Overall Grade: (A+)
One of the classic action films of the 1980’s with two great actors who revitalized the buddy-cop genre.
Most anyone has heard of the “Lethal Weapon” films, and to this day the characters played by Mel Gibson (Mad Max 1979) and Danny Glover (The Color Purple 1985) are still memorable and unique to themselves. The film also starred Gary Busey (Point Break 1991) and Mitch Ryan (Dark Shadows 1966).
Detective Roger Murtaugh (Glover) has been in the department for twenty-years and can see his retirement just around the corner, something that would delight his wife and three children. He is told he will be taking on a new partner, a young burnt-out and suicidal narcotics officer named Martin Riggs (Gibson). Neither like the idea of a partner and to make things worse the two are about as opposite as oil and water.
They will eventually need to work together to stop a drug-smuggling ring headed by a corrupt General (Ryan) and his second in command Joshua (Busey). When the case comes to close to Murtaugh’s doorstep he will realize Riggs may be crazy, but he is as equally skilled and determined.
“Lethal Weapon” is a true classic in the genre. The simple recipe for two characters is expressed to perfection in Riggs and Murtaugh. Their back-and-forth’s deliver a range of emotions from comical to irritated to dramatic. Their chemistry onscreen carry the films enjoyment and their performances were impeccable. You can feel a connection to both characters and it creates a connection and interest in their outcome. While the story may have been a rather simple idea, the direction of sub-plots takes you deeper then most similar projects and keeps the pace moving throughout.
Mel Gibson shines in the role of the homicidal cop and the physical acting he does in this one are what truly make the role unique and always attention getting. No one will ever be able to take on the character of Martin Riggs like Gibson has perfected, making the role virtually his own.
Glover was also excellent in this one and his reactions to the seeming out-of-control lifestyle of Riggs’ characters deliver many chuckles as he tries to cope with such a change in his life as well as trying to keep up with him as his age. While the two may appear to be an odd fit on paper, they were fantastic together onscreen, and believable as partners.
The action in the film is great and Gary Busey played a very enjoyable antagonist. The backdrop’s for some the action scenes are great and this film takes you back to a period of time in Hollywood where stunts were used over computer special-effects. There was plenty of solid gun-play and it was fun to see Gibson rage through some of the hand-to-hand sequences.
Something that made this film great was that while it was an action movie, it thought more of itself and added much more to the script. The development of the characters added much to the story-line, as throughout Riggs and Murtaugh build on their respect and relationship and show how they grow to rely on one another as brothers.
The quality of the writing is very good and for an action film its great, which along with many other aspects pulls this film well above the other genre films. With a mere budget estimated around $15 million, this one was a huge success and still goes down as one of the all-time classic buddy-cop action romps.