|Lethal Weapon 4|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 15 December 1998|
For a movie that sells itself on its old-home-week appeal--the ad line was 'The Gang's All Here'--'Lethal Weapon 4' proves to be a quite lively entertainment on its own terms.
By now, audiences ought to know what to expect of a 'Lethal Weapon' film: spectacular explosions, car chases, lots of jokes, male bonding between Mel Gibson's reckless widowed LAPD cop Martin Riggs and Danny Glover's cautious family-man LAPD cop Roger Murtaugh and yet more explosions. Installment # 4 delivers on all fronts.
This time, Riggs and Murtaugh stumble upon a crime ring that smuggles in, then enslaves Chinese immigrants. On the home front, Murtaugh is trying to figure out who knocked up his eldest daughter while Riggs tries to decide whether he wants to marry his pregnant girlfriend, IAD officer Cole (Rene Russo).
It's not too hard to guess the plot beats in the screenplay by Channing Gibson, from a story by Jonathan Lemon, Alfred Gough, and Miles Millar, but the filmmakers and actors have such affection for the returning characters that we find ourselves continuing to root for them. Director Richard Donner continues to display great zest for action, keeping up the tradition of noteworthy big bangs in Chapter 25 and doing something new and engaging with the venerable car chase sequence in Chapters 26-29. He makes excellent use of the charismatic, graceful martial artistry of Jet Li, who has a riveting presence as the villain. In fact, Li persuades us that his quiet, vengeful gangster is so formidable that, even though we know how this has to end, he generates some real suspense in the climactic fight scenes.
The supplemental material is a 'Weapon' fan's dream. There's a full-length audio commentary track from Donner, a reel of cut and/or changed scenes shot, but not used for the first three films and interviews with most of the 'Lethal Weapon 4' principals on both sides of the camera. A half-hour 'making-of' documentary, narrated by Glover, has some enlightening information about why certain editing and plot choices were made; the piece is only slightly marred by its overly disingenuous tone. (Forcing long-time film pro Glover to say that he's always wondered what happens to unused footage isn't the best way to introduce something that we're meant to take as fact.)
'Lethal Weapon 4' has no lofty ambitions, but it's an exceedingly good one of its frisky breed. All DVDs should come with so many extra goodies. If you like the series enough to sign on for the fourth 'Weapon,' by all means sit through the end credits --they're a charming production of their own.