Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mitchell Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darelene Love
Released March 6, 1987
Best Sound (lost to The Last Emperor)
Lethal Weapon 2
Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Joss Ackland, Patsy Kensit, Darlene Love
Released: July 7, 1989
Best Sound Effects Editing (lost to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
Lethal Weapon 3
Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Rene Russo, Joe Pesci, Stuart Wilson, Darlene Love
Released: May 15, 1992
Lethal Weapon 4
Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li, Darlene Love
Released: July 10, 1998
I had never seen the Lethal Weapon series until just recently when I discovered they were all on Netflix Instant, but I know they were a big part of '80s and '90s action films. Besides being action films, the only thing I knew about them was that they starred Mel Gibson and Danny Glover and the oft-quoted line, "I'm too old for this sh*t!" is uttered by Danny Glover.
Glover and Gibson are Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs (notice how they have opposite initials!) When we first meet Murtaugh, it is his 50th birthday (although Danny Glover was 40 when he filmed this...I would be a little insulted if I were him!) He's married to a woman named Trish (Darlene Love - I mostly know her as a singer) and has three children: a teenage daughter named Rianne and a younger son and daughter, Nick and Carrie, who are probably 12 and 9, if I had to guess. I checked IMDb to see if all three kids are played by the same actors throughout the series and they are. In the first movie, Rianne plays a big role. Murtaugh is not very happy when he finds he has a new partner as he would rather work alone. He's partnered with Riggs, who's in his thirties. When we first meet him, we find out his wife died in a car accident and that he's suicidal. We see an early scene of him pointing a gun to his head, but this was a pretty anti-climatic scene for me knowing that there are three other Lethal Weapon movies and they all star Mel Gibson (and Danny Glover as well, so we know Murtaugh's never in any real danger either!) I thought maybe he would be interrupted by a phone call or the knock door, but he decides he can't go through with it.
It does take awhile before we actually see Murtaugh and Riggs meet (this is the origin story, after all!) and there is a funny scene where we see Riggs working on his own. He's working undercover and wants these drug dealers, who also work at a Christmas tree farm, to sell him all their cocaine and asks them how much. They tell him it will cost him "a hundred", but they'll throw in a tree for free. He pulls out his wallet and starts counting twenties and one of the guys slams his hand over the money and Riggs says, "Hey, man, I'm losing count" and the guys says, " One hundred THOUSAND dollars!" Riggs says that he has a better idea; that he'll "take the whole stash off their hands for free and that they can go to jail" and shows them his badge. Oh, yeah, I'm sure those guys think that's a much better deal!
Naturally, Murtaugh and Riggs don't care for each other when they first start working together, but that will change over the course of the series. They are investigating the death of a young woman who they thought committed suicide by jumping off the balcony of a high-rise. However, an autopsy report says that she had been poisoned before she jumped, so she would have died regardless. I don't know why they assumed she committed suicide because she was so jacked up on drugs, I just figured she was impaired and didn't know what she was doing when she jumped. The case is personal for Murtaugh because the girl was the daughter of a man he knew, Michael Hunsaker (Tom Atkins) when he was serving in Vietnam.
That's the main storyline, but there's also other unrelated police work they attend to, such as trying to stop a man from jumping off a building. They decide to send the suicidal cop up to the roof to stop him, for some reason. Riggs tricks the guy and handcuffs him to himself and tells him if he jumps, then he'll be taking a police officer with him and will also be committing murder. While all this was going on, there was a big air mattress being blown up below them. Riggs and the other guy had to have seen that, but when Riggs tells him they might as well jump, the guy starts freaking out and they both land on the mattress. Later that day, Riggs and Murtaugh get a tip about a man who may have sold the dead girl the drugs and Riggs ends up killing him after the guy pulls out a gun. Murtaugh yells at him and asks him if he kills everybody he meets which doesn't make any sense because this is the only guy Riggs has killed....so far! (Murtaugh was a little more than upset about the suicidal guy, but he didn't die!) There's also another scene where they're at the shooting rage and both are trying to prove they are a better shot than the other. Murtaugh shoots a bullet through the head of the target, then Riggs takes a target and moves it as far back as it can go and ends up shooting a smiley face on the target's face.
