The Last Boy Scout (1991)

2013 #39
Tony Scott | 101 mins | TV | 16:9 | USA / English | 18 / R

The Last Boy ScoutBruce Willis stars as a down-on-his-luck PI who stumbles into a sport/politics conspiracy in this early-’90s action-thriller from screenwriter Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3) and director Tony Scott (you know what Tony Scott’s directed). I think it’s seen as a fairly minor work in all of the primary participants’ CVs (and Halle Berry’s, who has a small supporting role), but is such ignored status deserved? Well…

The movie has two big points in its favour. The first is Black’s screenplay, packed with his usual sparky dialogue and flair for plot developments that you might not expect. He has a real way for working in familiar genres with a unique voice and Last Boy Scout is no exception. It’s considerably better than Lethal Weapon, which I really didn’t take to, if not quite as good as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which I adored.

Second is the wonderful noir feel that permeates through much of the film. This is thanks in part to Black — a private dick we first meet sleeping in his car who gets caught up in a conspiracy much bigger than him? What’s not noir about that? — but also to Scott and cinematographer Ward Russell. Technically this is neo-noir, but it makes you want to call it “neon-noir”Neon noir — pitch black frames punctuated by glowing coloured lights. On the whole, it looks gorgeous.

It’s this noir edge that appeals most about the film for me. The occasional action theatrics are fine, but there’s nothing innovative or exciting enough in that field that hasn’t been done better or more memorably elsewhere. It’s the story and tone that work most to the movie’s benefit. It’s a shame, then, that the third act ditches much of that mood in favour of a race-against-time OTT-action finale. In my opinion, it pushes things too far, and nearly dragged down my rating an entire star.

But that, too, would be taking it too far. The Last Boy Scout isn’t the best film starring Bruce Willis, or the best film written by Shane Black, or the best film directed by Tony Scott; but the fingerprints of all three are unmistakably plastered right across it, and it’s a long way from being anyone’s worst work.

4 out of 5

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