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Lethal Weapon 4

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Lethal Weapon 4

Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover
Director: Richard Donner
Rated: R
RunTime: 127 Minutes
Release Date: July 1998
Genres: Action, Comedy

*Also starring: Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li, Steve Kahan, Kim Chan, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Edward Johnson-Ott review follows movie reviewvideo review
2.  MrBrown read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---
4.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
5.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewvideo review
6.  Jerry Saravia read the review ---
7.  David Wilcock read the review movie reviewvideo review

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
1½ stars out of 4

Review by Ed Johnson-Ott, NUVO Newsweekly Archive reviews at

All icing, no cake. That pretty much sums up "Lethal Weapon 4." Having decided that the appeal of the buddy cop franchise was action, jokes and the chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, the powers that be apparently decided to discard such antiquated elements as character development and coherent plotting, opting instead to create a film of virtually nothing but action, jokes and the chemistry between Gibson and Glover. And so we have "Lethal Weapon 4," a 127 minute stunt and shtick extravaganza.

In the stunt department, a car crashes into a building, drives through, crashes out the other side and continues pursuing the bad guys. Very cool. Mel's stunt double climbs from vehicle to vehicle during a high speed freeway chase. Jet Li moves quite adroitly while kicking the crap out of everybody. There's lots and lots of big explosions too, along with the series' trademark sadism.

Moving on to the shtick, Mel plays lots of wacky practical jokes on his partner and best friend Danny. He gets him to dance in his underwear to "distract" a lunatic. Later, he repeatedly fastens newspaper photos of Danny in his underwear to the cubicle walls in the police station. He tricks Danny into believing that Chris Rock is gay and infatuated with him. And so on.

In-between the jokes and fights, there's a couple of pregnancies thrown in, along with a nominal, extremely murky plot about Chinese people doing bad things. The film's recurring theme is family, which is nice.

It's all very fast-paced and pretty entertaining on its own terms, but my thoughts kept drifting back to the first "Lethal Weapon." I remembered the agony of that scene where Gibson, as the suicidal Martin Riggs, sat quivering with the barrel of a gun in his mouth, crying tears of frustration when he couldn't pull the trigger. I remembered Danny Glover, as quintessential family man Roger Murtaugh, nursing his partner through his anguish, displaying remarkable nobility and compassion. Sure, "Lethal Weapon" was often cheesy and lurid, but I cared about those men.

Watching the fourth installment of the series, I realized how much I missed Riggs and Murtaugh, back when they were people instead of the Two Stooges. Sure, I laughed at a lot of Gibson's puns and wisecracks, but missed the man behind the jokes. With Danny Glover, witnessing his sputtering straight man bit actually became embarrassing. At what point in the series was it decided that Murtaugh didn't need his dignity anymore?

As for the rest of the cast, aside from an absurd, but nifty fight scene, Rene Russo is relegated to the background, although she gets more screen time than the rest of the womenfolk. Joe Pesci returns as the extraordinarily irritating Leo Getz, punctuating his constant yammering with his "Okay! Okay!" catch phrase. As if that wasn't annoying enough, Chris Rock joins the proceedings with his own shrill brand of fingernails- on-the-blackboard verbal torture. The nadir of the film comes during a scene where Rock and Pesci exchange rapid fire banalities. I swear to God, if I'd had an Uzi at that moment I would have happily riddled the screen with bullets.

Thankfully, "Lethal Weapon 4" wraps up with a genuinely warm, family scrapbook scene that almost makes everything else forgivable. It's as if the cast was saying "Folks, we're doing this for the last time. We know it's all ridiculous, but we're just having fun and we hope that you had some too." And, to a certain extent, I did. But it's hard to watch talented performers throw plot, character development, logic and credibility away in favor of playing caricatures in a high-octane free- for-all. I guess I'm just getting too old for this shit.

Copyright 1998 Edward Johnson-Ott

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