Barton Fink – The Last Boy Scout – tape 1523

First on this tape, the Coen Brothers’ classic Barton Fink. I’ve looked at this before, so I won’t repeat myself.

But following this, it’s The Last Boy Scout. If you’ve never seen this, I can highly recommend it.

After some hyper titles, with Bill Medley singing ‘Friday Night’s a Great Night for Football’ in titles meant to invoke TV football coverage – they’re processed with TV scanlines to suggest that.

Then we cut to an actual football game, in pouring rain, where a young football player gets a phone call telling him a lot of money is riding on the game and he needs to start scoring touchdowns.

(Reader’s note: Football, in the context of this movie, means American Football, just for clarity.)

I don’t quite understand that exchange, though. Usually, if bad people are betting heavily on a game, they pressure people to throw a game, which is much easier to do than to play much better than the other team, which is what this player is being pressured to do.

I’m not a big fan of sports films (which is OK because this isn’t really a sports film) but this opening is very well done, with directory Tony Scott deploying his customary long lenses, and making the most of the waterlogged pitch for atmosphere.

As the film concentrates on the desperate Billy Cole, and he’s popping pills, and the game depends on him, you’re waiting for him to keel over and die. So when he gets the ball and runs for his game winning touchdown, and there’s opposition players in front of him, we don’t expect him to pull out a gun and shoot them to get past. It’s memorable, for sure.

Next we meet our hero, Joe Hallenbeck, asleep in his car.

He’s a private detective, on rather hard times. And he finds his wife sleeping with his ex partner, Bruce McGill. “Sure, it was an accident. You tripped. Slipped on the floor and accidentally put your dick in my wife.”

McGill doesn’t last long. Moments after giving Willis a job looking after an exotic dancer, he gets in his car, and it blows up.

The dancer is Halle Berry. She’s in some kind of unspecified trouble, and wants Hallenbeck to be a bodyguard.

Berry’s boyfriend is Jimmy Dix (played by Damon Wayans) a Football star who was banned for gambling and possibly drugs.

Willis is caught by bad guys, and taken off to be killed by one of them, as the rest cut off Berry’s car and gun her down. Willis escapes by making his would-be assassin laugh at a series of ‘your wife’ jokes, but he’s not in time to save Berry, but he does drive off the other killers before they can kill Jimmy.

At Berry’s they find a tape and photographs linking the owner of the LA Stallions with the local senator. Willis has history with the Senator – when he was part of his secret service detail, Willis punched him in the face to stop him abusing a prostitute, so he got fired from the service. But more goons jump them, and they get away but the evidence they had is lost.

We meet Willis’ daughter, Danielle Harris. She’s got a smart mouth like her dad.

Willis and Wayans are bonding, until Willis catches him snorting coke in his bathroom. Wayans complains that his career was ruined by gambling, but Willis has little sympathy.

And the bad guys are still after them. They throw Wayans off an overpass (he survives) and take Willis, killing a policeman with his gun for good measure. The head bad guy is Taylor Negron, one of those incredibly polite bad guys, and he’s good at it.

The top bad guy is the owner of the football team, who wants to legalise sports gambling. That’s what Halle Berry’s evidence was about. But now he wants to kill the Senator and frame Willis for it.

There’s a great scene where Willis and Wayans are (again) about to be killed, and Wills’ daughter (who came with Wayans) turns up looking lost, gives her stuffed cat to Willis, who does his jokes again, then shoots his way out with the gun she hid in the cat.

Then there’s a race against time to catch a bomb that’s on the way to the Senator at the LA Coliseum, while the police think it’s Willis who’s going to kill the senator.

Plus, Negron now has his daughter.

The climax is all kinds of nutty. as Wayans rides a horse, throws a football at the Senator to prevent Negron shooting him, Willis fights Negron on a gantry, and someone ends up falling into the blades of a helicopter.

This is great, although the careless misogyny that’s so typical of action movies in the 90s is quite prevalent. It’s a Shane Black script, though, and you can tell, despite fewer Christmas references than usual.

After this, the tape ends.

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2 comments

  1. Danielle Harris quite the horror star now, of course. There’s a link I never thought about: Damon Wayans was in this, a Shane Black script, and now he’s in (the rather decent) Lethal Weapon TV series, also based on a Shane Black script. Small world, etc.

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