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The Last Boy Scout

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Sometimes you get in the mood for a certain type of thing and movies are no different. I have been craving good action movies lately, so I decided to watch something from the golden age for action movies: the 80s and early 90s. I’ve never actually seen this movie in its entirety either, so I was excited to finally see it.

Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) is a former secret service agent turned private investigator. Joe hates…well everything. He doesn’t get along with his wife (Chelsea Field), who he eventually finds out is cheating on him, and his daughter (Danielle Harris) thinks he’s a piece of shit. He also drinks a lot and is generally miserable. Ever notice PI’s are always the scum of the Earth in fiction? Even when they are the good guys? I don’t know what it is about it, but it works.

The Last Boyscout

So anyway, Joe gets a call from his friend and colleague Mike (Bruce McGill). Mike offers a job to Joe, because he knows he needs the work. The job entails acting as a bodyguard for a stripper named Cory (Halle Berry). Cory has been harassed recently by an unknown individual. I think he was sending her letters and making phone calls? I forget the specifics, but it’s implied it is a mystery man and she believes it to be one of her customers.

Her boyfriend does not care for this. For starters, he’s very jealous and doesn’t want other men around her; which is ironic given her profession. He (Damon Wayans) is also angry, because he thinks this means she thinks he can’t take care of her. See, Jimmy (Wayans) is a former football player and therefor a tough guy. When his girlfriend hires a bodyguard, he takes it as a personal insult to his manhood.

Before I continue, I have to explain a little more about Jimmy. Jimmy was a very promising young player, but got kicked out of the league for gambling. As a player, betting on games is discouraged.  He spends most of his time drunk or high to cope with the pain of losing his job and opportunity to make millions. The owner of the team he used to play for lets him hang around the stadium and attend team parties out of pity.
Speaking of gambling and owners, that’s where the bad guys come in. There is a plot by at least one of the owners in the league, and a crooked politician, to legalize gambling. In this universe, ratings for football are down, so this owner wants to legalize gambling; thinking people would take a greater interest if they had money riding on the game. It’s an interesting commentary, because that’s pretty much why football is as popular as it is now. It’s not that nobody likes football, but it’s also no coincidence it’s the most bet on sport in the world. This is where Joe and Jimmy come in. I won’t say how the two of them are connected, or how they get involved in this case, but they do.

The Last Boyscout

The buddy cop genre has been around for a while now and comes in many forms, but it really blew up in the 80s through the early 90s. I think the success of Lethal Weapon had something to do with that.  Speaking of Lethal Weapon, both that movie and this one were written by the same guy, which is probably one of the reasons I enjoy it. Shane Black has written several movies I like, but these ones actually feel like cousins. Some compare this to Die Hard because of the Bruce Willis factor, and I can agree Joe feels similar to John McClane (though Joe is probably even rougher around the edges), but the movie itself feels very Lethal Weapon in style and tone. It has humor, but not at the expense of the action. Shane Black pretty much invented, or at least pioneered, comedy in action movies.

Bruce Willis makes a lot of movies and when you make a lot of movies, there’s a fair share of bad ones in there. He still makes good movies (Looper, for example), but this was during an era when he was still at his peak. He was extremely tough, and coolness personified, at this point in his career. Even if the character is a bit of a jerk, he’s not a bad person, and you still totally like him. He absolutely excelled at playing flawed heroes and Joe Hallenbeck is no different.
Joe is similar to John McClane, but that’s only because Willis plays him. He has a certain style to him, especially during that time period. He was doing a McClane impression, but it wasn’t a duplicate performance. Joe actually has a lot rougher life than John McClane. Joe is a disgraced former secret service agent. Joe’s wife and kid practically hate him and give him shit from the second he comes home until he leaves for work the next day.

The Last Boyscout

Speaking of his wife and kid, Chelsea Field and Danielle Harris bring it. This is a broken family. Joe’s work situation (getting fired from the secret service ruined his life) took its toll on his family. He becomes a PI and PI are generally thought to be bottom-feeders by most people. Even Joe thinks of himself as a lowlife. He hates himself, his wife hates him, and his child eventually comes to as well. There’s some good banter between the three of it. It’s not all mean either, some of it is pretty damn funny.  One of the last lines between Willis and Field is hilarious. Danielle Harris always seemed older than her age and this performance is no different. She was great at playing troubled kids.

Damon Wayans is practically retired now, and he’s known almost exclusively for comedy, but he had a few roles where he tried his hand at action and he wasn’t bad at all. He had just the right mix of cocky and wise-cracking to make it work. He was perfectly acceptable in this role. I don’t remember much about Bulletproof, but I remember his performance being decent there too. I’m surprised he didn’t do more action-centered roles.

The Last Boyscout

The bad guys were all fun too. Noble Willingham plays Sheldon “Shelly” Marcone, the shrewd and greedy owner of one of the football teams. This guy likes his money and he’ll do anything to make sure it keeps coming in bundles. He’s maybe a little cliché, but if the performance works it works. He has a henchman who is played by recently deceased character actor, Taylor Negron. I never knew his name, but he had one of those faces you recognized almost instantly. I always knew him as a comedic actor, so when I saw his face on screen, I wasn’t sure how it would play out. But Milo (his character) was creepy as hell. He wasn’t the biggest or strongest character ever, but he was simply creepy. The guy was pervy Eurotrash personified. What he lacked in intimidation factor, he made up for in the “creeps me the hell out” department.  Another longtime character actor, Chelcie Ross, plays Senator Calvin Baynard. Senator Ross is corrupt and working with Shelly Marcone to legalize gambling, so they can all profit. This guy is a good actor who flies under the radar. He can be funny (Major League) or he can be malicious – like in this movie.

The Last Boyscout

I’ve wanted to see this one in its entirety for a while now. There are a couple of goofy/outlandish moments, but isn’t that what made action movies of the 80s and early 90s so great? Is there any chance whatsoever that anything like this ever happens at a football game? No, but we didn’t watch these movies because we wanted realism. We watched them because we wanted manly men for heroes, terrible people that we like watch getting hurt for villains, some great action between the two sides, and hot babes surrounding them all. This movie delivers that and that makes me happy. It’s got a great musical score too. I think Michael Kamen did it and he was a staple in Hollywood before passing in the early 00s.  His scores were always really good at conveying tense and emotional moments.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on January 15, 2015.

The Last Boyscout