My apologies for yet another delay in this universally-beloved 73 Sports Movies in 73 Days franchise, but when family calls, I have to fly to the other corner of the country to make sure that they haven’t forgotten that I exist. That said, the NFL season is approaching rather quickly, so I’m hitting the home stretch with some of my favorite sports movies (even though I’m going to keep going until I’ve covered pretty much every film created after 1975) and I thought I’d come back today with a pretty large bang in the form of one of my all-time favorite movies of any genre and a perfect action movie, The Last Boy Scout.
I saw this Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans action classic in theaters as a young buck, and I’ve watched it maybe 100 times since 1991, because it’s simply that great and everyone should watch it over and over. As I’m about to touch upon, it should be taught in film school classes and every aspiring actor should watch it so they understand the important of catch phrases.
Put on your pads and leather pants, because we’re about to dish out some hungover justice in The Last Boy Scout.
I had a HUGE crush on the girl who played Darian Hallenbeck
Granted, I had peculiar taste as a kid, but she grew up rather nicely.
I’d take her to lunch, if you catch my drift, in that I would buy her a meal. Maybe we could chat about Satan Claus.
“It’s party time in Cleveland tonight.”
The opening Friday Night Football song is mostly irrelevant, but every time Bill Medley shakes his mullet and grumbles, “It’s party time in Cleveland tonight” I pee a little. It’s mostly because I think this is the only time someone has ever said this phrase.
Let’s skip the BS and talk about one of the most memorable scenes in movie history
I guess I was probably 12 or 13 when I saw this movie, a few years older than some of you whipper snappers, but I think the opening scene with Billy Cole gunning down an entire defense during the “game of his life” probably left the same lasting dents in most of our brains. Hell, I have a friend who still brings that scene up every time there’s a controversy in the NFL. “We’re only a season or two away from that Last Boy Scout sh*t actually happening, you know,” he’ll say before logging on to InfoWars to get his updates on the upcoming race war.
Me, I was always more concerned with the actual football aspect of it. Was Billy Cole supposed to be Bo Jackson or something? Because he not only runs over every defender like they should be playing in a suburban rec league, but the rest of them, including the first guy he shoots in the face, are standing at least 10 yards away like they’re terrified of tackling him. This is just poor defensive form, but then, that’s what we should expect from Cleveland.
Oh hey there, young Halle Berry
Oh, did you want that cowgirl dancing scene in GIF form? Because I’ve got you covered.
Also, that’s Eddie Griffin as the strip club DJ
This is irrelevant to anything, but I love when Jimmy Dix yells at him.
Quit stalling, why is this the perfect action movie?
Perfect movies are incredibly rare, like unicorns or politicians who work, but when they arrive in theaters, they follow a very simple formula that so many moviemakers often try to pull off, but they almost often end up overshooting and the result is pure doodie poops. That’s an industry term, not mine.
Other perfect action movies include Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight, and they, like The Last Boy Scout, were written by Shane Black. He is simply a man who knows how to write a damn fine action flick. Now, that’s not to say that these are great movies. A lot of people hate these films, and that’s their sad, wrong right, but they’re still perfectly made by my standards, and this specific movie is worth celebrating.
The formula for the perfect action movie:
1) The shamed, broken down, beaten and/or psychotic antihero would probably rather curl up in a corner and die than have to interact with society anymore. In this case, Bruce Willis plays the self-loathing former Secret Service agent and fallen angel, Joe Hallenbeck. Sure, he saved the President’s life, but that was thrown away when he punched a senator in the face while he was raping a girl. I guess in the 80s this was something you could get away with.
1a) The problems at home and a wife or family that that hate the antihero, or a dead loved one that he’s constantly haunted by. Joe’s wife was sleeping with his best friend and his daughter loathed him. The classic 90s family!
2) The black guy who becomes his partner, whether he likes it or not, who also has his own flaws. Sometimes they’re worse, sometimes they’re as simple as a smoking hot teenage daughter performing in a condom commercial. Jimmy Dix was kicked out of pro football for gambling and a painkiller addiction. But he still had the best arm in the world.
3) A relevant, interesting central theme that ties these two together, ignited by the related murders of people close to both of them and the fact that they’re next on the hit list. The theme here was sports gambling and the corrupt politicians who were keeping it illegal. Also, an underlying theme was strippers are smart and wealthy, because Halle Berry’s character owned two cars I’d kill for.
4) A cavalcade of bad guys, from low level henchmen to mean, bad ass assassins who just can’t seem to be destroyed, each one wittier and nastier than the next.
