Lethal Weapon Review
Directed By Richard Donner
Stars: Danny Glover, Mel Gibson
Year Released: 1987
Running Time: 1 Hour 50 Minutes
This Holliday Season, one review will have Spoilers
It’s been awhile since I’ve strapped down and done a proper review but since it’s the holidays I thought I’d review a few Christmas movies that don’t usually find their way onto people lists this time of year. I’ll start things off with a bang with the all time buddy cop action movie classic “Lethal Weapon.” It might be a surprise a few of you that “Lethal Weapon” counts as a Christmas movie but it takes place during the Christmas season and the final climax involves Gary Busey shooting up Danny Glover’s house as “It’s a Wonderful Life” plays in the background. If that doesn’t make this movie a Christmas than I don’t know what does.
Another good set of Christmas credentials is that “Lethal Weapon” is written by scriptwriter and occasional actor/director Shane Black who loves to set his movies during Christmas time. Trust me when I say that this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of Mr. Black.
Before we get into the plot I just want to say that Lethal Weapon has one of the most eighties-tastic movie openings in history despite being released in 87. For those who haven’t seen the movie pause now and go watch the beginning of lethal weapon to see what I’m talking about. I thought that opening was so freaking crazy that I looked up the script so I could see how it was written. It turns out that it was a much longer scene, that built up to the jump instead o it coming out of nowhere, I guess it was just one of the things they changed in the adaptation process.
The plot involves two mismatched L.A cops being put together to Roger Murtagh (Danny Glover) is an African American middle-class family man who just turned fifty. Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) is a white loner who lives in a trailer by the beach and is currently suicidal after the death of his wife. Both men served in Vietnam, Murtagh as an infantryman and Riggs as Special Forces sniper. This turns out to be the key to the investigation as the dead girl was the daughter of Michal Hunsaker (Tom Atkins) a war buddy turned banker who has gotten involved with a group of drug dealing ex C.I.Assassins led by the ex-General Peter McAllister (Mitchell Ryan) and his top killer Mr. Joshua (Gary Busey).
While the mismatched buddy cop movie had been done a few times before this, it was “Lethal Weapon” that perfected it. The plot is pretty standard. Two cops investigate a minor crime that turns out to be connected to both the past’s of the cops and a bigger criminal organization. Fortunately, everything else helps elevate “Lethal Weapon” into the realm of action greatness.
The main thing that I want from my action films is good action and I’m happy to say that “Lethal Weapon” delivers with frequent displays of badassery from both of our leads. The camera work is good and the sets are excellent but what really elevates it, are the two leads. Glover manages to look old without looking feeble and plays the perfect friendly straight man. Gibson shines especially in the action scenes as he snarls and screams like the lunatic he’s supposed to be. Even better is that we sympathize with the both struggles of both characters, whether it’s Glover’s age and frustration with Gibson, or the pain Gibson losing his wife. The two have great chemistry together and the way they play off each other makes the comedy funnier and the action more exciting.
Sadly there are a few flaws that keep “Lethal Weapon” from total domination. While I often find the villains more interesting than the heroes, “Lethal Weapon” had the exact opposite problem. Despite supposedly being elite mercenary killers they just seem like regular goons in suits except for the very cool and very crazy Gary Busey who almost manages to make up for the shortcomings of the other. Gibson also once and a while dials up the wacky parts of his character too far and just looks dumb. It’s the same with Glover’s friendly attitude sometimes he pushes it too far and he just comes off as creepy.
One very strange problem was the version I watched recently had extra scenes added that I think took more away than they added. They essentially gave both characters a second into that while cool was completely unnecessary. This wouldn’t be a problem if the scenes were just left in the deleted scenes section, but no they had to be in the movie.
Fortunately, these problems are all small and don’t even come close to ruining a great movie. It’s nice to see where all the buddy cop movies spawned from and how it managed to spawn so many imitators. If you want to go back to a time where Danny Glover wasn’t too old for this shit and Mel Gibson only played a crazy person in movies, spend your holidays with “Lethal Weapon.”
Did I like the movie: Yes
Would I watch it again: Yes
Would I buy it: Yes
Things to avoid this holiday: Don’t confuse Santa with Satan (again)