The Last Boy Scout
|The Last Boy Scout|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tony Scott|
|Screenplay by||Shane Black|
|Music by||Michael Kamen|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$59.5 million|
The Last Boy Scout is a 1991 American action comedy film directed by Tony Scott, starring Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans, Chelsea Field, Noble Willingham, Taylor Negron and Danielle Harris. The film was released in the United States on December 13, 1991.
During halftime of a televised professional football game, L.A. Stallions star running back Billy Cole (Billy Blanks) receives a phone call from a mysterious caller named Milo (Taylor Negron), warning Cole to win the game at all costs, or "he's history". Cole ingests PCP and, in a drug-induced rage, brings a gun onto the field, shooting three opposing players to reach to the end zone. Cole then shoots himself in the head.
Private investigator Joseph Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis), a disgraced former Secret Service agent who at one time was a national hero for saving the President from an assassination attempt, discovers that his wife Sarah (Chelsea Field) is having an affair with his best friend and sometime business partner, Mike Matthews (Bruce McGill). Joe's indifference frustrates Sarah, who only did it to get his attention. Outside Joe's house, Mike is killed by a car bomb, after giving Joe an assignment to act as bodyguard for a stripper named Cory (Halle Berry).
At the bar where Cory works, Joe is approached by her boyfriend, former L.A. Stallions star quarterback James "Jimmy" Alexander Dix (Damon Wayans), who was banned from the league on gambling charges and allegations of drug abuse. After an argument where Joe and Jimmy scuffle, an annoyed Jimmy takes Cory from the stage while she is performing. Joe plans to wait outside, where he is knocked out by a team of hitmen. Jimmy and Cory leave the bar in separate cars while Joe is escorted into an alley by one of the hitmen, who laughs at his jokes which enables Joe to bring down the gunman and escape. When Cory is struck from behind and stops to confront the other driver, she is assassinated by hitmen in the car. Jimmy is fired upon and pinned down, but is saved by Joe.
The next day at Cory's house, Jimmy and Joe find evidence of a phone conversation between the chairman of a Senate committee investigating gambling in sports, Sen. Calvin Baynard (Chelcie Ross), and L.A. Stallions team owner Sheldon "Shelly" Marcone (Noble Willingham). When the recorded evidence is ruined in Joe's faulty car stereo, Jimmy realizes that Cory tried using the evidence as leverage against Marcone to get his job back on the team, prompting Marcone to send the hitmen. Jimmy leaves to drive home in Cory's other car, but Joe correctly assumes Marcone had her other car wired to explode. Two hitmen arrive planning to obtain the evidence Cory gained possession of, and Joe tricks them into blowing up the car, killing themselves, but also destroying the rest of the evidence as well. Joe reveals to Jimmy that when he was in the Secret Service, he was assigned to the Senator's protective detail. One night on duty he witnessed Baynard torturing a woman in a hotel room and assaulted Baynard to obstruct him, knocking out four of Baynard's teeth. Baynard would later have Joe fired from the Secret Service for refusing to cover up the incident. Joe and Jimmy then form an alliance to take down Marcone.
Joe takes Jimmy home, where Jimmy meets Joe's abrasive daughter Darian (Danielle Harris). When Joe catches Jimmy attempting to use illegal painkillers in the bathroom, Joe kicks him out. As Jimmy leaves, Darian asks him to sign a football trading card. As he signs, she reveals that Joe had been a fan of his before he got busted, and ever since he was banned from the league, Joe has never watched another football game. He leaves her with the signed card, "To the daughter of the last Boy Scout."
The next morning the police, having learned of Mike's affair with Sarah, decide Joe must have killed Mike for revenge and move to arrest him. But Milo, Marcone's top henchman, captures Joe first, then shoots the officer who had come to arrest him using Joe's gun. Marcone explains to Joe that he intends to legalize sports gambling by buying votes and that Baynard holds the deciding vote in the matter. When Marcone also tried to buy his vote for this purpose, Baynard blackmailed Marcone, demanding $6 million or he would go to the police. Explaining it would be cheaper to kill the Senator, aware of Joe's history with him, Marcone informs Joe of his intention to frame him for Baynard's murder.
Joe is taken to a wooded area where he is photographed handing a briefcase containing money to Baynard's bodyguards. The money is then switched in the trunk with a wired briefcase. Joe is rescued by Jimmy and Darian and they manage to acquire both briefcases after running the bodyguards and Milo off the road; however, Milo survives and kidnaps Darian after Joe leaves her to wait for the police.
