The other night, Jo and I wanted to watch a movie and since it was the night before the Super Bowl, we wanted to watch something with football in it. Any Given Sunday was too long, so we decided on The Last Boy Scout instead. And then I got reminded of just how great this movie is.
The premise is simple: a down-on-his-luck scumbag detective Joe Hallenback (Bruce Willis) and an also-down-on-his-luck ex-football player Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayons) get stuck together on a case against a corrupt politician and a powerful football team owner. In order to solve the case, they basically (and this is a line from the movie) “shoot everyone and smoke some cigarettes.” While the premise may not sound exciting, the execution is top-notch.
Why does it work? Because the movie has everything you could want from this genre. In fact, it’s pretty much a text-book example of how a buddy cop movie should be made (though technically, neither of them are cops). The two leads have a great chemistry together, and attack each other with witty one-liners throughout. Bruce Willis might be playing pretty much the same guy he played in Die Hard, but here he’s got funnier lines. The action is over the top, with a lot of gunfire nicely inter-spaced with even more one-liners.
Milo: “Just once, I’d like to hear you scream in pain.”
Joe: “Play some rap music.”
But what sets this movie apart from others like it, are the bad guys. In most action movies, you’ve got one particularly nasty bad guy, with a whole army of nameless and forgettable henchmen. In this movie, just about every bad guy has a unique personality and a scene that will really showcase it. I mean, if it this was a videogame, then every bad guy would be a memorable boss character.
There’s the bad guy that loves to use big words (Wayons retorts with a line that goes “we’re getting beat up by the inventor of Scrabble”), the big pimp with the hat that laughs at “your wife” jokes, the “Touch me again, and I’ll kill you” guy, and of course, the main bad guy that thrives on politeness and using everyone’s full name.
And because they’re all so funny and unique in their own way, it makes them all stand out in your mind even if they appear in only one scene before dying. No other movie features such a wonderful gallery of bad guys, which is a real shame.
I’m not sure why Die Hard made such a huge splash and got all those sequels while this movie is stuck in DVD bargain bins. It was the most expensive script during its time (Shane Black was the first writer to sell a script for $1 million), and damnit it deserved every cent of if. It’s an awesome script, and as a writer it makes me wish I’d have written that.
Pimp with a hat: “Oh, you’re real cool for somebody who’s about to take a bullet.”
Joe: “After fucking your wife, I’ll take two.”
But if any of you Hollywood directors or would-be directors out there are reading this, take a look at this movie before you go about shooting your next action blockbuster, ya? And if any action fans have missed out on this gem, do go and fish it out of a bargain bin somewhere and get your friends around to watch this cinematic masterpiece.
In the meantime, click here to check out the awesome quotes from this movie in IMDb.