Lethal Weapon Quadrilogy Review Marathon (Review)

Most of Mel Gibson’s resume makes it easy for me.

I retrospectively want to hate everything he has appeared in due to his repeated failure as a human being over the last few years, but Lethal Weapon 1 &2, Mad Max 1 & 2, Gallipoli and Payback (a low key underrated favourite) make that difficult. I guess as with our sports heroes it’s what they do on the court/field/oval/track (and in Mel’s case screen) that counts, and I can’t argue that he has been involved in some good films over three odd decades.

So while I reserve the right to boycott anything he does from now on (The Beaver looks like an easy miss anyway) and detest him for who he is, I can’t help but like the movies that I already enjoy – only now with a giant * behind them.

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“You talkin’ to me?”

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon* is perhaps the easiest Gibson vehicle to like and one of the best “mismatched buddy cop” films in history.

Jaded vet Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) has just hit the big 5-ohhhh, with three kids and a mortgage, when he is partnered with Martin Riggs (Gibson), a younger, psychotic – and very likely suicidal – drunk struggling to move on from his wife’s death. Riggs lives in a trailer on the beach with a dog as his only companion, and he has a myriad of techniques and skills in the art of killing, a crack shot with pistol or rifle and a martial artist, let’s just say .

The new pair are investigating the death of a young blonde woman who leapt to her death from a tall building, landing on a car below, which I only bring up to ask if anyone who ever jumped from a tall building DIDN’T land on a car? Regardless the young girl was a prostitute who more than dabbled in drugs and porn, and she was the daughter of one of Roger’s buddies from Vietnam. It is discovered that her drugs were laced with poison and if she didn’t jump from the building she would have died very soon in any case.

Roger relays this new information to the father, who makes it very clear that regardless of Roger’s badge and job description he wants the people responsible D.E.D.D.

Pausing only to “jump a jumper” and to ponder the worth of his life, Riggs and Murtaugh are on the case…

Being an 80s movie the plot is complex but not unnecessarily convoluted, the duo rapidly learn that they are up against a team of extremely dangerous mercenaries who intend to make a large shipment of heroin in only a few days, the team are led by the General and his loyal 2IC “Mr Joshua” (Gary Busey), who as well as being a crack soldier is perhaps the equal of Riggs in the insanity stakes.

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Might I pause for breath here to point out that these are the two guys in the film portrayed as nutbars?

Talk about predictive casting!

The mercenaries are vicious and brutal, and they target anyone in their way or anyone who might pose a threat, they quickly decide that Riggs and Murtaugh are both. Thankfully Riggs and Murtaugh are equally determined to deal with them and have no intention of running away. Each of them even get their own personal nemesis to “off” in the finale.

After the initial wariness and friction Riggs and Murtaugh gradually develop a bond, which by the end of the film is already an easy chemistry. There are many setpieces that are extremely effective and some cool 80s stuntwork and driving sequences.

This film wasn’t as worried about the comedy elements as the sequels so it doesn’t try so hard, but as a result the jokes work a little better, and of course they are often thrown around in the middle of crisis situations.

Lethal Weapon is one of the better preserved classics of the 80s, it has aged very well and aside from being a little slow at times in comparison to today’s action flicks it stands up against any film of the last decade and features a cast full of bit actors from half of the films made in the decade. The reasonably straightforward plot is a plus – the good guys are good and the bad guys need plugging full of holes – and the action to comedy ratio is just in favour of the action.

As it should be.

I said to my wife that Riggs is Gibson’s Rambo or Rocky, and if you think he hasn’t strongly considered dragging him out of retirement to attempt to rebuild his image you’re nuts. I then joked (repeat: JOKED) that given his tirades in the last few years Riggs would take on a group of Jewish criminals… then turn the gun on Roger.

If that sounds off-colour it is more a reflection of Gibson than anything else.

I wouldn’t watch Lethal Weapon 5; but I must (begrudgingly) admit that the original Lethal Weapon is a great flick.

Final Rating – 8.5 / 10. One of the best buddy cop action flicks. Well paced with big explosions, car chases, snappy quips and a high body count. Immensely entertaining.

