Summer is the time for action movies so director Richard Donner
competes in the Explode-o-Rama by opening LETHAL WEAPON 4 with - count
'em - three big pyrotechnics displays in a row. The gasoline truck
fireball is followed by Chinese freighter fireworks followed by that old
reliable, the car demolished by a speeding train. Whew. And that all
happens in the first 10 minutes or so.
The movie itself is such a hopeless retread of the previous LETHAL
WEAPON movies that you wonder why Donner even tried. Channing Gibson
wrote the screenplay, and three other writers are credited with the
story, which is surprising since there isn't much of a story. The only
idea seemed to be that they would get the film's stars together again
and let them repeat their same old schtick.
Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are back as Martin Riggs and Roger
Murtaugh. They've been promoted to captains so that the police
department can get insurance. It seems that their brand of destructive
police work causes more damage than the insurance company will allow.
Riggs's girlfriend and would-be wife, Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), is
pregnant. This plot device allows her to be threatened with a knife at
her belly by the bad guy and makes Riggs question whether he is ready
again for marriage.
For symmetry's sake and to be able to introduce Chris Rock as a
character, Murtaugh is about to become a grandfather. Unbeknownst to
Murtaugh, the secret father is Lee Butters (Rock), a young cop in his
Amidst all of this domestic soap opera, Joe Pesci is back, and this
time his character, Leo Getz, has become a PI (Private Investigator).
Violating the well-established rule that a little bit of Joe Pesci goes
a long way, Donner lets Pesci's grating humor permeate way too much of
Easily the best part of the film is the appearance of Chinese
acting star and martial arts expert Jet Li as the movie's villain, Wah
Sing Ku. With moves of ballet-like precision and artistry, he dazzles
The best part of the original LETHAL WEAPON was its humor, which is
almost absent from its fourth version. Lee Butters's reading of the
Miranda rights is a hoot, but most of the remaining jokes are stale.
Any script that has to fall back on "flied lice" jokes about Chinese
food as a way to try to get a laugh has pretty much lost it.
Although one is probably not supposed to think through the logic of
the action in LETHAL WEAPON movies, some of the events may cause your
brain to spin a bit. Take just one example. How many cops would drive
with just one car full of officers to confront a gang full of dozens and
dozens of bloodthirsty men.
Several times Riggs and Murtaugh complain that they're too old to
be still doing this stuff. They are so right, and one can only hope
that they will take their own advice in the future.
LETHAL WEAPON 4 runs too long at 2:07. It is rated R for profanity
and strong violence and would be fine for most teenagers.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes