Who would have thought that a decade later the "Lethal Weapon" franchise would
turn into an unfunny, Cosby-like comedy about family values with some
exploitative violence thrown in? Not only that, but remove all the elements
that made the first three films exciting and fresh.
Let's consider the first "Lethal Weapon," a tough-as-nails buddy-buddy police
actioner with a badass Mel Gibson as the suicidal Martin Riggs. Here was a
ticking time bomb ready to die at any given moment - regardless of the
consequences. Let's also consider Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), a family man
who served in Vietnam and is getting ready to face old age. The two were an
unbeatable pair, and they also faced one of the best villains in the history of
action films, played by Gary Busey! The point was that a mutual camaraderie
existed between them.
The second film was purely action and laughs with the very funny and oily Joe
Pesci as the accountant, Leo Getz ("Whatever you want, Leo gets!"). It also set
the standard for one of the best, most explosive action scenes ever. The third
film went further with the comedy, and too much action. There was little or no
character development, and the introduction of the Internal Affairs officer,
Lorna (Rene Russo), resulted in one of the weakest entries of the series.
So what's left in "Lethal Weapon 4"? Not much I am afraid. Riggs is now a
respectable citizen with short hair, ready to settle down, and no longer lethal
(Is this the same suicidal freak from the first film?). Chris Rock is shown
briefly and doesn't figure much in the story, except that he gets Murtaugh's
daughter pregnant. Murtaugh is unaware that Rock is the father, and thinks he's
gay. Riggs's girlfriend, Lorna, is also pregnant and wants to get married!
Funny, indeed. Leo Getz is back as a private investigator, and he is unbearable
throughout with his continual "whatevers" and "okays." The thin story has to do
with Chinese gangsters conspiring in some threadbare plot about counterfeit
money, and led by a formidable villain (Jet Li), a martial-arts expert - a true
lethal weapon. And there are the requisite explosions, implausible action
scenes, and typically racist jokes aimed squarely at the Chinese.
"Lethal Weapon 4" looks like it was assembled rather than directed. One car
chase here, one fist fight there, one obvious joke here, and so on. There's no
plot or story to speak of. No shred of acting skills either, despite the
high-powered cast, although Jet Li says a lot with one stare, here and there.
It's like a tired parody of the "Lethal Weapon" experience, and its ickily
sentimental, heavily overwrought last passage - involving Pesci's
unintentionally funny monologue and dual pregnancies - left me in a state of
dumbfounded shock. There's never any sense of danger or peril, and no sense of
communion or camaraderie between the characters. It's "Lethally Bland Weapon"
Copyright © 1998 Jerry Saravia