Lethal Weapon 2

I think the director of the Lethal Weapon series Richard Donner coined the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Even if that is not the case it is definitely his personal motto.

Lethal Weapon 2 is a very efficient replica of the original, so much so that I am willing to grant it “Great” status even though precious little has changed. Lethal Weapon 2 might be the same as the first, but when they are both equally entertaining you can forgive that, and this film might have the same ratio of action to comedy but here the jokes are funnier and more of them hit the mark.

After Lethal Weapon 2 opens with a kick-ass car chase that serves to both get the adrenalin pumping, and reminds us that Riggs (Mel Gibson) is the crazy one and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) the more staid one who is ‘too old for this shit” and about to retire… still.

We learn quickly that the new foe are a nasty South African crime group with management in high places, and half the things said or seen in the early stages serve as omens for the final 40 minutes or so.

The boys are also given another task in this film and have to babysit a diminutive, motor-mouthed money launderer named Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) who has luck would have it has ties with the very same South African gang that Riggs and Murtaugh are after. Leo’s “OK, OK, OK” jabber is amusing and annoying in equal proportion, so thankfully Leo gets more a bit part than a supporting role.

All Lethal Weapons have great setpieces and action sequences, but this film is remembered for three things:

–        The exploding toilet scene

–        “DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY!”

–        Mel and hottie South African secretary Rika gettin’ it onnnnnn.

The fact that South Africa was right in the middle of apartheid when this film was released added a new wrinkle for the pair, obviously Roger, and made shooting white people cool again.

“Look after me or you might end up with Rene Russo.”

Of course both Riggs and Murtaugh get their own personal nemesis to deal with and everyone nearly dies multiple times, but only those with less than 4 lines of dialogue actually bite the dust.

Lethal Weapon 2 shouldn’t work but thanks to the chemistry between the two leads, the efficiency of the action and the “just right” blend of action and comedy, you’ll go a long way before you see a sequel as good as Lethal Weapon 2.

Final Rating – 8.5 / 10. I didn’t want to label this as Great but it’s just so damn fast paced, funny and entertaining that I had no alternative.

Lethal Weapon 3

By Lethal Weapon 3 the formula for success was water-tight.

–        Riggs is crazy and has numerous killing skillz.

–        Murtaugh is about to retire (still) and is a little boring – he only kills guys by shooting them for goodness’ sake!… and he’s still too old for this shit.

–        There is much action with jokes zipping about as frequently as bullets and swear words.

3 doesn’t have the originality of 1 nor the highlights of 2, that doesn’t stop it from being entertaining though, but it is quite clearly a step down from its two predecessors.

The film opens with a bang as always, this time quite literally with a huge explosion.

The bad guys in 3 are a group selling illegal weapons to gangs headed by a dirty ex-cop named Jack Travis. This is probably the worst set of crims in any of the four films, the lead bad guy is OK but rather than wanting any of them dead they are simply more minions and faceless bad guys to be offed in between corny jokes. If I wanted to watch Americans shooting other Americans I would simply go to America!!

Rene Russo is introduced as Lorna, who as well as being an Internal Affairs cop is also Mel bait, and Leo Getz is still around and has moved even further into the organised crime game – he now sells real estate.

A couple of action scenes are memorable but overall this turns out to be an inferior facsimile of 1 and 2, it sacrifices action for comedy and falls flat (most notably by injecting a sassy large black woman to stalk Murtaugh).

I guess that this was to be the final film in the series, as it plays out like a 2 hour mortality play. Everyone seems to be fretful that everything is coming to an end…

Of course this was all solved by Lethal Weapon 4: the lure of the cash, in 1998.

Being the third film in the series it would be remiss to ignore the milestones reached in this film:

1 – Murtaugh reaches his second litre of onscreen spit in scenes where he is hurt, punched or just yelling. Congratulations.

2 – Riggs chases a motor vehicle while on foot for the third consecutive film.

3 – A professional psychiatrist is lost for words in the third consecutive film after being assaulted with some pretty lame and uncreative dialogue.

