Kevin: Athletes who feel exploited and used up by the system, disillusioned fans increasingly tuning out, team owners who care about nothing but the bottom line. That’s how many apparently feel about the NFL in 2017, but it also accurately describes Shane Black’s cynical and perhaps prescient view of where professional football was headed in his script for 1991’s “The Last Boy Scout.” Fortunately, while Roger Goodell has had to deal with Mike Vick’s dog fighting, Ray Rice’s wife beating, doping scandals, concussion cover-ups, anthem protests, and falling ratings during his tenure as NFL commissioner, at least he hasn’t had to worry about players gunning each other down on the field … yet:
The Bruce Willis-Damon Wayans classic – which Tough Guy Digest covered in one of our first Round Tables back in December – begins with the fictional L.A. Stallions taking on the Cleveland [Unidentified] in the Friday night game of the week, which seemed absurd at the time because who could ever imagine the NFL being played on a night other than Monday? Either way, during his sideline interview with Stallions team owner Shelly Marcone, real life player/broadcaster Lynn Swan offers what could be a preview of things to come for the NFL:
“29,256, that’s pretty poor attendance even for a night like this, wouldn’t you say?”
“Perhaps you can explain the drop-off in attendance and TV ratings; are we witnessing the death of professional football?”
“Mr. Marcone, are there any heroes left in this game?”
In response Marcone points to Stallions wide receiver Billy Cole as one of those heroes, saying the star player is having “the game of his life out there tonight.” Now as we pointed out in our Round Table, this is really inconsistent with the fact that Marcone’s henchman Milo had just told Cole at halftime he’d be killed if he didn’t score some TD’s. But it’s also a tad unfortunate for Marcone that right after he says this, Cole catches a pass and, while running for the touchdown, pulls out a gun and shoots one Cleveland player between the eyes, another in the shoulder, and another in the knee before shooting himself in the head in the end zone:
Now as with our post on “Sudden Death,” whenever I see something like this during a sporting event in a movie I have a few questions. First, does the touchdown still count? I’d normally say no since he used a handgun to take out a few defenders, but if the rulebook didn’t specifically preclude Air Bud from being a wide receiver (I’m sorry, I meant to say a “golden” receiver) …
… I’m guessing the Stallions could argue that nothing in the rules specifically forbids the use of weapons on the field as well. Even so, considering Cole’s sharpshooting put a couple of Cleveland players on injured reserve for quite a while – and another six feet under – I’m assuming L.A. is gonna have to be penalized at least a couple of second- and third-round draft picks, correct?
But that’s an issue Goodell will have to address later, because right now I wouldn’t envy him having to deal with this Wild West version of pro football. I think we’d assume that in real life if the star wide receiver for the best team in the league, in the biggest market in the country, just gunned down several opposing players on the field before blowing his brains out on national TV, at minimum the entire season would be canceled and a Congressional investigation opened immediately. Because without knowing that the Stallions organization employs more professional assassins than groundskeepers, everyone would assume that Cole went homicidal/suicidal due to too many concussions.
Although maybe not, because in the world of “The Last Boy Scout” this tragedy seems to have almost zero impact. Other than a couple of passing references, no one seems to find the primetime suicide of the most popular athlete in Los Angeles particularly noteworthy, to the point where the evil Senator Baynard says in an interview later that he’s looking forward to seeing his favorite L.A. team “kick hell out of Tampa Bay” like it’s just another game. Hell even the fans we see at the L.A. Coliseum during the climax don’t seem to give a shit either; they are surprisingly raucous and carefree considering they hopefully at least just had a moment of silence for their recently deceased marquee player.
(As I said in our Round Table though, I would have loved to see some version of Joe Buck nonchalantly run through some of the challenges the Stallions face against their opponent: “The Stallions come into this match-up at a disadvantage due to the loss of a few key players to injuries, as well as top receiver Billy Cole to last week’s fourth-quarter murder-suicide in Cleveland.”)
