MRR's Action Movie Month - "The Last Boy Scout" Review

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A down and out cynical detective (played by Bruce Willis) teams up with a down and out ex-quarterback (played by Damon Wayans) to try and solve a murder.
2.5

MRR's Action Movie Month - "The Last Boy Scout" Review

Rating: R
Length: 105 minutes
Release Date: Dec. 13, 1991
Directed by: Tony Scott
Genre: Action/Comedy/Crime

The action films of the late 1980s are best known for their emphasis on humor and excitement over storytelling and drama. "The Last Boy Scout" easily fits this stereotype and moves beyond it by poking fun at the same elements that it relies on to deliver countless laughs and thrills. Those looking for a serious crime drama may find elements of it in this film, but action and comedy film fans are likely to get more raw enjoyment out of the movie.

"The Last Boy Scout" focuses on the adventures of a former Secret Service agent named Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) and his impromptu sidekick named Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans). The pair set off on a mission to discover who killed Dix's girlfriend, Cory (Halle Berry). Hallenbeck's cheating wife, Sarah (Chelsea Field), and wisecracking daughter, Darian (Danielle Harris), round out the major cast and provide an excellent backdrop for the many over-the-top chase scenes, one-liners and adventures that lead to the final discovery of the film's true villainous mastermind.

The acting in "The Last Boy Scout" is as over the top as its car chases. Willis seems born to play the role of the disgruntled Hallenbeck. His one-liners deliver far more punch than they did in "Die Hard" or any of its sequels. Wayans provides an excellent foil for the hardened Hallenbeck, delivering a performance sure to keep some fans rolling in the aisles throughout the bulk of the film. Field's portrayal of Hallenbeck's cheating wife is spot-on, creating venues for dark comedy throughout the movie and showcasing her talent for acerbic, biting humor. Harris steals the scene on more than one occasion as the wisecracking Darian's black humor constantly provides another punch line for Wayans and Willis to play up to their fullest.

The cinematography of the film is a true 1980s action movie. All of the scenes take place in adequately lighted areas. The chase scenes make moviegoers feel as if they are part of the action. Viewers are likely to gasp and hold their breath during some of the most thrilling moments in the movie, many of which literally end with a bang. There is little nuance or subtlety about the cinematography, mirroring the film as a whole, which may be a drawback for fans not seeking a summer blockbuster-style experience replete with explosions.

"The Last Boy Scout" heavily focuses its dialogues on comedy. This is apparently part of the writer's intention, as the screenplay itself seems to rely on action events to propel the plot and rarely slows down long enough for a conversation to have any real meaning on the arc of the plot. This is standard in action films and will feel familiar to some fans of thrillers, but it may disillusion some moviegoers. One-liners dominate much of the actual dialogue. The movie regularly finds humor at its own expense and that of others in the genre by referring to its villains as the bad guys or poking fun at a particularly over-the-top action scene. The plot is, at points, ludicrous to the point of being a parody of the genre, but the writing still manages to tie it into a cohesive whole.

Tony Scott, who was already famous for his work on "Top Gun," directed the film. The direction is not likely to land the movie in any halls of fame, but Scott manages to weave comedy and action together quite well. The cast is an excellent match for the roles each play. The action scenes are over the top, while the comedy delivery is lighthearted, dark, or biting at just the right times. All of these are a hallmark of great direction for this style of film, and Scott delivers at every turn. The only apparent drawback is that the movie only occasionally focuses on the grittier crime elements, leaving these hanging at times as the characters laugh their way through the next joke or a chase scene interrupts an expected investigation.

"The Last Boy Scout" is a great romp through the world of action movies of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Even though it makes fun of its own tropes at times, the film fits perfectly with action classics from this time. Fans of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and other action heroes of the day are likely to appreciate Hallenbeck. Those looking for a good laugh can turn to Dix and Hallenbeck's cynical and dysfunctional families. The movie is likely to find a home in the collections of action fans of all stripes but may not meet the expectations of those looking for a grittier crime film. "The Last Boy Scout" is a great choice for a night out with friends or an evening at home with popcorn.

Rating 3.5 out of 5