Here in the UK, about to start on TV is the new Lethal Weapon series inspired by the classic franchise. The first film which came out in 1987 is special to me, as was the first 18 film I saw at the cinema and it is a franchise I’ve loved.
Inspired by the TV show, we decided it was time to re-watch the original 4 movies, all directed by Richard Donner, to build up our excitement and to see if these classics still hold up today!
Day 1: Lethal Weapon – The original and the best in our opinion!
Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is nearing retirement when he is assigned a new partner, Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) an expert shooter.
Riggs has recently lost his wife in a car accident and appears to be on a death wish, quite willing to risk his life to stop the bad guys. The bad guys they deal with in this adventure are The General (Mitchell Ryan) and his main henchman, Joshua (Gary Busey) who are big drug dealers.
Roger becomes heavily involved in the case, when Michael Hunsaker (Tom Atkins) an old war buddy requests his help, following the murder of his daughter, Amanda (Jackie Swanson) who jumps to her death in the film’s big opening scenes
This is a real classic Eighties film and an impressive debut from its writer Shane Black. The film would lay the foundations for a franchise that would deliver on great stunts, car chases and plenty of action with guns and all sorts of weapons from knives to hand to hand combat and provide some good laughs along the way.
It does still stand up today as a great cop buddy movie, although some of the tech, especially a scene on a mobile phone (attached to a car battery) dates it.
Day 2: Lethal Weapon 2
Riggs and Murtaugh return, this time the drug dealers are South African diplomats hiding behind diplomatic immunity. This is a very good sequel, and the bad guys are more threatening than the original, led by Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland) and his lead henchman Pieter (Derrick O’Connor). Shane Black did write a script but it was heavily adapted and credited to Jeffrey Boam after being considered too dark and violent.
Amongst all the action and violence, a lot more humour is added to this film, especially with the addition of Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) an informant that our heroes have to look after. We also get more laughs at the family home of Roger as his daughter Rianne (Traci Wolfe) gets a boyfriend and an explosive toilet!
Riggs also gets a doomed love interest in Rika (Patsy Kensit) in this one.
The film ends with a big climax after the bad guys take out most of our heroes team including Tim, played by a young Dean Norris (Hank from TV hit Breaking Bad) and Jenette Goldstein as Meagan (who most may know as Vasquez from Aliens)
We see Riggs want to take no prisoners after he finds out that Pieter was involved in the car crash that killed his wife!
Day 3: Lethal Weapon 3
This film starts with a huge building explosion after our heroes try to defuse a bomb which sees them demoted to patrolmen. The bad guy in this is a former ex-cop called Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson) who is dealing with guns and cop killers (bullets which can pierce armoured plating suits)
Murtaugh gets personally involved when he kills one his son’s friends, using the stolen guns and bullets of Travis, which he has sold into various gangs.
Riggs gets a new love interest in the form of Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) and we also get some laughs from the returning Leo, now working as a real estate agent and even an admiring fan for Murtaugh in the form of Delores (played by Delores Hall) an armoured car driver as well as grief from his fellow workers, when Rianne, who is now an actress stars in an advert for contraception.
Riggs also gets a new friend in the form of a Rottweiler, who is being used as a guard dog by the bad guys. Riggs saves the dog when they blame him for the break in and takes him in, with his other dog Sam.
Travis doesn’t really have a henchman as per the previous entries, so there is no real ‘one on one’ fight like the previous movies, but it does have a great climax on a construction site.
The humour is more noticeable now, and we loved the scene where Riggs bonds with a dog. Again written by Jeffrey Boam but this had re-writes from Robert Mark Kamen and Carrie Fisher also did some script doctor work on it too!
This is a solid entry into the franchise, but a bit of a disappointment after 2.
Day 4 – Lethal Weapon 4
This film has a brilliant opening in which Roger strips to his boxer shorts to distract a crazed bad guy with a flame thrower!
This instalment definitely plays to the humour more, with a new screenplay writer in Channing Gibson.
Whilst it has more laughs, the film does perhaps the most recognisable bad guy in Jet Li as Wah Sing Ku, the leader of deadly Chinese warlords running a huge counterfeit money scheme.
Our 2 heroes are getting older and their lives are about to change when Riggs finds out he is be a father, as Lorna is pregnant and Roger is to become a grandfather as Rianne is to become a mother, to add to the hilarity of this he doesn’t know who the father is!
The father is Butters (Chris Rock) an enthusiastic police officer, who in trying to win Roger over, has him believing he has a crush on him.
Leo also returns in this the funniest of the 4 movies. It also has a lot of heart as Lorna wants to get married, but Martin feels he is still not ready to forget his last wife and at times the film is quite emotional, as we have grown to love these characters so much.
This film has a big action sequence which sees the aging Riggs take on Ku in a fight that nearly ends in deadly consequences. This chapter is a fitting finale to a great action film franchise and Gibson and Glover definitely are one of the best examples for A buddy movie, but it is no means perfect, the excellent Jet Li is woefully underused, yet could have been the best bad guy of the whole franchise!
A 5th film never happened although the cast did appear to be open to it, Gibson especially, after asking for the original ending be changed, which saw Riggs die.
Gibson & Glover did have one other shared moment of screentime, when Glover has a great cameo in Maverick, also directed by Richard Donner.
A lot of talk happened with the franchise going to reboot with the Butters character, then a remake was pitched with Chris Hemsworth attached at one point but now we look forward to the TV show starring Clayne Crawford as Riggs and Damon Wayans as Murtaugh.
For the record, we rate the films 1 first, then 4 as a great finale, with 2 in third place (but hardly anything in between them) and last, although not by much 3 (yet this was the biggest grossing LW film at the box office!)
What is your favourite Lethal Weapon film? What’s your order of the 4? Has a TV reboot inspired you to watch the original films? We would love to hear from you here at Barking Mad About Films
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