Director: Richard Donner
Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller
Runtime: 109 minutes (theatrical version), 117 minutes (director’s cut)
MPAA Rating: R
The first film in the Lethal Weapon series is a masterpiece of efficient storytelling. There’s no unnecessary romance here to slow down the pace, just hetero bromance and macho bonding (along with the requisite explosions), which makes it an action fan’s dream. A stable family man of a cop, Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), is assigned a new partner, the reckless, suicidal Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) on his newest investigation. Apparently, a woman named Amanda Hunsaker (Jackie Swanson) got high on drugs and jumped out of a multi-story building to her doom. Of course, since this is an action picture, there’s more to the story than what initially meets the eye.
Lethal Weapon carefully escalates in the intensity of its action scenes, starting small and building up to exploding cars and whatnot. The mayhem is soon spiraling out of control in the best way possible. By 1980s standards, the action often seems fairly grounded, but it still never fails to thrill. The pacing of the movie is some of the fastest ever (even in director’s cut form [the version you should watch]), meaning the flick’s over before you know it. Despite this, it is mighty satisfying.
Even if you’re not looking for adrenaline-pumping carnage, Lethal Weapon might be worth checking out. The chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover is rightfully famous, and a somewhat restrained Gary Busey, playing a villainous henchman named Mr. Joshua, unsurprisingly steals several of his scenes. While it’s not as comedic as its sequels, the film still has a healthy supply of humor and high jinks. It’s not a drama, but the character-driven moments definitely hook the viewer into the story. The plot is reasonably easy to follow, and the tone is perfectly balanced, meaning that the light and dark elements never smother each other.
Lethal Weapon is one of the best of the major 1980s actioners. Even the director’s cut of the picture feels lean. All elements – action, comedy, drama, and suspense – are successfully juggled, and the movie builds up in intensity in a textbook manner. Stick around during the end credits to hear the song “Lethal Weapon” performed by Honeymoon Suite.
My rating is 9 outta 10.