Although fuck, it’s not like Billy Cole’s teammates are any better than the fans, because seemingly the day after Cole kills himself this is how his obviously distraught band of brothers is mourning him …
… with former Stallions QB Jimmy Dix (Wayans) observing ex-teammate Ray exhibiting the kind of treatment of women we expect from either entitled athletes or every movie blogger (except for us!):
When Dix tells Ray to let her go, because “it’s too early in the morning for that,” Ray says it’s a “league party.” What does that mean? This just looks like a party for the Stallions players to do coke and get laid, and which is either starting super early or going super late, but now it’s a league party? Like is this sanctioned by the movie’s version of the NFL? No wonder Middle America is turning against this Sodom and Gomorrah league. Although I have to agree with Ray that it seems kind of sad that Jimmy is still coming to these things like the 21-year-old who still shows up at high school parties.
So how did we get to this sorry state of affairs for the game of professional football? Well according to “The Last Boy Scout,” two words: free agency. That’s right, two years before Reggie White made history as the first NFL free agent, “The Last Boy Scout” was predicting that allowing players to take their services to the highest bidder would create a virtual sports dystopia in which everyone is a mercenary, from the players to Marcone’s hit squad.
To show how disconnected the fans have become from the Stallions players, when Jimmy and Joe Hallenbeck (Willis) are walking through what appears to be the same parking garage where Riggs and Murtaugh first got to know each other in “Lethal Weapon,” a cop mistakes Jimmy for a low-level criminal he used to be bust, even though Jimmy appears to only have been out of the league a couple of years. After Jimmy responds, “I used to play football. Jimmy Dix. L.A. Stallions,” the cop asks, “What position?,” before saying, “Football? Free agents ruined the goddamn game!” Although I guess why shouldn’t he have already forgotten about the former star QB for the hometown team, considering that the fans have already forgotten Cole after like two days.
Hallenbeck himself though isn’t immune to this collective amnesia regarding the Stallions, as later he finds a picture of Jimmy’s recently murdered stripper girlfriend Cory with Marcone and asks who that is with her. Let’s just say that Anthony and I were starring in “The Last Boy Scout” (something that I dream about at least once a week). Even if I was just a casual fan, I have a feeling that if I found a picture of Anthony’s stripper girlfriend hanging out with Jerry Jones, I wouldn’t need to ask “Who’s this guy with Crystal?”
Soon after this though Jimmy shows Hallenbeck a much blurrier picture of Marcone with Baynard and says, “That’s Marcone,” to which Joe condescendingly replies, “Yeah I know who it is,” even though apparently two minutes earlier he couldn’t recognize the longtime publicity hungry owner of the top franchise in L.A. (and later we find out Jimmy used to be Hallenbeck’s favorite player of all time, which makes it even weirder he didn’t recognize Marcone).
Although now that I think about it, maybe “The Last Boy Scout” is a sly commentary by Shane Black on the stereotype of L.A. fans who don’t have a clue what is going on with their “beloved” teams unless they are playing for a championship.
(I’ll also just note that while watching this on iTunes, the closed caption people apparently were fine with typing out words like “fuck,” “shit,” “dick,” “whore,” “bitch,” and “fag” – and those are all said by the HEROES of this movie! – but apparently they drew the line when Damon Wayans referred to people as “assholes” in this shot):
Later, after Hallenbeck walks in on Jimmy doing coke in his bathroom and lays him out with one punch, Jimmy gives a better explanation of how pro football abandons its former legends than all of Will Smith’s “Concussion”:
“Shit happens really easy man. It starts out … painkillers. Using Demerol because your fucking knees are shot! Before you know it, you’re chewing codeine with your pancakes … I get a call from the fucking league, and they’re saying, ‘Hey kid, your career’s over.’ And I say ‘Why?’ Because I gambled. Why is there a fucking injury report in pro football, huh? Nobody else has one. Pro football does. You know why? It’s so the gamblers will have a fucking accurate spread! It’s all business now. They push you until you blow your fucking brains out, just like Billy Cole did! Can’t you see those fucking hypocrites took away my fucking life?!”