4 – As always the criminals don’t really need to panic until Riggs’ eyes open real wide and he proclaims his level of pissed-off-edness… now it’s on! There’s a certain Russian singer/model who knows this look only too well…

5 – Once again the crims come to the source and arrive at the Murtaugh home to be menacing.

Actually this deserves it’s own box.

The Murtaugh House : Over the Lethal Weapon series Roger Murtaugh’s home seems to be the beacon blinking in every crime gang’s GPS. The home is exploded, razed to the ground and has the security circumvented in every film.This raises questions.-        How do they afford the insurance when they claim a major or total rebuild every few years?-        Why do they not move?

–        Why do their neighbours not move?

–        What shitty security system do they have that it can be circumvented silently by every Joshua (LW1), Pieter (LW2) and Jack (LW3)?

–        What do they rebuild with, paper? The house burned down in 4 minutes in one film,  and the walls are penetrated with nary a scratch.

No wonder the man can’t retire, he is continually working to fund his insurance premiums!

Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. Still an entertaining film just not when considered in direct comparison. Lethal Weapon 3 is less quotable, less funny and by substituting Rene Russo for Patsy Kensit (as lopsided a trade as the Carmelo Anthony NBA deal), far less hot.

Lethal Weapon 4

I don’t think LW4 was ever really planned in any detail beyond the “We’ll get paid big one more time”. This is immediately evident when after an unexplained and pointless – though admittedly action packed – intro that has nothing to do with the film (remember the starts of 1, 2 & 3 were all related to the plotline that followed) featuring a Ned Kelly styled psycho with a flamethrower, the imminent arrival of not one, but two babies is announced.

Ahhh babies, the sure-fire signal that a franchise is bereft of new ideas.

But for the most part in LW4 that doesn’t even matter, why invent new ideas when the old ones still work just fine?

The usual suspects are still around, Leo (Joe Pesci) is now a private eye, still irritable, yappy and profance. Riggs kept a woman alive for two films in a row, and now Lorna (Rene Russo) is one of the preggers chickies along with Roger’s eldest daughter Rianne who ignored her own condom ad and got knocked up by a young loud mouthed cop named Butters (Chris Rock), who seems to be there to be a similarly abrasive counterpoint to Leo and to create a dumb running joke where Roger thinks he is gay for him.

As always the case comes to them, this time it is a people smuggling operation lead by villainous Chinese criminals, after it is busted open the 400+ are sent back; but not a dozen or so that Roger decides to keep for himself in some kind of ‘free the slaves’ arrangement. This ludicrous turn of events only gets worse when he decides to keep them all in his home. What exactly did he plan to do with them??

Doesn’t matter, because in a stroke of luck this one family is the main one the smugglers actually wanted to get into the country (why the other 400 odd then?), and they head to Roger’s house to claim them. (I’ve said it before, everyone knows where Roger lives).

After this the usual stuff happens, Roger and/or Riggs gets pissed and decide that’s enough leading to the deaths of countless bad guys and many explosions.

And really that’s why Lethal Weapon 4 gets a pass mark from me, the action sequences are almost as solid as ever enough and the pace hectic enough to demand enjoyment, even if by comparison you know that they are merely going through the motions by now.

The humour is there but you have to look a bit harder to sift the good jokes out of the flat and bland ones – the Leo / Butters dynamic was supposed to be hilarious… at least I think it was – there is one good freeway chase, one good hand to hand combat scene where Jet Li finally gets to show how much better he is than any of the good guys and the final shootout and fight is OK.

I would’ve been happy if it had of ended when the bad guy died – but noooooo – they had to force in an indulgent ‘everyone loves each other’ montage that spilled over into the cast and crew. Maybe as a DVD extra guys, but a sappy way to close out a 4 film series where most of the fun was found in potty talk and head counts.

Final Rating – 7 / 10. Lethal Weapon had a strong enough formula that even the duds were ok, this pales in comparison to 1 and 2, but if it’s on late night TV I’d probably find myself hanging around till the end, at least the logical end before the mutual back-slapping parade.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine.

I don’t expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don’t be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong… and hopefully if you think I got it right for once.

Don’t be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.

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