Murtaugh and Riggs find out that Hunsaker's daughter was killed by these guys he was working with. He was laundering money for their heroin smuggling operation called Shadow Company, but wanted out. It was run be a retired general, McAllister (Mitchell Ryan) and Mr. Joshua (everyone's favorite Apprentice, Gary Busey). As Hunsaker is telling Murtaugh about this, he is killed by Mr. Joshua who takes him out from a helicopter and Riggs runs after the helicopter and starts shooting it...does he really think that's going to work? Not surprisingly, Mr. Joshua gets away.
Rianne, the teen daughter of Murtaugh, gets kidnapped by the bad men. There's a big showdown in the desert and a lot of the bad men's henchmen are killed and Rianne manages to escape, but they capture her again along with Riggs and Murtaugh who are both tortured until Riggs escapes and rescues Murtaugh and Rianne and kills some more bad guys. Mr. Joshua has escaped and goes to Murtaugh's house (because every single bad guy in all these movies all know where Murtaugh lives...he really should have moved!) to kidnap the other members of the Murtaugh family, but they've all been taken to safety before he can do that. Riggs and Murtaugh end up driving a car through the house (and Murtaugh's house is going to get completely destroyed during the course of this series! Again, he really should have moved!) There's a big fight between Riggs and Mr. Joshua and Mr. Joshua is caught and being put in handcuffs but not before he tries to get the gun of the police officer, so Riggs shoots and kills him.
There was a small subplot in which Rianne has a crush on Riggs which was a little creepy since she's a teenager and he's in his thirties, but they quickly nix that in the following movies as he becomes like a cool uncle to Murtaugh's kids.
|Seriously, what is this monstrosity?|
This movie was the first screenplay written by Shane Black (who also wrote the screenplay for the last movie I reviewed, The Long Kiss Goodnight) who went on to become a hot commodity for action movie screenplays. I just assumed he wrote the screenplays for the other Lethal Weapon movies, but he's just credited for creating the characters and coming up with the story for the second movie.
In Lethal Weapon 2, which came out two years after the first, we are introduced to a few new characters, including new villains. They are trying to take down these South African drug lords who are hiding behind diplomatic immunity.
They ask Leo what he did for that guy to want to kill them all like that and think he must have murdered someone. This surprised me because I would think they would already know why he's in protective custody, but I guess not. Leo tells them, "All I did was launder a half billion dollars in drug money, okay?" Dang, this guy needs to partner with Walter White...think of all the money those two could have made together...although I'm 100 percent certain Heisenberg would have killed Leo! I'm sure Saul Goodman would have loved to take him on as a client! Unsurprisingly, the bad guys who want to kill Leo are also the same bad guys from South Africa who Riggs and Murtaugh are trying to capture.
Riggs finds out that one of the men from South Africa was responsible for his wife's death...yeah, I'm just as surprised as you are. He has a short-lived romance with a woman who is the secretary of the bad guy (and doesn't believe in his politics), but the writers obviously thought they could find somebody better for him as she is quickly killed off by the bad guys. And this happens after she and Riggs are hiding under his trailer home after the bad guys hover over them with a helicopter and shoot at them. This happens while they are sleeping, but luckily Rigg's collie, Sam, barks and warns them to get out!
To be honest, this was my least favorite of the Lethal Weapon movies. Probably the most memorable scene is when Riggs and the other officers haven't heard from Murtaugh in awhile, so Riggs goes to his house to investigate and finds Murtaugh is on the toilet and he can't get off because he's discovered a bomb. He tells Riggs he doesn't want anyone knowing about this and the next scene shows hundreds of people outside his house. With all these guys from the bomb squad, you think they would be able to disarm the bomb, but no, all they do is put a heavy vest on Murtaugh (and Riggs who is going to stay with him) and tell them to dive into the tub. You think they would also give them helmets, but no. I think this is also the first scene of many where they argue when they're counting down to three, if they go ON 3, or AFTER they say 3. (You know, I've had that internal argument many times with myself). The bomb explodes and the toilet goes flying out the window. It was a pretty funny scene.
