From the mid-80s through the late ‘90s, Bruce Willis could do no wrong. Even if a film or two ended up being a stinker (The Bonfire of the Vanities, Hudson Hawk, Color of Night), his A-list status never took a hit. One of Willis’ films, a buddy-cop action-comedy that doesn’t fall into the “stinker” category, is now available on the super streamer Netflix for your nostalgic viewing pleasure.
The Last Boy Scout teams up Bruce Willis’ Joe Hallenbeck with Damon Wayans’ Jimmy Dix as the mismatched pair must put their aggressive differences aside to solve the murder of Jimmy’s girlfriend.
Bruce Willis chain smokes and drinks his way through the film as a disgraced former Secret Service agent turned private investigator. Damon Wayans tries to stand toe-to-toe (on the acting front) with Willis as a former quarterback for the LA Stallions who was kicked out of the league for gambling and drugs.
When we first see Hallenbeck, we get an immediate sense of who he is. Washed up, either always hung over or on his way to being hungover. He’s a mess and doesn’t hide it. He receives a call from his business partner Mike about taking a job to bodyguard a stripper named Cory (Halle Berry). The pay isn’t great but as Joe says, “Five hundred is five hundred.”
Before meeting Cory, Joe heads home to his wife and the two immediately get into a fight. Then Joe notices things are off. He accuses his wife of having a man in the closet, which she denies. When he finally threatens to shoot through the closet door, the man steps out. It’s his business partner Mike.
Joe and Mike walk to Mike’s car and after a little dust-up, Joe accepts the job. Mike then goes to his car and when he turns the ignition, the car explodes.
Joe’s troubles are just beginning, though. When he and Jimmy first meet, it’s at the strip club where Cory dances. Jimmy doesn’t take kindly to Joe’s interest in Cory but when Jimmy confronts Joe, it doesn’t end well for Jimmy.
Upset, Jimmy grabs Cory from the stage and the two take leave of the club. Outside, Joe plans on waiting for them but is knocked unconscious by hitmen. Jimmy and Cory leave the club in separate cars not knowing they are being followed.
When Cory gets rear-ended, she steps out of her car and is greeted by a hail of bullets, killing her instantly.
Joe and Jimmy reluctantly decide to team up to figure out who killed Cory and why and if it was connected to Mike getting killed. They arrive at Cory’s house and find a cassette tape that holds a recorded phone conversation between Senator Calvin Baynard, who is heading a gambling investigation in sports, and the owner of the LA Stallions, Sheldon Marcone. Cory was using this tape to get Marcone to bring Jimmy back to the football team. Marcone’s answer was to send hitmen after Cory.
Problems increase for Joe when the cops discover that Joe’s wife was having an affair with Joe’s now-dead business partner, making his suspect number one. It now becomes a race against time for Joe and Jimmy as they try to prove Joe’s innocence while also rooting out those involved in the cover-up killings.
The Last Boy Scout’s set was not without its share of tension. The film was directed by the late Tony Scott, starred uber A-lister Bruce Willis, produced by super-producer Joel Silver, and was written by Shane Black. Not to mention, Damon Wayans was a rising star in his own right, starring in the hit sketch series, In Living Color.
A roomful of alpha males doesn’t make for a good mix most of the time and The Last Boy Scout is a perfect example. Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans were said to have disliked each other immensely while the combination of Willis and Silver made life unbearable for Scott and Black.
“I was forced to do more rewriting on that movie than on anything else I’ve done,” Shane Black told The Telegraph. “There was tremendous pressure from the studio to get Bruce Willis and have this be a follow-up to Die Hard. He was reluctant, and rightly so: ‘This whole movie is about me saving my wife. I just did that in Die Hard.’ So they said, ‘OK, let’s minimize the wife and, and while we’re at it, add a big finale.’ There was a general pressure to somehow make it bigger.”
Somehow, through all the big egos, the numerous edits and re-edits, The Last Boy Scout came together. Scott was able to turn his $43 million budget into a winning $114.5 million at the box office.
As for Bruce Willis, he continued his A-list status while also adding to his building reputation of being an on-set ass clown. Actors were finding it harder and harder to deal with Willis on set though it didn’t stop Willis from continuing to nail big films and big roles.
Bruce Willis followed up The Last Boy Scout with another three John McClane films as well as a number of blockbusters to include 12 Monkeys, The Fifth Element, Armageddon, The Sixth Sense, Sin City, and the bookends of the Unbreakable trilogy, Unbreakable and Glass.
Perhaps karma has finally caught up with Bruce Willis as the latter portion of his career has taken on a definite B-movie flavor. While seeing a couple of bigger films (Glass, Motherless Brooklyn), Willis has spent most of the past six or so years languishing in B-movie dreck.
It doesn’t look as if things will change for the aging actor any time soon as his slate is filled with already completed B-movies or B-movie projects ready to start. If you want to see Bruce Willis in prime form, head over to Netflix and give The Last Boy Scout a viewing.