Heading to Marcone's stadium office to save Darian, they are caught and brought to Marcone's office, but Jimmy creates a diversion, allowing them to fight their way free. Knowing Milo will attempt to shoot Baynard, Joe goes after Milo while sending Jimmy to warn Baynard. Grabbing the game ball, Jimmy throws it at Baynard, knocking him down just as Milo starts shooting. Joe knocks Milo to the edge of the stadium light platform, where police shoot him several times, causing him to fall into the blades of a circling helicopter.
The suitcase of money is recovered and the fleeing Marcone, having escaped with the rigged briefcase, is killed when he opens it at his house. It is also implied Baynard is finished. The next day Joe and Sarah reconcile, and Joe and Jimmy decide to become partners.
- Bruce Willis as Joseph "Joe" Cornelius Hallenbeck, a private eye and former Secret Service agent.
- Damon Wayans as James "Jimmy" Alexander Dix, a former professional football player.
- Chelsea Field as Sarah Hallenbeck, Joe's lonely wife.
- Noble Willingham as Sheldon Marcone, owner of the fictional L.A. Stallions
- Taylor Negron as Milo, Marcone's chief henchman
- Danielle Harris as Darian Hallenbeck, Joe's daughter.
- Halle Berry as Cory, a stripper and Jimmy's girlfriend.
- Bruce McGill as Mike Matthews, Joe's friend and fellow private detective.
- Badja Djola as Alley Thug
- Kim Coates as Chet
- Chelcie Ross as Senator Calvin Baynard, a corrupt senator who had Joe fired from the Secret Service.
- Joe Santos as Benjamin Bessalo, a police lieutenant who hates Joe.
- Clarence Felder as McCoskey
- Tony Longo as Big Ray Walston
- Frank Collison as Pablo
- Eddie Griffin as Club DJ
- Bill Medley as Himself
- Verne Lundquist as Himself
- Dick Butkus as Himself
- Lynn Swann as Himself
- Billy Blanks as Billy Cole
- Morris Chestnut as Locker Room Kid
- James Gandolfini as Marcone's Henchman (uncredited)
The film was based on an original script by Shane Black who was known for writing Lethal Weapon. He wrote the script after having taken a two year break from writing, triggered in part by the end of a relationship. Black later recalled:
I was busy mourning my life and, in many ways, the loss of my first real love. I didn’t feel much like doing anything except smoking cigarettes and reading paperbacks. All things come around. Time passed and eventually I sat down and transformed some of that bitterness into a character, the central focus of a private eye story which became The Last Boy Scout. Writing that script was a very cathartic experience, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I spent so much time alone working on that. Days which I wouldn’t speak. Three, four days where I maybe said a couple words. It was a wonderfully intense time where my focus was better than it’s ever been. And I was rewarded so handsomely ($1.75 million) for that script, if felt like a vindication and like I was back on track.
The Last Boy Scout was filmed in 90 days between March 11 and June 9, 1991.
The film had a very troubled production. Everybody involved in the film had a miserable time working on it. Producer Joel Silver and main actor Bruce Willis took over the production, altered much of Shane Black's original script and forced director Tony Scott to film scenes he disliked under threat of being fired. Silver mentioned in later interviews how making of The Last Boy Scout was one of the three worst experiences in his life, while Willis swore that he would never work with Silver again. In his next film, True Romance, Scott parodied Silver by having character Lee Donowitz, a movie producer who is also a cocaine user and dealer, act just like Silver.
Scott said about Silver; “He’s insane, with long, horrible fits of sanity.” He compared Silver to a fighter pilot riding as a passenger. “As soon as you hit a little bit of turbulence, he’s right away going to throw the guy out of the window and take over the steering.”
Taylor Negron, who played Milo described Silver as extremely hands on and involved himself in every aspect of the production. 
Assistant director James Skotchdopole later recalled how some of the production problems were caused due to the “Overabundance of alpha males on that project”. As he said in an interview; “Bruce was at the height of his stardom, so was Joel, so was Tony and so was Shane. There were a lot of people who had a lot of opinions about what to do. There were some heated, early-Nineties, testosterone charged personalities on the line. It was a ‘charged environment’, shall we say.”
Writer Shane Black also said about problems with the script; “I was forced to do more rewriting on that movie than on anything else I’ve done. 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.”
Composer Michael Kamen hated the first cut of the film when he saw it, and he only agreed to compose music for it because of his personal ties to Willis and Silver.
Editor Stuart Baird was brought in by Silver and Warner Bros. to completely re-edit the film since the original cut turned out to be a borderline unwatchable workprint. Baird did the same job with several other Warner Bros. films, including Tango & Cash, which suffered even more problems during production.