Lethal Weapon 3 came out three years later. We are now in the '90s! Murtaugh is about to retire soon and is keeping a countdown of when he will finally get to hang up his uniform for good. This one begins with an exciting action scene: Riggs and Murtaugh are trying to stop a car bomb parked in the parking lot of an office building. It's Riggs' idea to diffuse the bomb, but Murtaugh, the voice of reason, smartly says they should wait for the bomb squad to get there. Yes, Murtaugh, GREAT idea! Riggs thinks he can handle it, however when he cuts the wire he thinks will stop it, the timer just speeds up really fast. It really makes no sense for him to put Murtaugh in danger. Riggs has become pretty close to the Murtaugh family; he would never want to leave Trish and those three kids without a father. The two book it out of there and the entire building blows up. Luckily, this happened in the middle of the night, so nobody (that we know of!) was in the building.
Because of this incident, the two are demoted to just giving out tickets to civilians and just being on street patrol. While on duty, they see an armored van being stolen and pursue it. After a high-speed chase where one of the guys goes headfirst through the windshield of the van, Riggs tells him, "You have the right to remain unconscious. Anything you say, ain't got to be much." By the way, Riggs is from Australia, right? Because I detect some Aussie accent in his voice. They find out the man is in cahoots with a former police officer named Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson) who is selling smuggled guns. Riggs and Murtaugh are back in the field to work this assignment along with an officer from internal affairs, Lorna (Rene Russo) and a romance blossoms between her and Riggs.
There's a scene where Riggs and Lorna check out a lead, only to find the place that is housing the illegal firearms is being guarded by a seemingly viscous Rottweiler. Riggs, being a dog person, decides to try to make friends with the dog....one second the dog is growling at him, the next Riggs is feeding him dog treats and rubbing his belly! The dog also decides to leave and join Riggs and Lorna after they infiltrate the place. Speaking of dogs, I didn't even see Sam the collie in this movie.
They find out there are some cop killers on the loose and there's a special kind of bullet than can penetrate a bullet proof vest. It turns out one of these cop killers is none other than one of Nick's friends (the teenaged son of Murtaugh). Nick hasn't seen much of Daryl lately because he dropped out of school. A couple days later, Riggs notices a drug deal taking place and points his gun and badge at them and tells them to show their hands, but one guy starts shooting at him and as he hides behind a building, a couple of the kids drive away. A couple other kids run away and one kids hides in a latrine. Murtaugh comes to help Riggs and tells the kid to come out with his hands up, but the kid opens the door a crack and starts shooting at them. Murtaugh shoots back and ends up killing the kid...and finds out it was Daryl. He's very torn up about this and when he attends the funeral and goes to tell Daryl's parents how sorry he is, Daryl's mom only slaps him. Um, what the hell? He had to kill your son or else he would have died...and your son tried to kill a police officer. Great offspring you have there, woman. But of course she blames Murtaugh for her son's death and for her son having an illegal weapon.
Leo is back, annoying as ever, and for some reason, with platinum hair. He helps Riggs and Murtaugh by identifying Jack Travis for them at an hockey game because he did business with him. There is really no reason for him to be in this movie. He's also trying to sell the Murtaugh's house for them...since when did Leo become a realtor?
