Directed By: Richard Donner
Written By: Shane Black
I think this is an action movie equally as significant as Die Hard was for the genre; the buddy cop action comedy film that would influence so many that followed. It was a very successful film that would lead to three sequels and countless knockoffs. Were Mel Gibson still even vaguely marketable today we might still be seeing Lethal Weapon movies just as we are still seeing Die Hard movies being made. I’m not really a fan of these franchises continuing past their time but studios will do anything these days to cash in on name recognition. There has actually been talk of rebooting this franchise all together with new cast members and a new story. I think it’s a shameful and pathetic idea. Luckily this was an idea announced back in 2011 and nothing has ever come of it. It would be a waste to do it now; not only would it probably come with PG-13 rating today but there is no reason to think it would be successful at all. It’s one thing to reboot superhero films but quite another to reboot an action franchise that’s formula has been copied time and time again. There is no value other than name recognition and the market out there today isn’t going to turn out for a name that hasn’t really been popular in over twenty years.
I don’t think this was a franchise that had a lot of staying power in the industry but I do think it had its day in the sun. The first two films are great. They are action packed with witty dialogue and a cast that was spectacular at the time. I’ll admit I had a difficult time trying to get into this movie watching it again last night because it is so hard to look at Mel Gibson and take him seriously again. What a far fall from grace that man has had, to the point that I can’t even watch his older movies and enjoy them like I used to. I used to think he was great in this movie and in truth he was but watching it now I’m thinking he didn’t do a whole lot of acting in it. He plays a cop that might be a little crazy and this no longer seems like a convincing performance from an actor who might be seriously crazy. Still, I can remember a time when I really liked the Riggs character. I liked that he was this cop who was sort of crazy and just really skilled when came to killing people. The franchise lost me when they got away from that though. Not only was it a bad decision to make the third movie PG-13 but in the fourth movie they went way out there. Making the third film PG-13 was crazy and really limited the effectiveness of Joe Pesci. Let’s face it, the guy just isn’t himself when he isn’t saying the “fuck” word over and over again. In the fourth film Riggs was just any other cop. What happened to the killing machine that knew Ju-Jit-Su and could snap necks with his ankles? Every time he crosses paths with Jet Li he gets his ass handed to him in that movie. I thought it really strayed from the character that chooses to close out this first film by fist fighting with the bad guy just because he can. Riggs was cool because he was a crazy killer, when they tried to make him family friendly they destroyed the character. Incidentally, Bruce Willis was first considered for the role of Riggs, oh how different the movie and action genre might have been had that happened.
I have always been a fan of Danny Glover and I like him as the “old school” cop in these movies. Yeah his chronic complaining about how he has gotten too old for this shit got annoying from time to time but I still liked him. Glover is 66 years old now and still very active as an actor but he hasn’t had any really significant parts in a long time. In truth he never really had many significant parts outside of this franchise and The Color Purple but I still liked him all the same. Gary Busey got top billing as the villain and I thought he showed quite a knack for the role as Mr. Joshua. Like Gibson, Busey is a bit of a crazy guy but the difference is that people never fell in love with Busey like they did Gibson. I don’t know that Busey is really as crazy as he comes off either or if it’s all just a front to maintain some relevance in today’s media world. Nevertheless he was great in this movie; cold and capable of killing anybody whenever he was on screen. His career was on a downward spiral before he landed this part and credits it with reviving his career. Busey has developed into a more popular reality TV character than he ever was as an actor but I have liked many of his roles in cheesy action movies. My favorite probably being his role as Commander Krill in “Die Hard on a Boat.”
This movie is as cool now as it was when it first came out. It has everything you want out of a mindless action movie and actually set the tone for all action movies to come. It is a significant film that is worth your time and if you like action movies then this is a must see.
NEXT MOVIE: Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)