|Lethal Weapon 2|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Friday, 01 December 2006|
Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) were the buddy-cop movie icons of the 1980s and 1990s. Movie cops just didn’t come any tougher than Vietnam vet Riggs and his—at first—conservative partner. Richard Donner slammed audiences with his over-the-top approach to the action genre, and stunt crews were challenged to keep up with the frenetic pace.
Then 22-year-old-writer Shane Black exploded onto the Hollywood scene, quickly scripting the original “Lethal Weapon” movie, then contributing to the story for the sequel, before netting a record-setting 1.75 million dollar price tag for “Last Boy Scout”. He drove that price up again with “The Long Kiss Goodnight” when he got 4 million for the script. His latest movie was “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”.
In the original “Lethal Weapon.” Riggs was a good cop one step beyond sane, harboring a death wish after the accidental death of his wife. The opening scenes of Riggs in action, then trying to commit suicide, were powerful. So was the friendship between Murtaugh and Riggs, and the onscreen chemistry between Gibson and Glover. After the first film went through the roof, everyone knew there had to be a sequel.
Although the script for the second movie was written by Jeffrey Boam (“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “Lethal Weapon 3”, and creator/writer of “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.”), Black contributed to the story. Another action-adventure writing icon joined him. Warren Murphy, co-creator of the “Destroyer” series, which spawned “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins” and a forgettable TV movie, contributed to the story.
Richard Donner, king of action pictures and responsible for bringing Superman to the big screen, directed all of the “Lethal Weapon” franchise pictures.
“Lethal Weapon 2” takes off like a bullet, with Murtaugh and Riggs quickly pulled into a violent and destructive car chase. The trademark humor starts out immediately too, because Murtaugh happens to be driving his wife’s new car and doesn’t want to chance getting a scratch on it. Riggs, on the other hand, is all about the chase.
Video Presentation: Although the film is almost 17 years old and some aspects of it are dated, the visual presentation is beautiful to watch. One of the best scenes is when Riggs is talking to his dog Sam at the sea shore. The rocks and the water are clearly defined with the moon hanging high above. Later, during the helicopter attack on Riggs’s trailer, the viewer can see the glass actually shattering from the bullets’ impacts.
Audio Presentation: Although the film isn’t presented in Lossless audio, the best out there at the moment, the sound separation still takes advantage of a surround sound system. Gunfire blasts through the subwoofer, and during the attack on Riggs, the sound of the helicopter rotors is awesome. The soundtrack, one of the best I’ve heard (complete with bluesy pieces by Eric Clapton), comes through clear and sweet.
I’ve watched the “Lethal Weapon” movies since the original film. portrayal of Riggs as an emotionally damaged cop on the edge is fascinating, especially given the fact that he was so deadly. His Beretta had more firepower than the guns any cop carried (except for the Browning Hi-Power Al Pacino packed in “Serpico”) and that impressed me as well. I hadn’t as yet discovered director John Woo’s two-fisted gunslingers.
“Lethal Weapon 2” revisited familiar ground established by the first movie, but it built on it as well. Riggs was more complete, but he still pushed his luck and was overly aggressive, still grieving (as evidenced by his story about the pen that he told to Murtaugh’s wife). But it’s a bit too tidy when his wife’s killers turn up in the second movie in time to get a healthy dose of vengeance.
However, “Lethal Weapon 2” also added a new wrinkle that became part of the franchise’s canon in Joe Pesci’s portrayal of protected witness, Leo Getz. The chemistry between the three actors was so good that Pesci became part of the “Lethal Weapon” family. His diatribe about the drive-thru window at fast food restaurants became an often-quoted bit that still lingers.
Following up on the clues left by the gold coins discovered at the scene of the chase, Murtaugh and Riggs uncover two South African villains who are running drugs. Joss Ackland plays Arjen Rudd, the head boss who throws his diplomatic immunity in the faces of our two heroes. Derrick O’Connor plays Pieter Vorstedt, Rudd’s chief strongarm. Both men offer chilling portrayals, but there’s also some humor, particularly involving the drop cloth in front of Rudd’s desk. Patsy Kensit plays Rika van den Haas, a young woman trapped in the middle but who quickly falls for Riggs.
Some of the best sequences in any “Lethal Weapon” movie center on Murtaugh’s family. This one features his daughter getting a role in a commercial that turns out to be an advertisement for condoms. But the family pieces are there for character development and to show the softer side of the characters as well, which is what Riggs’s discussion with Trish Murtaugh about his gold pen really brings home.
Then there are the quips, such as Murtaugh’s own observation about taking out two would-be killers with a nail gun: “Nailed ‘em both.” The dialogue explodes all throughout the movie, rapid-fire stuff from Gibson as he goes to extremes on several occasions, and Murtaugh’s own feelings that he’s just getting too old to risk getting killed like that all the time.
The toilet sequence is one of the funniest bits. Trapped on the toilet by a bomb, Murtaugh sits helplessly while Riggs goes for help. He asks Riggs to keep everything on a low key, only tell the people that absolutely need to know. Riggs agrees without hesitation. In the next scene, we see that nearly every cop in L. A., several news channels, and tons of neighbors have all turned out for the event. Still, even that doesn’t take away much from the honesty between the characters as they prepare to face their deaths.
Action and stunt work also features prominently in every “Lethal Weapon” film. This one offers up a splendid bit with Riggs hanging onto a speeding truck for dear life just before a nearly impossible series of events launches a lethal surfboard through the air. The documentary on the stunts and actions reveals a little more about the actual filming and the stunt.
The film is dated, though. I really noticed the absence of cell phones, especially among the police officers. Today, law enforcement personnel carry cell phones all the time. Today’s movies always seem to show people on the phone getting information and staying in touch. Also, the South African apartheid situation was in the news when the movie was filmed, but as the situation eased there, it’s now much less in today’s headlines. Younger watchers might wonder what that was even about and what so many people were doing upset about it.
The special features section on the disc is embarrassingly bare for a film made with such high-powered stars and a director of Richard Donner’s stature. There are no interviews, no commentary on the movie, and no real documentaries other than the very short bit on the stunts and action. After 17 years, though, maybe it was harder to grab people and catch up. But without that extra material, choosing to upgrade from an earlier DVD version of the movie isn’t quite as enticing as it should be.
“Lethal Weapon 2” remains fun to watch. It’s definitely more a guy’s film, but Mel Gibson has always seemed to draw women viewers. This one’s probably on a lot of favorite movie lists, so the choice to upgrade to the Blu-ray edition might not be such a hardship. But I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’d really like some added value with the package.