One of the reasons for problems with post production re-editing of the film was Scott's habit of filming excessive coverage with multiple cameras. Editor Mark Helfrich said how he had to go through "mountains of raw material" in order to edit the first cut of the film. He mentioned; “There was more footage shot for The Last Boy Scout than on any film I had ever worked on.” He recalled with incredulity that the work of previous editors appeared to have been rejected, taken apart and put back into the daily reels: “There were still splices all over the place.” Expert action movie editor Mark Goldblatt who also worked on the film recalls it as one the most painful and frustrating experiences of his entire career and refuses to talk about it in interviews. He did mentioned in podcast interview how before he was brought in several other editors were hired but were then fired for some reasons, and how Warner Bros. started testing the movie before it was completely finished. They were very worried about the movie because they put lot of money into it but reactions from test screening audience weren't very positive, and they also thought that Willis's character wasn't very likeable. It wasn't until Stuart Baird was hired that movie was finally turned into something watchable. Some later cuts were done on the film's graphic scenes after it was originally rated NC-17, which explains quick-cut edits in some of the death scenes in the film.
Shane Black's original script
Joel Silver said in Q&A for The Nice Guys(2016) how Shane Black's original title for the script was Die Hard, back when he first started working on it. Silver asked if he could take the title for project he was working on at the time called Nothing Lasts Forever, which was eventually turned into Die Hard (1988).
The scene where Joe kills Chet by punching his nose into the brain was actually something that Black wrote in one of the earlier drafts of his Lethal Weapon script. Although not used in the film it was included in novelization of Lethal Weapon.
While the movie opens with song "Friday Night's A Great Time For Football" by Bill Medley, original cut had "Are You Ready For Some Football Tonight" by Hank Williams Jr as opening song, but original script opened with couple of quotes from Joe and Jimmy and few lyrics of the song "Just a Job to Do" by Genesis.
Black's original draft of the script was 166 pages long and was very similar but also very different from the final film. It had darker tone and was lot more graphic, and action sequences were much bigger. Some of the characters and much of the plot were different. Just about the entire second half of the script was completely different, and almost entire third act took place at waters around Long Beach.
There were more parts focusing on villains Shelly Marcone and Milo, who was scripted as a much nastier character. Besides being a hit man for Marcone he was also a director of snuff films in which his male "actors" would kill women in very horrible ways. There was a part where he viciously kills an entire family on their boat when they show up by accident at the place where he and his men have a meeting and exchange with Baynard's bodyguards.
The main villain in the script was actually Louis Baynard, son of senator Baynard. It was explained in the script how Louis killed a mother and her child in drunk driving accident, and when Joe showed up at the scene and Louis threatened him to take the blame for the accident, Joe punched him so hard that he smashed his head against the asphalt which permanently ruined his face and made him brain damaged. His father then got Joe fired from Secret Service by planting a kilogram of cocaine in his house. Louis however still had his father killed later in the script.
Some of the other differences and alternate action sequences between the script and the movie include; a boat chase scene with Joe and Jimmy trying to escape from Milo and his men chasing them through the fog until their boat and helicopter crash into each other at the moment when they almost got Joe and Jimmy; a shootout and fight scene between Joe and Marcone's men in Joe's house; a showdown between Joe, Jimmy, Louis Baynard and Marcone's men in his mansion in which Joe sneaks in after killing several guards; Joe and Jimmy saving Joe's wife Sarah from being killed with a chainsaw in one of Milo's snuff films; a different version of the final showdown between Milo and Joe which takes place near Joe's office and ends with a foot chase on the highway and with Sarah shooting and killing Milo.
- Best Action Sequence – For the helicopter blade sequence
- Best On-Screen Duo – Bruce Willis & Damon Wayans
The film under performed expectations given the star power and hype surrounding the then record price paid for the screenplay by Shane Black ($1.75 million).
Roger Ebert gave the film three stars, saying it was "a superb example of what it is: a glossy, skillful, cynical, smart, utterly corrupt and vilely misogynistic action thriller". It has a 44% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 34 reviews. Reviews were mixed, and some critics cited the Christmas time release for such a violent film as a reason for its somewhat underwhelming box office. It grossed $7,923,669 in its opening weekend, and the total gross was $59,509,925. Although the film was not a blockbuster, it helped Bruce Willis recover his star status after the disastrous Hudson Hawk, and both turned a profit at the box office and became hugely popular in the video rental market.
The film's score was composed and conducted by Michael Kamen (who also scored Hudson Hawk that year), his only work for Tony Scott. Bill Medley performed the song "Friday Night's A Great Night For Football," written by Steve Dorff and John Bettis, on screen during the opening credits (the song is also reprised over the end titles); the song was released as a CD single by Curb Records.
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