Table of contents

The last boy scout

Some notes on the troublesome business of heroism

This is the story of Joe Hallenbeck, another one of the few men humiliated by the opinion that there are no more heroes. Not for lack of a suburban home, wife, & daughter, he is miserable, an opinion in which his family concur. What a strange crisis, though: Joe seems to want to sacrifice in the cause of the good. Maybe what dooms him is not his failure to sacrifice, but the lack of a good cause. Some men go around making the world’s problems theirs…

This man is no Scrooge, except if man is by nature Scrooge-like. The ghosts of Christmas do not come to visit him, except if man is by nature exposed to their exhortations & chastisement. Shane Black‘s stories happen on Christmas & never look like Christmas stories, except if you think that Christmas stories are about doomed men seeking redemption. Of course, Christmas is not Christmas-like in L.A.

Briefly put, the story turns around a young woman, who may be a whore. Joe, having failed his family, is doomed to fail this surrogate black family. No way he can save the girl. Going in guns blazing is going in too late. Telling her to be moral is moralizing too late. Too late to get back to the past. Too late for the girl – too late for her trying to get her lover’s old job back. There is no going back.

Old America is not coming back; Joe’s boy scout morality is what causes him to kill so many people. They cannot see how his mind moves; they are nevertheless a danger to him; cowardice would be kind & generous here. But he is a brave man. He kills people after humiliating them. His wit, such as it is, is supposed to showcase his sangfroid.

When you’re in love with someone who humiliates your pride, it makes you bitter. The anger doubles up as self-pity. Men come crashing down that way. Joe only gives one reason for loving America – he can destroy boastful criminals. People who brag about power or morality can be beaten, because the system is not made to prop them up quite. But he must have had different reasons before, when he was moral…

In the future, a man’s daughter must take up the gun & he must forgive his wife’s treachery. Don’t get me started on troubles with his friends… Joe lets go of all his defeats by learning what price he must still pay. He acquiesces. Joe’s a private detective. He lives to prevent injustice – the police deal with avenging it after the fact. They no more love that job than they love him. A man who withstands injustice is terrible.

Yet another one of the action movies a young man should see.