There's this scene towards the end where Riggs, Murtaugh, Lorna, and some 22 year old kid brand new to the force are on a shoot out with the bad guys...well, guess which of those four characters I just named ends up getting shot and killed? And the kid just turned 22 that day! Also, on the day of his supposed retirement, Murtaugh decides he doesn't want to retire. If I were his wife, I would be so angry. I'd be like, You've been a police officer for the last however many years and nothing has ever happened to you, so let's not push our luck and just retire now! But of course she and the rest of the Murtaugh family are very supportive of his decision and tell him the city will be a safer place since he's a police officer. I was wondering, before I saw this scene, if he would come out of his retirement for the fourth movie.
The longest gap is between the third and fourth (aka the final as I doubt there will be any others at this point!) movie with six years between them. I was prepared to absolutely hate Lethal Weapon 4 because whenever I listen to movie podcasts and the Lethal Weapon series comes up, everyone always talks about how much they despise that one. Perhaps since I had such low expectations, I didn't think it was that bad. It wasn't a masterpiece, but none of them are.
As we met Leo in the second movie and Lorna in the third movie, we meet yet another new character in the latest installment. Chris Rock plays Lee Butters, a new cop on their force. (And yes, every time they referred to him as "Butters", I thought of the South Park character!) He is married to Rianne and she is pregnant with his child, but Murtaugh doesn't even know any of this. (Apparently nobody told him because he would flip out if his daughter was married to a police officer, but doesn't he have the right to know?!) He does find out his daughter is pregnant in the very first scene when he and Riggs are trying to stop a guy in a flame-retardant suit setting fire to everything in his path. They are hiding behind their car and Riggs tells Murtaugh he needs to be safe because Rianne is pregnant, then Murtaugh, in return, tells Riggs HE needs to be safe because Lorna, now Riggs' girlfriend, is pregnant. Don't ask my why Riggs knew about Rianne and Murtaugh knew about Lorna before the other one knew. I guess they were both sworn to secrecy. I thought the fire-starter guy was going to be pivotal to the story of Lethal Weapon 4, but once Murtaugh distracts the guy by flapping his arms like a chicken in his boxer shorts (okay, maybe I can understand why people think this movie has jumped the shark!), Riggs shoots the guy's fuel tank and he goes flying into a gas station and explodes so obviously that was the last we saw of him!
The real plot of this movie is they discover a large boat with many Chinese immigrants who are involved in a smuggling ring led by a man named Ku (Jet Li). The immigrants are being brought to L.A. to be slaves. Murtaugh takes in a family of immigrants and lets them stay at his home. They are captured and taken by the bad guys who tie up Murtaugh, Riggs, Lorna, Trish, and Rianne and then proceed to set Murtaugh's house on fire (seriously, he should have bought a new house ages ago!), but luckily a young boy hiding in the house is unable to untie them from their restraints. There's something involving counterfeit money. Leo is back and he's a private detective so he helps the others hunt down the bad guys. As great as Joe Pesci is, there really is no reason for him to be in this movie just as there was no reason for him to be in the third movie. Yes, there is a funny dynamic between him and our two leading characters, but for the most part he's just there to be the comedic relief...which we don't really need in a movie like this since it's already a comedy. At least Leo no longer has his weird platinum hair! And I will admit I did feel bad for him when he told Riggs his story about his pet frog from childhood, Froggie, his only friend in the world who he accidentally killed when he ran over him with his bike...awww!
There are some great action scenes in this one, including one where Riggs and Ku are fighting inside a mobile home with one side covered in plastic so everyone driving around them can see them. There are also many scenes that don't need to be there. One is when Riggs, Murtaugh, and Butters try to talk to a bad guy who is at the dentist and put him on laughing gas and soon they are all on laughing gas and making jokes. This scene is only here to placate the audience as well as the scenes we have of Leo and Butters having stupid arguments so we can see Joe Pesci and Chris Rock going back and fourth. Amusing, but not relevant.
The movie ends with Riggs becoming a father and Murtaugh becoming a grandfather...how coincidental those two babies were born on the same day! They all take a family photo and everyone is happy. There is a finality to the credits with photo book snapshots from all the movies. There is no way they would ever make another one because Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are quite literally too old for this sh*t!