Today: April 13, 2024

Lethal Weapon 1-4

Riggs And Murtaugh are the quintessential Buddy Cops, behold their brilliance in glorious Blu-Ray.

The Lethal Weapon franchise blasts its way onto Blu-Ray to side splitting, car chasing, buddy-bonding delight.

The buddy movie has been a mainstay in mainstream cinema for as long as you can imagine. From Laurel And Hardy, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Thelma and Louise, through to Agents J and K in Men In Black, cinema is rife with the story of two conflicting characters forced together and forming a bond. For years Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid held
the title of most loveable duo thanks to their constant bickering in
the face of their obvious affections for each other. Then came Shane Black’s Lethal Weapon which introduced us to the wonderful Martin Riggs (Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Glover). Three sequels later and these two are still the quintessential buddy coupling.

Martin Riggs is a former special forces LA cop who is determined to
get himself killed in the line of duty having lost is wife. Roger
Murtaugh is a dedicated family man nearing the end of his police career.
When the two of them are forced together Riggs, whose training
classifies him as a Lethal Weapon, sees that with a friend like Roger
life might be worth living while Roger sees a loyal and dedicated
partner who rapidly enters his family’s, and his, hearts. Together they
will take on crooked ex-army drug dealers, dodgy diplomats, bent cops
and Triad money launders over four films that continue to delight.

While many buddy films tried, and for the most part, failed to turn
the concept into a franchise, a look at Men In Black 2’s Agent K’s
amnesia story line being a prime example, Lethal Weapon achieved it not
once, but three times. The first film brings Riggs and Murtaugh
together, with Murtaugh continually scared of his new partner’s unhinged
nature. But, with each sequel while Riggs became less hostile the
franchise was able to introduce new elements to keep it fresh and
enjoyable.
The second film saw Joe Pesci’s Leo Getz become like an irritating young child to Riggs and Murtaugh’s squabbling parents. Lethal 3 sees Rene Russo’s
Internal Affairs agent be a match for Riggs while Roger became the
lethal weapon on a revenge mission. By the fourth instalment we are
presented with a whole family dynamic that presents Chris Rock’s
foul mouthed cop literally joining ‘the family’ as Roger’s son-in-law
all the while drawing attention to the fact that even Riggs is“getting too old for this sh*t”.

The creative team behind the Lethal Weapon films never allowed
them to stagnate or copy themselves. Sure, the template remains the same
but there are extra ingredients thrown into the mix to allow for new
gags and fun set-pieces.

Series director Richard Donner, having kicked of the Superman
franchise in 1978, knew that, while the script and characters would do
much of the work for him, the action always had to be fun yet dramatic
enough to put Riggs and Murtaugh in genuine peril. His direction is
always break-neck at these points in the films and in each film there is always an action extravaganza that stands out as memorable. The
desert shoot-out, the pool jump, the bomb diffusion gone wrong and the
car chase through a building are all fine examples of Donner’s brilliant
action credentials. All of these are achieved without
computer-generated images. Part of what makes the Lethal Weapons so
exciting is that we get to see our heroes in very real situations and
Donner’s direction allows them to always remain exhilaratingly real.

Shane Black’s contribution to the films is as important as anything
else in the series. Although he only wrote the first, and helped out
with the story of the second, it was his writing that gave us Riggs and
Murtaugh in the first place. Finding a unique balance between loose
cannon cop and family man professional, Black injects a natural
progression and friendship into the films.
It is a formula that many
have tried to capture, the only one coming close to it being Bad Boys
Lowery (Will Smith) and Burnett (Martin Lawrence), which is almost a
carbon copy of Riggs and Murtaugh. That it is his characters who remain
at the centre of the films is testament to the lovable nuances he
instilled in them in the first place.

Of course all of this would have failed had the casting not been spot on. Thankfully Riggs and Murtaugh are brought to brilliant life in the form of Gibson and Glover.
Mel Gibson was a rising star when he was cast as Riggs but it was his
mad-capped ways in the Mad Max films that made him a shoe in for the
part. What he showed though was that while he could do the crazy eyed thing down to a tee he also had fantastic comic timing.
It is the ever growing glint in Riggs’ eyes that make him so fun to
behold, while he teases all around him, especially Murtaugh, you are
always aware he could snap and put a bullet through the bad guy’s head.
Striking the perfect balance between the two is where Gibson excels. Opposite
him Glover is the perfect foil, allowing Gibson to take much of the
limelight he is an actor who creates moments by simply reacting.
A deep sigh here and a look of despair there are what makes Murtaugh the perfect Yang to Rigg’s Ying. They are polar opposites in almost every way and yet one without the other is never as fun.

Still the finest example of the buddy genre, despite endless
contenders to the thrown, the Lethal Weapon films are what great cinema
is made of. Fun action, endlessly loveable characters and plots that are
there to facilitate interactions, rather than twists. In HD Gibson’s
hair is all the more quaffed and Glover’s grimaces are that much
crisper. Frankly with Black’s creations, Donner’s execution and
Gibson and Glover’s chemistry you’re never too old for this endlessly
bristling franchise.



Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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