They're Back, They're Bad and They're Definitely Mad
Considering how many years there are between sequels these days the 6 years between "Lethal Weapon 3" and "Lethal Weapon 4" doesn't seem that long but I remember it feeling so when "Lethal Weapon 4" came out back in 1998. In fact it was sort of unexpected as "Lethal Weapon 3" had wrapped up the "Lethal Weapon" series quite nicely so what could another "Lethal Weapon" movie offer other than more of what we've seen before. Frankly not a lot as although "Lethal Weapon 4" is as entertaining as they come with action and comedy it doesn't bring anything different to the situation other than yet another new character, some more baddies and that Riggs & Murtaugh are a little bit older.
Whilst out sailing with their friend Leo (Joe Pesci), Sergeants Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) nearly get hit by a big cargo vessel which they discover is full of illegal Chinese immigrants. Investigating things further leads them to Chinese criminal Uncle Benny (Kim Chan - The Cotton Club) who along with the menacing Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li - Unleashed) are laundering money. But bringing down the bad guys is never so easy when both Riggs and Murtaugh have a few family issues to contend with and an over zealous detective called Butters.
"Lethal Weapon 4" starts just as all the other "Lethal Weapon" sequels have started with Riggs and Murtaugh back in the thick of things as they tackle a deranged flame thrower with a machine gun culminating with a half naked Murtaugh flapping his wings like a chicken. A crazy, daft, comical and action packed opening which gives a clue to one of the main elements of the movie, revealing of which would spoil things slightly. What follows though is almost routine and we have Riggs and Murtaugh stumbling across some human traffickers which leads to a money laundering operation and the dangerous zen like Wah Sing Ku.
The thing is that the main storyline to "Lethal Weapon 4" as in the case with all the "Lethal Weapon" movies is both simple and not really important. You know that Riggs will go on an almost crusade to get the baddies, dragging Murtaugh along sometimes against his will because remember "he's too old for his shit" causing plenty of action and hilarity. And "Lethal Weapon 4" doesn't let us down with some of the best action scenes in the whole "Lethal Weapon" series of movies such as Riggs sliding down a freeway on an upside down table, arm to arm combat between Riggs and Wah Sing Ku and so on. It's big, brash and entertaining.
The same with the comedy and "Lethal Weapon 4" brings the humour on hard and heavy with nearly every scene having a funny moment, be it Murtaugh doing the chicken dance, Uncle Benny saying "fried rice, you plick" or Riggs, Murtaugh and Leo Getz on a boat tackling a shark they've landed. But it does feel a little over kill at times as if they are trying to hard to make things amusing when it doesn't need to be. It also doesn't help that this time round we get introduced to a new character Detective Lee Butters played by Chris Rock who when ever he gets a scene almost delivers a stand up comedy routine. Yes's it's sort of funny, but again it feels forced, orchestrated rather than coming naturally.
Aside from the introduction of Detective Butters, who does have a bigger part to play in the movie rather than just inserted for comedy value, all the characters we have come to know are back including the Murtaugh family, Leo Getz and also Lorna Cole who is now in a relationship with Riggs. It does make things a little crowded at times and whilst Riggs & Murtaugh are still the central figures it does give it a feeling of flitting in between various other characters just so that it can include them. Although saying that each character has an important part to play in the multi layered storyline which is just as much about Riggs & Murtaugh growing old as it is to do with the bad guys.
But the standout character this time is Wah Sing Ku played by Jet Li. It's such a great character not so much a camp villian as say the funny Uncle Benny but one who just oozes menace and coupled with Jet Li's martial arts skills looks like he could literaly rip your heart out from your chest.
Of course much of what makes "Lethal Weapon 4" works is the chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover and although there was 6 years between this sequel and the last none of that chemistry has been lost. It's such a good pairing full of comedy and friendship that you get a sense that Gibson and Glover has just as much fun making all the "Lethal Weapon" movies as they show in front of the camera.
What this all boils down to is that "Lethal Weapon 4" is very much your stereotypical "Lethal Weapon" movie with bad guys, comedy, characters and action sequences. But it is great fun full of bigger and better action sequences, fight scenes and that brilliant chemistry not only between Gibson and Glover but all the stars who have become like a family. As the final sequel, although who knows maybe one day we will get a "Lethal Weapon 5", it works bringing a much better closure to everything than "Lethal Weapon 3" achieved and in a sad way it's a shame as they whole series of "Lethal Weapon" movies have been great entertainment.