5) One or two main bad guys. Sheldon Marcone and Senator Baynard made a great team because they were two different bad guys. One was the sleazy billionaire bent on buying whatever he wanted and killing everyone in the process, while Marcone was a rapist and political vote for hire.
6) A ton of shooting and mindless, senseless action scenes that are so unrealistic but just make us laugh and say, “Haha, cool!” Meanwhile, the people of Los Angeles just sit in their cars and watch shootouts on the side of the highway like it’s a regular Tuesday.
7) A ridiculous, over-the-top ending that brings every last piece of the plot back to one place and ties it all off with one (or several) final bang.
8) And if there’s time, the antihero makes up with his family. Why does Joe take his wife back after she was nailing his best (dead) friend? Because he does. That’s why.
9) Oh, and probably the most important part – a ton of funny, memorable catchphrases peppered throughout the movie.
There are probably a few ideas that I’m leaving out, but those are the most important. However, when actually making an action film – something I still plan to do someday, once Marvel greenlights my script for The NFL SuperPro – it is important to treat these rules like a recipe, because too much or too little of any of those ingredients means mistakes, and that’s something that too many movies are chocked with today.
The Last Boy Scout was instead a comic book on a giant screen, as well as the missing link between the ridiculous awesomeness of 80s action movies and the just plain ridiculousness of their 90s counterparts. In fact, Black even incorporated that idea into this film with the line, “This is the ’90s. You can’t just walk up and slap a guy, you have to say something cool first.” Except that the 80s invented the hero’s one-liner, so I’m not sure why I even brought this contradiction up. Whatever, it’s still awesome.
I’d also argue that this was the film that laid the foundation for Bruce Willis’ current career as “Leading man who shows up and collects money,” because while I love this movie, Joe Hallenbeck was one of Willis’ worst early characters. But compared to his work today, Joe is his Forrest Gump.
Enough about the action, let’s talk about the sports aspect
In between all of the killing, there’s the part in the film when Joe busts Jimmy trying to take his painkillers in the bathroom, and Joe knocks him out. Then Jimmy gives him the speech about why the NFL, oops, I mean the National League has injury reports as a way to help the bookies and the casinos make money. Because the other leagues don’t tell us when guys are questionable, doubtful or out, you see. It almost made me feel bad watching this before drafting my fantasy team tonight, but then I tried to feel around and find my heart and had zero luck.
Easily the best sports moment in this movie – and seriously rivaling other great moments like Roy Hobbs’ home run into the lights and Steve Nebraska’s 27 strikeout perfect game in the World Series – comes on the arm of Jimmy, who throws a football so perfectly that it can stop a sniper’s bullet, break glass and hit a senator in the face. Shane Black could have stopped writing with that one conflict resolution and I would still think he’s a genius.
(Fortunately, he kept going and gave us Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is a spectacularly wonderful film.)
How about some of those one-liners?
“That means I’d cut off three of my fingers if God would let me f*ck her.”
“The hell’s that number on the back of your head? Is that like a license plate in case somebody tries to steal it?”
“Apparently there are too many bullets in this gun.”
“I’m not saying she’s fat, her high school picture was an aerial photograph.”
“Why did Mr. Milo cross the road? Because his dick was stuck in a chicken.”
“The sky is blue, water is wet, women have secrets. Who gives a f*ck?”
“How’d you like to get kicked off the f*cking planet?”
And there are plenty more. Black’s a modern poet.
Does Taylor Negron ever age?
Seriously, the guy looked the same in this movie in 1991 that he did as Hector on Reno 911! back in 2007. I haven’t seen him since to really know how much he’s aged, which is a shame because I’d love to see him have a renaissance as an action movie villain. Of course, I’m also still waiting on The Last Boy Scout 2, which should have been made by 1993. It’s borderline criminal that it never happened.
Screw that, does Kim Coates ever age?
Well yeah, yeah he does, because he kind of looked young in 1991. But there isn’t much of a difference from his current role as Tig on Sons of Anarchy. To be honest, I’ve always kind of hoped that when Tig does finally get his on Sons, it happens when someone punches his nose through his brain. I’d love to see them pay tribute to one of the dumbest action movie death scenarios that everyone my age thought was so f*cking cool when we saw it on screen.
The Ending… The Amazing, Remarkable Ending
Joe Hallenbeck danced a jig after he contributed to one of the best movie villain deaths that I can think of. Seriously, he beats the piss out of Milo and pushes him right into the path of a few hundred bullets before his body falls into helicopter blades. On second thought, I guess that sequel was out of the question.