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‘The Last Boy Scout’ (R)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 13, 1991

Certain villains are beyond attack. It's redundant to rail at Hitler, the bogyman and the Antichrist, for instance. The same goes for producer Joel Silver. His ultra-bloody blockbusters celebrate the basest in man. They also make money. Why wring hands about it? He represents the profitable spirit of every producer since the days of smoke-filled nickelodeons.

The difference is, Silver takes this tradition to its sleaziest limits this side of an NC-17 rating. He doesn't produce films, he Uzis them into completion. Ah, but there goes the hand-wringing again.

In "The Last Boy Scout," a vehicle for Bruce Willis, all the Silver factors apply. It's a kill movie, the filmic equivalent of a hate crime. Silver, director Tony Scott and megabuck screenwriter Shane Black co-create a cynical piece of nastiness. It's not even inspired nastiness, like Henri-Georges Clouzot's "Wages of Fear," the recently restored 1953 classic which had a run at the Biograph. It's mindless, anti-civilization formula for boys who can't get enough.

Detective Willis is having the usual action-picture troubles. He's out of money, he's drinking, he's fighting with the wife and he has no shaving razor. Once a stellar Secret Service agent, he saved President Carter -- or a Ron Smith lookalike -- from an assassin's bullet. But he was jettisoned for crossing a vengeful politician. Now, our Last Boy Scout is stuck in the bad world of two-bit detective work. To add insult to male dignity, his wife (Chelsea Field) is sleeping with his best friend. The reason? She's bored.

A car explosion later, Willis realizes there's a nebulous enemy to be rooted out. When the same force goes after nightclub dancer Halle Berry, her boyfriend Damon Wayans gets involved. He's a fallen angel himself. The former quarterback was ejected from the league for being addicted to Demerol. Wayans and Willis go after the usual conspiracy of shady villains. There's a twist: The bad guy is not the barking police lieutenant.

Script-brat Black borrows from his own "Lethal Weapon," with a black-white buddy team, macho one-liners and gruesome details. One hit man gets his leg crushed between cars. Still pinned between vehicles, he keeps firing. Watch out, also, for a slice-and-death killing from helicopter blades. Meanwhile, director Scott (who did "Top Gun") supplies the usual top-of-the-line, blue-filtered, hyped-up atmospherics.

In this cast of dumbly conceived archetypes, the worst is Willis's teenage daughter (Danielle Harris). She doesn't talk just dirty. Large sods of earth roll from her tongue. In "Scout," if a woman isn't a slut or a bimbo, she's a bitch. Harris, like her mother, is estranged from Willis. He'll have to earn her love by killing large numbers of criminals. See, the world is ranked in muscle or armament strength; you show your love through the body count you've achieved.

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