Thursday, July 28, 2016

Movie Review: Lethal Weapon

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good action, great characters and acting
Cons: First half a bit uneven
The Bottom Line:
Unlikely partners
Entertaining beginning
To storied franchise

“You Ever Met Anybody You Didn’t Kill?”  “Well, I Haven’t Killed You Yet.”

When I first got out of college and started watching some of the movies that I’d heard about but never seen, I added the Lethal Weapon franchise to that list.  This was about the time the fourth film came out, so it’s been a few years.  When I found the films on TV, I decided to rewatch the franchise, and of course, I had to start with the first in the series.

Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is a 50-year-old detective in the homicide department at the LAPD.  He’s got a family, but he doesn’t have a partner at work.

Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) is cop for the LAPD as well, but he works in the narcotics division.  He’s widower who has lost the will to live.  He can’t quite bring himself to commit suicide, so he takes huge risks with his life.  And he also doesn’t have a partner at work.

When a young woman takes a swan dive out of her hotel room, Murtaugh and Riggs are teamed up.  She was high on a new drug, but the drug was also poisoned.  Furthermore, this young woman was the daughter of one of Murtaugh’s friends from his days in Vietnam.  With Riggs’s huge risks, Murtaugh is certain that they will both wind up dead.  Will they survive working together and bring down the killer?  Where will their investigation lead?

The first thing that struck me is that the movie is set in the days leading up to Christmas.  Like Die Hard (which came out the next year), it’s hard to truly classify it as a Christmas movie, but the decorations and music definitely infuse the film.

I definitely remember the franchise getting lighter as it goes along, and viewing this movie again confirmed that.  Yes, there are a few funny lines, but this film is pretty dark.  This is especially true when dealing with the depressed Riggs.  A couple of his scenes are hard to watch even though we know the outcome.  Yet, that makes him very real.  Murtaugh’s family does the same for him.  Yes, it’s easy to like the two leads.

The movie is equal parts mystery and action.  No, there are not the major stunt filled spectaculars we think of now when we think of an action film, but there are some decent action sequences for the time.  This is the 80’s after all.  And the plot does plenty to get the adrenaline flowing as we reach the final third of the film.  There are some slow patches early on, but they never last for too long.

The stunts are all well done and very believable.  Of course, this was the days before green screen effects were so popular, but they truly do hold up today.

Likewise, the acting is great.  Danny Glover and Mel Gibson make it easy to care for the leads, and the supporting cast is just as real.

I’m glad I’m refreshing my memory of the Lethal Weapon films.  I’m looking forward to watching all of them again soon.

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