Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) Review

Director: Richard Donner

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 127 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

The Lethal Weapon film series ends on as perfect a note as it could’ve asked for in Lethal Weapon 4, the best movie in the franchise since the original. This time, Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) are out to stop a gang that’s smuggling Chinese migrants to Los Angeles in inhumane conditions. Tonally, this is a far cry from Lethal Weapon (1987), and could probably be best described as a heartwarming bloodbath sitcom.

Despite all the touchy-feely stuff, this is still an action picture, and it delivers the big set pieces that fans of the genre crave. Hell, there are one or two moments that wouldn’t feel out of place in an installment of The Fast and the Furious movies. Car and foot chases, shootouts, martial arts brawls…Lethal Weapon 4 doesn’t skimp on the big-budget havoc. Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li) is one of the most formidable baddies in the franchise, perhaps second only to Mr. Joshua (Gary Busey) from the first one.

Of all the Lethal Weapon flicks, the 1987 original did the tough-as-nails, hard-boiled stuff the best, while the fourth entry does the more comedic, family-and-friends-oriented material most memorably. It definitely has the biggest heart of the series. I mean, who could’ve guessed that a film with the title “Lethal Weapon 4” would be so emotional? Despite of all this, it also somehow manages to be the most graphically violent of the four.

Lethal Weapon 4 shows off the evolution that the franchise took. While the first one put action, thrills, and fast pacing in the driver’s seat, the final film displays how the series changed over the course of its duration to balance violence with comedy and shenanigans related to biological and surrogate family. If you’re watching this franchise, make sure you stick around for the fourth installment.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) Review

Director: Richard Donner

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 118 minutes (theatrical version), 121 minutes (director’s cut)

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Police detective duo Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) return once again in what is the weakest entry into the film series. The plot is less focused here, having something to do with an ex-cop, Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson), who’s obsessed with putting confiscated firearms back on the streets. Most of the picture feels a bit on the tired side, but it has enough redeeming value to make it an okay time-waster.

The pacing of Lethal Weapon 3 is noticeably less propulsive than that of the first two movies. This is partially because it takes a while for the plot to fully materialize. There’s also a fairly extensive romantic subplot for Riggs, which fits in well with his character, but also slows down the action at times. Like Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), this one ups the humor level at the expense of the more hard-boiled content (the violence is the tamest of the four pictures, for example), but the banter between Riggs and Murtaugh isn’t always as sharp as it used to be. Fortunately, Joe Pesci’s character Leo Getz is back and still has it.

The third Lethal Weapon flick does improve significantly on repeated viewings, however. The action sequences are still solid, with the best one being the fiery finale, appropriately enough. Gibson and Glover unsurprisingly still work well together, and the film, as a whole, isn’t boring…which counts for a lot.

This is probably what the Lethal Weapon series feels like on autopilot. Most of the elements that made the franchise famous are here, but it mostly feels like just another day at the office with Riggs and Murtaugh. It begins and ends strong, but the middle probably could’ve been constructed better. So, would I recommend Lethal Weapon 3? Well, if you enjoyed the other members of the series, then sure, give the director’s cut a watch (it’s pretty lucky to be tied to such a good quadrilogy). Don’t expect greatness, just a decent way to spent two hours.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) Review

Director: Richard Donner

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 114 minutes (theatrical version), 118 minutes (director’s cut)

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first entry in the film series, Lethal Weapon 2 is still a worthy action-comedy with the charming chemistry between actors Mel Gibson and Danny Glover intact. This time our two heroes have to protect a federal witness, Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), who’s the target of apartheid-era South African goons. As you might expect, things soon get out of hand, resulting in piles of bodies and mass destruction.

The second Lethal Weapon flick isn’t as furiously paced as the first one, but it still moves along at a speed that staves off boredom. While Lethal Weapon (1987) orchestrates an ever escalating series of set pieces, Lethal Weapon 2 starts big right off the bat, with a high-octane car chase (personally, I found that particular scene a bit difficult to follow at times). The action sequences certainly don’t get smaller as the picture moves along. As comedic as the movie is, it still packs some brutal violence and large-scale demolition of property.

Lethal Weapon 2 seems to be a bit more humor-oriented than its predecessor, with many of the laughs coming from series newcomer Joe Pesci. Perhaps his most memorable moment is his drive-through speech. Gibson and Glover’s characters find Pesci’s character obnoxious at first, and the former’s behavior towards the latter could be considered bullying. Martin Riggs (Gibson) is no longer suicidal in this sequel, meaning some of the potentially combustible edge from the first one is lost here (although he still acts like a madman). There is a romantic subplot for Riggs, which doesn’t add a whole lot to the film, but whatever.

Like many (perhaps most) sequels, Lethal Weapon 2 doesn’t top the original, but that certainly doesn’t make it bad. It largely follows the winning formula from Lethal Weapon that made it an action classic. It’s less tightly wound, but it still provides some of the moments that made the Lethal Weapon series a fan favorite. I’d recommend watching the director’s cut.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Lethal Weapon (1987) Review

Director: Richard Donner

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 109 minutes (theatrical version), 117 minutes (director’s cut)

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

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 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 10 outta 10.

Dillinger (1973) Review

Director: John Milius

Genre(s): Action, Biography, Crime

Runtime: 107 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Written and directed by John Milius (it was his directorial debut), this biopic of legendary 1930s bank robber John Dillinger (Warren Oates) throws historical accuracy out the window in favor of telling the story of the man in a way fitting for a cheap pulp novel. This is not actually the way events took place; it’s the way events should’ve taken place for storytelling purposes. Dillinger here is alternately charismatic, egotistical, and vicious.

Nearly every scene in Dillinger involves guns in some way. Even the part where federal agent Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson) tells a kid to stay out of crime involves a firearm being pulled out. The whole thing is crammed with action, featuring some shootouts that are beyond superb. The body count is huge by gangster movie standards. You want lots of mayhem with antique, 1930s-era firearms? You got lots of mayhem with antique, 1930s-era firearms!

The humorous, yet hard-boiled, script maintains a quick pace, and Barry De Vorzon provides the competent musical score. The flick had a relatively low budget, so it doesn’t exactly have an expensive look. Despite the limited resources the cast and crew had to work with, it does a good job creating a Great Depression-era atmosphere. There’s an all-star cast of character actors, and they all seem to be having a blast. The characters that they play are highly colorful.

This is simply one of the most underrated action movies of all time. It’s proudly pulpy, action-packed, and reasonably short as well. It’s nothing more than a big slab of pure entertainment.

My rating is 10 outta 10.