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‘The Last Boy Scout’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 13, 1991

"Be prepared" once had to do with helping little old ladies cross streets, but in "The Last Boy Scout," it concerns one's ability to use the blades of a helicopter as a human salad shooter. A Roman circus of guts, glory and gallows humor, this lavish action thriller should sate the genre's increasingly bloodthirsty audience. Like the evening news, it fairly hemorrhages blood and sorrow.

Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans star in this lesser variation on "Lethal Weapon," a buddy adventure in which an odd couple of sleuths crack jokes and bones in a comradely manner. They call them adventures, but they're strictly for viewers who don't want surprises, just a laundry list of buddyisms. Here Shane Black, who penned "Weapons" I and II, basically follows the bread crumbs back to the box office in this story of a disgraced gumshoe (Willis) and a sacked quarterback (Wayans).

Willis, a former Secret Service agent, has already lost his self-respect when the story opens, but he becomes human tub scum when he discovers his wife (Chelsea Field) making whoopee with his best friend. In the wake of his discovery, Willis becomes involved with Wayans, the boyfriend of a client (Halle Berry) who is mowed down by mobsters. Ousted from pro ball amid allegations of gambling and drug abuse, Wayans is as eager as Willis to prove himself, and together they uncover a heinous gambling cabal that threatens the very future of professional football (not to mention the Bud Bowl).

You'd think this pair of tough-talking palookas could handle a twisted politician, a crooked team owner and their many goons on their own, but these two are aided in their exploits by Danielle Harris as Willis's alienated 14-year-old daughter. A sad reflection of the times, she is an enthusiastic witness to the many gruesome events that culminate in the brutal finale, highlighted by the aforementioned chopper incident in which her dad overcomes the forces of evil.

Director Tony Scott of "Top Gun" fame and "Days of Thunder" infamy delivers the customary high-speed pacing, but he seems to be going round in circles in one more outsize vehicle tanked up on high-testosterone. He's encouraged a jokey locker room rapport between his leads, whose friendship is valued above the more perfunctory ones they enjoyed with Willis's strayed wife and Wayans's dead go-go dancer. Wayans appears to suffer not heartbreak but heartburn when his girl is gunned down.

Genuine emotion only embarrasses action fans, who titter like adolescents at the kissing scenes. And this ride, like all the rest, is about rage and impotence, not love, friendship or even heroism. "There are no heroes left" is an ongoing lament in "The Last Boy Scout," a complaint that is as true when the story begins as when it ends. Wayans remains an unemployed jock, and Willis, the eponymous last scout, is still a sardonic picklepuss -- except he's shaved. Maybe he was working toward his merit badge in personal hygiene.

"The Last Boy Scout" is rated R for language, nudity and violence.

Copyright The Washington Post

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