Bruce Willis has had the profound good luck to star in some of the greatest American action films of all time, including its single greatest: the first DIE HARD. And this paved the way for Willis to become one of the biggest film stars of the 1990's, and for better (PULP FICTION, THE SIXTH SENSE, the other two DIE HARD 90's films) or worse (THE COLOR OF NIGHT, STRIKING DISTANCE, MORTAL THOUGHTS, FOUR ROOMS), he was king. The two films in this Blu-ray double feature represent his best 90's action works: THE LAST BOY SCOUT and LAST MAN STANDING.
THE LAST BOY SCOUT is another film in the mismatched buddy-cop actioner genre from writer Shane Black, who set the perfect blueprint for the genre with LETHAL WEAPON, slightly misstepped it with THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT and injected fresh and wonderful life back into it with the woefully underseen KISS KISS, BANG BANG. But what's different about the mismatched pair here is one of them is a former Secret Service agent turned alcoholic loser deadbeat private eye (Willis) and the other is a former star quarterback turned gambling addict and coke-fiend (Damon Wayans)... neither of them are cops. But they're losers who are down on their luck that, despite themselves, find redemption as they take on corrupt government officials and sleazy, murderous sports executives. Both of the men that they seek to bring down are both involved in their respective falls from grace, so they look to dish out a heaping helping of cold-served revenge... until a wonderful plot twist has one of them protecting the very person who ruined his life.
Tony Scott, prior to this film, had long been determined as an untalented, coat-tail riding hack whose flashy MTV-style of filmmaking used with such films as TOP GUN and BEVERLY HILLS COP 2 seemed to serve 30-second commercials better than a feature film. However, he proves that with the right script and the right players, from Noble Willingham and Taylor Negron to Chelsea Field and Bruce McGill and a before-she-was-famous Halle Berry, you can make a really great film. Ultimately it was the success of this film
Yes, there are logic-holes that you could fly a 747 through (How does Willis afford such a beautiful home with his barely-solvent business?), and the film may not be up to par with the dramatic performances of a Merchant-Ivory film, but as pure adrenalinizing popcorn fare, it's perfect. Black's one-liners zing back and forth, Scott keeps a healthy tempo going, and it has the benefit of Willis playing one of the coolest action heroes ever. His character is probably a little too cool for a sense of realism, but that is NOT what this film is going for. It goes for mythical cool, by telling a tale of redemption of two fallen heroes in the snappiest and most entertaining way possible.
Now, onto LAST MAN STANDING. This film is another remake of the legendary film YOJIMBO from legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa with legendary actor Toshiro Mifune as a ronin, or masterless Samurai, who reluctantly helps to bring order to a town with two warring gangs in feudal Japan. The first remake of the film was legendary directory Sergio Leone's A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS with legendary actor Clint Eastwood as a gunslinger-for-hire who reluctantly helps bring order to a town with two warring gangs in the Old West. Now, Walter Hill, director of such classics as 48 HRS. and THE WARRIORS brings Willis as a former mob gun-for-hire who reluctantly helps bring order to the dusty desert town of Jericho, that happens to have two warring mobs in the late 1920's. The film isn't jam-packed with action, but when you get the action, you really are slammed with it. The film also features Christopher Walken as the town's crazed main gun for hire (Walken playing a crazed and violent man? What are the odds?), WARRIORS and 48 HRS. alum David Patrick Kelly as the head of the town's Irish mob, Michael Imperioli as the idiotic cousin of the head of the town's Italian mob, Bruce Dern as the sleazy and amoral town sheriff and William Sanderson as the the heart-of-gold town barkeep. Willis gives a very understated, quiet cool performance that is pretty quip-free. But when he pulls out those twin .45's, you better run for cover. There is a spectacular shootout near the climax that is just awesome. And Ry Cooder's rock/blues infused score is a highlight as well.
As a director, Hill had a series of missteps like BREWSTER'S MILLIONS, STREETS OF FIRE, RED HEAT and ANOTHER 48 HRS., but LAST MAN STANDING stands out as one of his strongest films, alongside his biggest successes and some of his other seriously underrated films, like WILD BILL and JOHNNY HANDSOME.
Overall, this is a double-bill that features Willis in his prime as an action hero and major film star, and it doesn't hurt that both films are terrific.
Warner Bros. Blu-Ray films can really vary in quality. Most of their Blu-Rays are very good, and some are very poor as far as additional content and the lack of lossless audio, which is part of the standard of Blu-Ray discs. Sadly, this is one of the examples of the latter. This disc does NOT have lossless audio. Watching THE LAST BOY SCOUT, every now and then, I can hear my player (and it's not an issue with the player or physical issues with the disc) rev up and there's a slight audio skip. It's doesn't terribly detract from the experience, but it doesn't help, despite the very crisp picture.
Still terrific films, but it does have audio issues that might make more of a surround sound setup owner think twice before getting this.