As I’m writing this, “Lethal Weapon 4” has just hit theaters, and it gives a whole new perspective to the original. What I mean is that, if you judge by the three sequels, you’d think the series is all about feel-good action comedy. But the first film is darker and more intense, even though it still has its lighter moments. It’s not, like, “Taxi Driver”, but I’d compare the film’s emotional core to, say, “First Blood”. All three films are about Vietnam veterans with some psychological problems and violent tendencies.
Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs is a suicidal man who never got over his wife’s death. Alone and desperate, the only thing that keeps him alive is outperforming as a cop. We meet him a few weeks before Christmas, as he’s assigned to a seemingly simple case involving a dead hooker. He’s also given a partner, 50 year old Roger Murthaugh, a wholesome family man who’s not all that much into Riggs’ nothing-to-lose bravado. The film is as much if not more about their relationship than about the investigation. Of course, the cops-with-nothing- in-common-who- learn-to-trust-each-other routine ain’t really original, but thanks to great chemistry between Gibson and Danny Glover, it still seems refreshing. Both actors are very talented, and their pairing is unforgettable. No wonder they were brought back in all those sequels. Everyone loves the way they piss each other off but still are having fun together.
Still, it ain’t all about fun. Riggs and Murthaugh do have to stop a gang of badass heroin dealers. Hence, the film packs its share of cool action scenes, especially during the third act. Richard Donner ain’t John Woo, but he still is a good director, and many scenes are stand-outs. There’s the rooftop jump, the confrontation in the desert, the torture scene… My favorite is probably the riveting fight between Mel Gibson and Gary Busey. I also love the superior job that Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton did with the score. Overall, the film is great entertainment. Yes, it sometimes gets unbelievable, but never boring. Mel Gibson has never been cooler than in this film. Lethal Weapon is undeniably one of the best 80s action flicks. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for?