The Squad Couple
It's strange to think that it is over twenty five since the partnership of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover first hit our screens in the "Lethal Weapon" movies. In fact having recently watched the series of movies again they still feel as fresh and entertaining as they were on their original release. What is also surprising is that although the plotlines have been done to death in so many other movies, "Lethal Weapon" still manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, with one action scene after another. This is not to say that the plot is not important in "Lethal Weapon", as without it, it would fall into just one big mire of explosions and shoot outs.
After the mysterious death of an old friend's daughter, Sergeant Murtaugh (Danny Glover - Silverado) is assigned to the investigation, along with a new partner, Sergeant Riggs (Mel Gibson - Tim). Psychotic and suicidal, after the death of his wife, Riggs's approach to police work is at odds with Murtaugh's, who fears that he may fall foul, due to his partners loose canon methods. As their investigation progresses, they are led towards a bunch of ruthless professionals involved in large level drugs trafficking.
"Lethal Weapon" itself works on two levels; the main part of the movie is surprisingly about the relationship between the Riggs and Murtaugh characters. From the initial scenes, where we are given a brief insight into their backgrounds, it is plain to see that it will be a love hate relationship, as their policing methods are from different ends of the spectrum. Riggs and Murtaugh's relationship matures through out the movie as they come to learn the important elements of each other's lives. For what is essentially an action-drama; "Lethal Weapon" has its fair share of comedy moments, with the majority of these coming from the humorous bickering of its lead characters.
The second level to "Lethal Weapon" is the solving of the actual crime and bringing the criminals to justice. This is the part of the movie which is really lacking in substance and feasibility, but surprisingly works well as a vehicle for not only setting up the partnership between Riggs and Murtaugh, but also setting up the sequel which had a much more in depth plot. Accompanied by the numerous action sequences, the failings of the second plot element goes undetected and you still feel that you have spent just short of 2 hours watching a highly entertaining action-drama.
One of the biggest elements to "Lethal Weapon" is the use of action sequences, and in all honesty, it is this element which keeps you on the edge of your seats. Right from the opening scene, with the apparent suicide of a young woman, "Lethal Weapon" goes on a rollercoaster of chases, shoot outs and explosions all of which are expertly choreographed and amazing to watch. In some ways this action compensates for the weaker side of the plot, but they would not be so spectacular without the right story to display them with. I have heard this described as a bruised arm movie, where you finish up with a bruised arm from your partner gripping on to it every few moments. Although this was certainly the case on its original release, this claim is a bit of exaggeration, as newer movies have bigger and better action sequences.
Of course, one of the biggest factors in its popularity is Mel Gibson as Sergeant Martin Riggs. His multilevel persona has the ability to attract both male and female fans. The no holds barred, macho side of his character definitely appeals to the male half of the audience, who long to be an action hero. Where as his emotional side as well as his cheeky nature and good looks will almost certainly appeal to female viewers. Opposite Gibson, is Danny Glover as Sergeant Roger Murtaugh, who at the age of 50 years is looking to serve out his days in a much quieter manner, so that he can spend time with his family. This partnership is one of the defining moments in cinematic history, as more recent attempts to recreate the cop-buddy type movies have failed to match up to the on screen chemistry of Gibson and Glover.
The only other real notable name to make an appearance in this film is Gary Busey as ruthless mercenary, Mr. Joshua. Although appearing in a supporting role, and with the seemingly impossible task of competing with Gibson and Glover, he still manages to put in one of his best performances in years.
"Lethal Weapon", as well as all of its sequels, comes from the hands of director Richard Donner. A lot of acclaim should go to Donner for taking what is basically a sub standard plot and turning it into one of the most popular and successful film franchises of the 80s/90s. It's his ability to provide entertainment through the action sequences, which compliment the movie rather than detract from it that makes this film so enjoyable, along with the masterful pairing of Gibson and Glover.
What this all boils down to is that with it being twenty five years since its original release, "Lethal Weapon" still has what it takes to cut the mustard. All the key elements of plot, action and performance are still as good today as they were all those years ago and whilst some of the scenes may feel a bit dated you would expect that of a movie made in the 80s. What is pretty amazing is that if you take out the fact that it has become a bit dated, it is as easily as good, if not better, than the current batch of action movies.