Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans, Chelsea Field, Noble Willingham, Taylor Negron, Danielle Harris, Halle Berry, Bruce McGill, Badja Djola, Kim Coates, Chelcie Ross, Joe Santos, Clarence Felder, Tony Longo, Frank Collison
Written by: Shane Black, based on a story by Shane Black, Greg Hicks
Directed by: Tony Scott
MPAA Rating: R for graphic violence and very strong language
Running Time: 105
Date: 13/12/1991

The Last Boy Scout (1991)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Best Football Forward

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After the success of his screenplay for Lethal Weapon (1987), screenwriter Shane Black sold his next one, The Last Boy Scout, for $1.75 million. This sale was a record at the time, and was widely reported in the trades. And so most film critics (underpaid writers) scrutinized the finished film, sussing out whether it was worth that much, and most decided that it was not. Not long after, Quentin Tarantino adopted it as one of his favorite "cool" films, and it became possible to see the film more clearly, without the bother of price tags. Indeed, it's a slick, dumb, exciting, implausible, surprising movie, told quickly and cleanly.

Bruce Willis plays Joe Hallenbeck, a burned-out detective hired to protect a stripper/prostitute (Halle Berry). When she's killed, her boyfriend, former football star Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans) comes to Joe for help in solving the murder. Unfortunately, the case goes much deeper than either of them can guess, involving politicians and crime lords. Along the way, though, there are plenty of opportunities for banter, chases, narrow escapes, shootouts, and explosions. Black even has a couple of surprises up his sleeve, such as the shocking opener at a football game.

As with most of his other films, some of Black's material is clearly meant to satirize or subvert the buddy action genre, though it's not clear how much the late director Tony Scott understood this. The "Friday Night Football" rock-blues opener is so obnoxious that it's hard to know if it was just a product of its times, or if it was meant to be obnoxious. Regardless, the material is strong enough that, like Scott's subsequent movie, True Romance, it comes through just fine.

The young teen scream queen and cult favorite Danielle Harris (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers) appears as Joe's daughter.

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