And after listening to Jimmy pour his heart out, Joe then pretty much sums up how much the average fan sympathizes with the problems of millionaire athletes: “When you’re done feeling sorry for yourself, the front door is that way.”
Eventually Marcone kidnaps Hallenbeck and lays out a plan to keep the sport alive that’s at least a little more creative than “Free T-Shirt Night”: “Football is a dying beast Joe. No heroes left, not anymore … God almighty when’s it enough? Jesus, free agents, gimme gimme gimme!” “Now you got guys on PCP wigging out and shooting themselves on the field.” “The American public is piss pot tired of it, and they’re changing the channel.”
Joe: “Ratings are down … so you’re gonna bribe some senators to legalize gambling?”
Marcone: “Legalize sports gambling. You see, with all the heroes gone, legalized gambling is about the only thing that will save the beast. We’re talking about some big bucks. We’re talking about billions. That’s nine zeros son.”
Unfortunately Marcone gets blown up and we never find out if his idea is implemented or if it is successful, but if the NFL’s fortunes keep falling then maybe legalized gambling is an idea whose time has come in reality. Fortunately we all know there is at least one NFL owner who is just as evil and ruthless enough as Shelly Marcone to make that happen:
Additional thoughts on “The Last Boy Scout” that didn’t make our earlier Round Table:
– After saying he’s bribed every senator on the gambling committee except Baynard because he wants more, Marcone says it’s “gonna cheaper just to kill that son of a bitch.” I know Shelly has a number of expensive hitmen on retainer and wants to make sure they have something to do, but I think we’d agree it would have been a lot cheaper and easier just to give Baynard an extra $100,000.
– I still can’t decide which cinematic version of Los Angeles I’d love to spend my eternity in, “The Last Boy Scout” or “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.”
– If you tasked a 20-something costume designer in 2017 to put together some outfits for a movie set in 1991, no way in hell would they come up with any of the shit Damon Wayans wears in “The Last Boy Scout.” Seriously what the fuck is this, he’s wearing some sort of jester-type hat and a shirt with a bunch of Egyptians having an orgy or something?
– When Jimmy and Cory are sensually enjoying each other in the bedroom in … Cory’s strip club I guess, she says “If I were a cat, I’d purr”:
It’s ironic that if you told Halle Berry back then that less than 15 years later she would be playing Catwoman in a major motion picture, she’d imagine that that would be a career pinnacle for her. She also might assume that she would have improved as an actress as well, which we all know didn’t happen.
– I never noticed until Mike pointed it out in our Round Table, but yeah, when they are in the police station after Cory is killed, Hallenbeck at the 35:14 mark says he is going home because his job is done and he doesn’t want to get killed over this case. At the 36:14 mark he’s asking Jimmy where Cory lived so he can look around there for some clues. Literally nothing happened during that minute in between that would have warranted this complete 180-degree change from him.
– Not to be all Christopher Nolan, but let’s break down the timeline of this movie: Hallenbeck first meets Jimmy at Cory’s strip club apparently super late, because by the time Joe puts a bullet through the head of one of the guys who blew away Cory, the sun is coming up the next morning. Apparently Joe and Jimmy spend almost all day awake at the police station, after which Joe has his change of heart about investigating the case. By the time Joe kills the Scrabble guy and his gunman with the C-4 in his trunk, it appears to be pretty well into the evening.
But then Jimmy seems to pick up Joe from the police station early enough for them to get home to find his pre-teen daughter still watching TV. So in less than like 12 hours, Joe has been arrested twice for a gunfight and then a bombing involving illegal military-grade explosives in his car, both of which took place in downtown Los Angeles, and yet he is still home in time to catch the end of “Lethal Weapon” on HBO. Talk about white privilege, am I right?
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