Kevin: They say there are no small parts, just small actors. Actually the actors who usually say this are probably bitter that they can’t get bigger parts, but that doesn’t make it any less true, which is why Tough Guy Digest is celebrating the scene-stealers who made a lasting impression in just a few minutes of screen time in our “No Small Parts” series. For our inaugural entry, we are saluting the most memorable supporting player from one of our favorite action movies of all time: Kim Coates as the guy who should have just kept his mouth shut and given Bruce Willis a light in 1991’s “The Last Boy Scout”:
You probably know Kim Coates best from his work in, among others, “Sons of Anarchy,” “Battlefield Earth,” the classic Kevin Costner western “Open Range,” and as one of the Delta Force warriors in Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down,” which CJ and I had our own battle to see last month. And as one of the carjackers at the beginning of “Bad Boys,” he also has the distinction of uttering some of the first dialogue in the very first film of Michael Bay’s career: “Titty titty, strutty strutty,” which is about as good a summary of Bay’s cinematic oeuvre as I can think of.
However, Coates was just a TV bit player in the ‘80s and early ‘90s until he was cast in “The Last Boy Scout” as one of the many, many professional hitmen employed by the fictional L.A. Stallions football team. Now Tough Guy Digest has previously celebrated our love for Tony Scott’s action masterpiece in one of our first Round Tables, while I noted a few weeks ago how screenwriter Shane Black’s cynical take on professional football was rather prescient in anticipating the NFL’s current woes. But we should also highlight the fact that in an era filled with some of the best bad guys in action movie history (such as Alan Rickman in “Die Hard,” Gary Busey in “Lethal Weapon,” Craig T. Nelson in “Action Jackson,” and Tommy Lee Jones in “Under Siege”), “Last Boy Scout” more than holds its own in the villain department.
For one thing, the filmmakers hit the jackpot by going against type in casting the avuncular Noble Willingham as Shelly Marcone, the chillingly amoral good ole’ boy owner of the Stallions, and comedian Taylor Negron as his super-formal, super-effeminate, and super intimidating right-hand-man Mr. Milo. But even some of the second-tier henchmen get a chance to shine, like Badja Djola as the gunman who lets Bruce’s “your wife is so fat” jokes get the better of him, and Jack Kehler as the erudite “inventor of Scrabble” on the receiving end of a C-4 blast.
However, it’s Coates who gets by far the most memorable death in the movie, which is appropriate as his brief back-and-forth with Willis is the most memorable scene in the film, so much so that its payoff was spoiled in nearly every trailer and commercial before it’s release. If you have not seen “Last Boy Scout” in a while, the following occurs after Bruce’s character has been kidnapped by Marcone’s goons, one of whom – played by Coates – is about to be the recipient of an unfortunate “nose job” after seriously underestimating how much shit private detective Joe Hallenbeck will take:
As you can see, Coates is barely on screen for two minutes and he instantly takes over the movie. From the weaselly way he tries to save face after Willis grabs his hand, to the way he disdainfully mutters the “touch me again and I’ll kill ya” threat under his breath before going in for the second punch, you can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance, and boy does the movie deliver on that front. After showing what kind of impression he could make with just a standard henchman character, it’s not surprising that Coates has never stopped working since, and if nothing else his scene in “The Last Boy Scout” was an important warning about the dangers of getting between a broken down private detective and his cigarettes.
Post Script: Check back again for our next “No Small Parts” entry, in which we spotlight Billy Bob Thornton’s turn as the mercenary who worries that keeping the stock out on his machine gun will make him “feel like a pussy” in Steven Seagal’s 1994 eco-warrior film “On Deadly Ground.”
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