his 13-year-old daughter cusses him out and his wife is caught having an affair with his best friend. He'd rather sleep in his car than go home, and his plans for the future consist of smoking cigarettes.

Hallenbeck meets a soul mate in Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans). A former pro quarterback, Dix was kicked out the league for gambling and drugs, shortly after his pregnant wife was killed by a runaway truck. Together, Hallenbeck and Dix epitomize life-gone-wrong. And everything continues to go south after they meet and join forces to uncover corruption in pro football.

Writer Shane Black — who sold this script for a then-record fee — twists his mastery of the action genre (as evidenced in his debut Lethal Weapon) into a combined resurrection, parody, and celebration of the form at its most hyperbolic. Never was a movie duo as grimly, harshly, and humorously aggrieved as Willis and Wayans. Both actors are given characters with nothing left to live for, and whom hope has repeatedly torn asunder. Black claims his script was inspired by the stories of Raymond Chandler, but it comes closer to the Book of Job with explosions and gun fights, and a morbid sense of humor.

It seems the only thing that keeps these two soldiers of misfortune fighting along is their rueful amusement at how bad it keeps getting. The Last Boy Scout is chock full of the required one-liners, but not in the sound-bitey, hollow manner of a Schwarzenegger film. Willis and Wayans trade quips naturally, as method of survival. When their jokes fall flat, they're conscious of it, and seem resigned to accept one more failure.

Although many recent action directors emulate the visual style of Tony Scott, none of his aesthetic progeny have yet shown the knack for pacing or character that the master employs again so skillfully here. Scott's Los Angeles is a dark haven of glamorous grit, like the world of Miami Vice shot hazily through the blurred eyes of a listless alcoholic . The first half-hour of The Last Boy Scout slowly unravels its characters' rueful pasts, beating them further down into their exaggerated despairs with each explosion and gunshot.

Sadly, The Last Boy Scout's narrative excesses seemed to alienate conventional action fans, and despite some great stunts, fights, and car chases, it didn't meet the lofty box office expected of it. For those who love a little bit of creativity and craziness mixed in with the carnage, though, it's among the best you can find. The amusingly politically incorrect epilogue caps it all of perfectly. Also with Halle Berry as Wayans' girlfriend, and Taylor Negron as one of the prissiest villains ever.

Presented in 2.35 widescreen (pan and scan on the other side) and 5.1 Dolby Digital. Extras include textual supplements, the original trailer, and trailers of recommended titles (such as Sylvester Stallone's Cobra).

— Gregory P. Dorr

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