Blu-ray Review Lethal Weapon Collection
Directed by: Richard Donner Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci Running Time: Lethal Weapon – 109 mins, Lethal Weapon 2 – 114 mins, Lethal Weapon 3 – 118 mins, Lethal Weapon 4 – 127 mins Rating: R Due Out: The Lethal Weapon Collection is available May 22 on Blu-ray!
PLOT: Two less-than-compatible L.A. cops – Martin Riggs (Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Glover) – are forced to become partners. Throughout these four films they take on a dangerous heroin-smuggling ring, South African diplomats, a crooked cop, and the Chinese Triads. Along the way they work with informant Leo Getz (Pesci), Lorna Cole from Internal Affairs (Rene Russo), and young detective Lee Butters (Chris Rock).
WHO'S IT FOR? The series has never looked or sounded better, and with a handful of quality special features this five-disc collection is a must-have for any fan of the Lethal Weapon films. Those wanting to check out the series for the first time may be hesitant to blind buy the set, but this would be a great way to get introduced.
I love the concept of buddy cop movies, but more often than not the execution is lacking. That’s why the Lethal Weapon series is one of the crown jewels of the subgenre. At their best, these films blend seriously funny humor with violence, dark human drama with heartfelt emotion, and it doesn’t feel forced. Even if it was just the comedy and explosions these films would still be enjoyable. But at its core the series features characters we actually care about. And that’s a big part of what makes Lethal Weapon special.
Lethal Weapon is as close to perfect as a film such as this gets. The opening scenes do a tremendous job establishing Riggs and Murtaugh – Riggs going crazy at the drug bust, then later putting a gun in his mouth; Murtaugh at home with his family – and Shane Black’s script takes off from there. All of these films earned their R rating – this is a violent picture, up to and including Riggs’ brutal final showdown with Gary Busey’s Mr. Joshua – but the world Black sets up leaves room for plenty of fun. A lot of that comes from the odd couple at the center. Gibson and Glover nail these characters, and they remain one of my favorite on-screen duos.
Lethal Weapon 2 is every bit as good. The plot dealing with South African apartheid adds weight, yet never causes the film to lose its sense of fun. Joe Pesci is a great addition to the series, especially since he helps create a new dynamic between Murtaugh and Riggs. As much of a scene stealer as Pesci is, however, Mel Gibson shines brightest. While he gets to explore some of the darkness that made Riggs so interesting in the first, he’s still very funny – one of my favorite moments is watching his reaction to Murtaugh’s daughter's commercial. Add in a terrifically menacing primary antagonist (Derrick O’Connor as Pieter Vorstedt), and this is a sequel that lives up to its predecessor.
It’s Lethal Weapon 3 where we start to see diminishing returns, though it’s still entertaining. As with many sequels, this goes bigger – there is a huge explosion in the first ten minutes that looks and sounds spectacular. There are strong scenes – Murtaugh dealing with a shooting, and Gibson’s scenes with Rene Russo (another welcome addition) – but it lacks some of the spark of the first two. That, unfortunately, can probably be attributed to the departure of Shane Black. Still, it has a thrilling climax, and when the end comes I can’t help but crack a smile knowing that Riggs and Murtaugh aren’t through with each other yet.
Lethal Weapon 4 features a few mishandled subplots, but it’s still fun to watch Gibson and Glover do their thing. Less fun, unfortunately, is Chris Rock. He isn't totally wasted though, as he’s involved in a cell phone rant opposite Pesci that’s one of the film’s funniest scenes. The one place this does excel is in the villain department. Jet Li’s Wah Sing Ku isn’t from Psychos-R-Us like Busey’s Mr. Joshua, but what he lacks in crazy, he more than makes up for in sheer fighting prowess. Despite being my least favorite of the bunch, its perfect final shot makes it a conclusion I think of fondly.
A collection such as this isn’t complete without a bunch of special features. These are a bit of a mixed bag, but the four featurettes on the bonus disc are worth checking out. And while it’s the lesser film, the fourth boasts the best commentary. It’s full of director Richard Donner talking about his filmmaking techniques, giving insights into production, and other various facts (he hates the NRA, and thinks Chris Rock is funnier than Richard Pryor!).
The amazing thing about these films is how Richard Donner and the core cast returned for all four (or in the cases of Pesci and Russo, they returned for every sequel once introduced). That’s impressive over a decade, and is one more appealing thing about these films – and one that helps set the series apart.
The gang on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” made Lethal Weapon 5, and that’s probably as close as we’re going to get to another sequel. If Lethal Weapon 4’s final shot is the last time we see the whole “family” together, that’s alright with me. At least we have this great five-disc collection to revisit any time we need a Lethal Weapon fix.
OVERALL SCORE: 8/10
Commentary by Richard Donner Additional Footage Music Video ("Lethal Weapon" by Honeymoon Suite) Theatrical Trailer
Lethal Weapon 2
Commentary by Richard Donner Additional Footage Stunts & Action Theatrical Trailer
Lethal Weapon 3
Commentary by Richard Donner Additional Footage Music Video ("It's Probably Me" with Sting and Eric Clapton) Teaser Trailer Theatrical Trailer
Lethal Weapon 4
Commentary by Richard Donner, J. Mills Goodloe & Geoff Johns Pure Lethal! New Angles, New Scenes and Explosive Outtakes Theatrical Trailer
Psycho Pension: The Genesis of Lethal Weapon A Family Affair: Bringing Lethal Weapon to Life Pulling the Trigger: Expanding the World of Lethal Weapon Maximum Impact: The Legacy of Lethal Weapon