"And now for something completely different."
Obscure Movie Review explores films that are more-or-less mainstream (or at least supposed to be), with actors and directors you've heard of, but flew under the radar. And determine if they're a Hidden Gem, Missed Opportunity, Guilty Pleasure, or Best Forgotten.
The Last Boy Scout was an action-buddy-comedy movie based around American football and the sordid world of organised crime; its cast was an all-star team; coached by a director with an impressive CV; and with a budget that would've breached any salary cap. But it just wasn't a winner.
We're going to a ball game
Released in 1991 and directed by the late Tony Scott (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Days of Thunder), this would-be blockbuster sees Bruce Willis as private investigator and disgraced ex Secret Service agent Joe Hallenbeck team up with Damon Wayans's discarded quarterback Jimmy Dix.
The pair are brought together when Dix's girlfriend Cory - played by the then unknown Halle Berry - hires Hallenbeck, for what he believes is to protect her from a stalker. However, when she's murdered they discover she was attempting to blackmail the owner of Dix's former team Sheldon Marcone - Noble Willingham, of Walker, Texas Ranger fame.
Marcone is attempting to get sports gambling legalised - a funny proposition when watching this film from an Australian perspective, where the activity is plentiful - but he's hit something of a hurdle. A congressional investigation into the legislation change is being chaired by the corrupt Senator Calvin Baynard, who is proving to be expensive to bride.
Furthermore, he's Hallenbeck's former boss - from his Secret Service days - and given the way things ended, Marcone knows he's got the perfect patsy if "something should happen" to the senator.
It's all of the punching, shooting, explosions, and one-liners you'd ever want in a movie of this ilk. As Hallenbeck and Dix fight to foil the scheme and clear their respective names, all while being tailed by Marone's menacing right-hand man Milo - played by the late Taylor Negron.
You probably noticed...
The football teams in The Last Boy Scout are made-up, because it's hard to imagine that the NFL would want any of their's associated with a movie about organised crime and bribery - even if it's fictional.
Set in Los Angeles, the plot revolves around the LA Stallions whose team colours are black and white. This was quite clever, because at the time the [very real] Oakland Raiders were the LA Raiders and their jerseys were black and silver.
The film's climax takes place at the packed LA Memorial Coliseum - the Raiders' home ground during their stint in the city - with the Raiders fans substituting for Stallions fans.
What's in a song?
The opening credits would sound familiar to Australian rugby league fans from the 1990s, as it features the song 'Friday Night's a Great Night for Football'. This version was performed by Bill Medley, who had found fame as one half of The Righteous Brothers and four years prior had a number-one hit with his duet with Jennifer Warnes '(I've Had) The Time of My Life' from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.
Channel Nine rerecorded the song with the late Billy Thorpe [above] which was used to lead the broadcast of their Friday night games for a number of years.
The Last Boy Scout has a short [just five songs] but wide spanning soundtrack. There's Boys Don't Cry's novelty hit 'I Wanna be a Cowboy', as well as 'Get Off' by Prince and the New Power Generation - his backing band after The Revolution, who had a more urban style.
Along with 'Tusk', performed by the University of Southern California Marching Band during the stadium scene, it should be noted that the USC band performed on the original version of the song by Fleetwood Mac and appear in the video. Pat Boone's 'Moody River' plays over the end credits, which is a callback to a joke made about 20 minutes into the movie.
Why is it obscure?
It's hard to believe that an action-buddy-comedy movie made in 1991, with a lead actor and director at the top of their respective games, would bomb at the box office - recouping just $59.5 million of its $75 million budget.
Especially when a year earlier Willis was in Die Hard 2, which raked in $240 million. One theory suggests that the December release date was troublesome - it was just too violent for Christmas time - which is plausible considering that it enjoyed a strong performance on the video rental market.
Or perhaps by 1991 it was a case of big action overload. In the half-decade prior to its release there had been; two Lethal Weapon movies; two Die Hard movies; two RoboCop movies; Total Recall; Rambo III; Predator and future Obscure Movie Review Predator 2; not to mention Terminator 2: Judgment Day that same year - just to name a few.
At this same time some of the biggest stars were effectively parodying the genre by playing the tough guy in comedies - think Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop and Sylvester Stallone in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
It's also interesting to note something of a move away from this kind of action flick in the years that followed. Movies such as Speed, Independence Day, Con Air, and the first installment of the Mission Impossible franchise, marked a shift in tone and often starred a less typical "hero".
OBSCURE MOVIE REVIEWS RATINGS:
- Hidden Gem - the highest rating, a genuinely good movie that shouldn't be obscure;
- Missed Opportunity - a flawed movie that had potential but fell short for whatever reason;
- Guilty Pleasure - not a good movie, but enjoyable, think 'so bad it's good';
- Best Forgotten - obscure for a reason, don't bother with it.
The Last Boy Scout is over-the-top, brutal, bloody, boof-headed, and - at times - misogynistic and downright ridiculous.
But above all, it's brilliant.
It's not cinematic fine dining, it's a burger and fries movie. And sometimes that kind of escapism hits the spot - certainly if the recent success of the John Wick franchise is anything to go by.
However, despite its appearance as just another excessive action movie, there are moments of self-awareness. Not to the extent that it completely satirises genre, but Hallenbeck and Dix discussing how "you don't just smack a guy in the face, you say something cool first", shows that it's a film that doesn't take itself too seriously.
And that's how it should be viewed. It's a bit of fun and isn't that the point of entertainment?