|'dark and threatening before dark and threatening were fashionable'|
'We're being beaten up by the inventor of Scrabble', Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans) says of a particularly smart-mouthed evil-doer at one point during The Last Boy Scout. It's an all too rare reminder that the script we're watching being butchered here is a product of none other than dialogue king extraordinaire Shane Black, whose Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Long Kiss Goodnight this is an early precursor for.
With a familiar buddy-comedy set up and a solid-at-the-time director in Tony Scott, this should have been much much better but too many things that should work, don't and too many of Black's witticisms are left buried under needless mountains of exposition. Dix' relationship with washed up detective Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) is one of many elements that just don't succeed and are instead left limp and unconvincing. Indeed, Scott seems to struggle to establish human relationships full stop; Dix and his girlfriend (an early role for Halle Berry), Hallenbeck and his daughter (Danielle Harris), Hallenbeck and his wife (Chelsea Field) - none of them feel genuine in the slightest.
Scott is much more successful in generating a mood for the piece. His LA is dark and threatening before dark and threatening were fashionable and the air of unpredictability after some early developments are carefully nurtured is close to exquisite.
But without interesting characters - of the likes of Mitch Henessey in The Long Kiss Goodnight or Gay Perry in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - Scott is stunted, left with two big-mouths who can crack the occasional joke but not much more. As the script deteriorates further, at least twice relying on James Bond-like moments of boastful bad guy explanations, any drama or interest that was left slowly seeps out, along with any notion of 'fun' which the script bought with it.
The Last Boy Scout is currently available for free on Lovefilm with an appropriate subscription.
'a cheerfully disreputable buddy thriller' - Entertainment Weekly, B+