“Lethal Weapon” is one of my favorite film series. Each new movie brings back the characters we love, as well as a few new elements in order to keep the whole thing fresh. This time, the new guy on board is the hilarious comedian Chris Rock who buddies along with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, our favorite LAPD cops. In case you lived in the cave for the last 10 years and don’t know them yet, here’s a quick reminder. Gibson plays Martin Riggs, a once suicidal wild-eyed cop expert with firearms and martial arts. He also has a lethal charm and sense and humor. Glover is Roger Murtaugh, a married with children cop who’s been talking about retirement for ages. The biggest strength of the series lies in the relationship between those two, a balance between trust and exasperation.. Around them revolve a bunch of other interesting characters, notably Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), who’s now a private eye, and Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), Riggs’ girlfriend. And now comes Rock, as a foul-mouthed, butt-kissing young cop. The gang’s all here, right?
Well, there’s an uninvited guest in the person of a Chinese mobster played by the incredible Jet Li. It’s impossible to deny Hong Kong’s influence on Western cinema now that even the most Hollywoodish sequel packs kung fu fights and Mexican stand-offs! The movie still feature action scenes more typical of the series, right from the hysterical opening in which Riggs and Murtaugh confront a nutcase with a fire-thrower. There’s also an awesome chase scene, arguably the series’ best. As for Jet Li, you won’t believe how cool is. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that he’s better than Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan put together! Richard Donner really had the idea of his life when he cast him as the film’s villain. Li’s tough-as-nails character is so baaad that he’s the only one who deserves to be called a lethal weapon in the film.
Because let’s face it, each sequel brings us a softer Martin Riggs. Some ten years after the first film, Gibson’s unforgettable is older, meaning less young’n’crazy but still charming. Maybe it’s his now pregnant girlfriend Lorna that tamed him. Murtaugh’s daughter is also knocked up, thanks to Chris Rock, and with two babies on the way, the film sometimes feel like one of these Steve Martin family comedies. To balance the act, Rock also brings an edgier humor, vulgar and streetwise. He’s real funny, but kinda out of place. It’s a bit odd when a cop start doing stand-up! Joe Pesci also delivers over-the-top comedy, maybe a bit too much, but he completely redeems himself with the most hilarious heart-to-heart since Christopher Walken’s “Pulp Fiction” speech.
“Lethal Weapon 4″ is a bit of a mess, but it packs enough action, laughs and thrills for 4 movies! The performances are exceptional, Richard Donner’s direction is still good and the film is always entertaining if unfocused. The final showdown between Jet Li and both Glover and Gibson by itself is worth the admission price.