Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 7, 2010)
Back from the era of the Big Action Star, 1991’s Last Boy Scout gives us a pretty standard-issue Bruce Willis vehicle from that period. Joe Hallenbeck (Willis) used to be a Secret Service agent, but he got the boot when he refused to go along with a politician’s scummy behavior.
Now Hallenbeck works as a private detective as he drinks his life away and alienates his loved ones. He gets an assignment to protect a stripper named Cory (Halle Berry) who feels threatened. Along the way, he bumps heads with Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans), a former pro football player who got banned from the league for gambling.
This doesn’t work well for Cory, as she ends up brutally gunned down in the street. To Hallenbeck, this ends the assignment, but Dix wants to investigate the killing. Eventually Joe agrees, and the pair start down a complex road of scandal and deceit.
Virtually all movies act as time capsules, but some seem more firmly rooted in their particular eras than others. Into that category falls the relentlessly dated Scout. Everything about this movie screams “early 90s”, and I don’t mean that in a good way.
Actually, I have fondness for the period, but when I watch flicks like Scout, I can’t quite figure out why crud like this entertained us back in the day. Scout is the kind of movie that Last Action Hero attempted to lampoon two years later. Both came from screenwriter Shane Black, which makes me wonder how much of Scout intended to be self-parody.
I suspect some, but not enough to excuse the silliness on display here. Where is this world in which guys crack wise about leather pants right after the brutal murder of a woman close to one of them? I guess it’s the same place where a 13-year-old girl gets stuck in the middle of a shootout but shows no signs of mental trauma.
I won’t claim that the filmmakers took all of this stuff seriously and intended for us to view it as real-life. Of course there’s a lot of artistic license on display, with everything made larger than life, and I can accept that – to a degree. Sure, we expect a certain level of unreality from a movie like this; Scout simply goes to an absurd place with them.
The film’s script essentially provides a constant string of lame one-liners along with tough talk from an interchangeable array of low-lifes. If Black managed to imbue some cleverness into the attempted jokes, they’d be less obnoxious, but they’re so witless that they just grate.
Tony Scott has always been a pretty mediocre director, and nothing he does here manages to alter that impression. Indeed, his love for stylized visuals becomes another factor that sends Scout into self-parody territory. This becomes clear from the opening scene, in which a nationally broadcast pro football game looks like it’s taking place in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Are there no lights in the stadium? Apparently they lit up the game with a random assortment of flashlights that randomly panned the field.
Again, a more engaging movie might get away with all these script/visual choices, but Scout simply remains too stupid and lacking in verve to allow us to go along for the ride. Willis simply plays a less interesting variation on Die Hard’s John McClane, and he displays little chemistry with Wayans. Neither does anything to elevate the tepid material.
I know that I looked forward to Last Boy Scout in 1991, and I vaguely recall that it disappointed me. If I look back on it again in 2029, I won’t have to wonder what how I used to think about it, as this review will act as a monument to my disdain. I’ve seen worse action films, but Scout remains a silly dud.