|Lethal Weapon (Director's Cut)|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 06 June 2000|
For those who can’t remember, the title of ‘Lethal Weapon’ does not refer to a gun, a bomb or a motor vehicle. It also didn’t – at the time of its 1987 original theatrical release - refer to the three official sequels that followed, let alone the copycat buddy-action genre flicks that sprang up in its wake.
No, the nominal title item in the original ‘Lethal Weapon’ is Mel Gibson’s suicidal cop Martin Riggs, introduced here as a man with nothing to lose. When he’s not sticking a gun in his mouth, Riggs is constantly putting himself in the line of fire in order to bust bad guys. Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), on the other hand, is a perfectly good cop, but far more cautious. A family man with a loving wife and three kids, he’s got a lot to lose. Naturally, he’s appalled when he’s partnered with Riggs, but the two men gradually bond while looking into what turns out to be a very volatile case.
The plot could fit tidily into any number of ‘Miami Vice’ episodes. What makes ‘Lethal Weapon’ sparkle – on initial and repeat viewing – is, first of all, the powerful chemistry between Gibson and Glover. This is made possible at every turn by Shane Black’s never-a-dull-moment script and Richard Donner’s pedal-to-the-metal direction. The proof of the film’s effectiveness is that so many sequences make such strong impressions.
Soundwise, the 5.1 DVD is filled with strong demo scenes (although there are more definitive films out there if your sole purpose in watching is to check out your system). There’s a good, subtle bit in Chapter 3 that’s outside the scope of normal audio checks: when Riggs is listening to his TV, it momentarily seems like there’s a problem with the DVD’s sound. This lasts until Riggs destroys his TV set in a fit of anger, providing an immediate and impressive contrast with the clear ambient sound that reigns in the near-silence that follows. Chapter 4 and 6 have good, specific gunshot sounds, and Chapter 21 surprises us with a very dimensional explosion. Chapter 26 and 27 throw in the kitchen sink in terms of urban combat sounds (even though the sequence takes place in the desert), with gunfire of a variety of calibers, helicopter rotors and engines and exploding cars.
This DVD is the director’s cut, which has seven minutes’ worth of footage that wasn’t in either the theatrical or previous home video releases. The new footage is incorporated into the film rather than as a separate "special features" goodie. The film flows seamlessly, demonstrating that the scenes could comfortably have remained in the movie (which runs only 117 minutes even with the additions). On the other hand, if you’ve got the DVD of ‘Lethal Weapon 4,’ you’ve already seen the missing scenes as part of that disk’s bonus material.
One carp here about the ending of ‘Lethal Weapon’ that hasn’t changed over the years. Having the hero get into a huge fistfight with the baddie, with about 50 armed cops (on the hero’s side) standing around watching, just isn’t suspenseful or even especially climactic. However, it doesn’t seem to have put too many folks off of ‘Lethal Weapon’ overall. Nobody can really explain the alchemy of successful filmmaking, but the folks behind this franchise show that they’ve mastered the art of making crowd-pleasers with genuinely likable characters.