Hard to believe, but it’s been 25 years since a too-old-for-this-shit Murtaugh tried to survive his first day with Riggs, his suicidal new partner who wants to go out with a bang and doesn’t necessarily care who he takes with him. Definitely not the first impression you want to be making when your job involves guys with guns. Twenty-five years and four blockbuster movies later, Warner Home Video is celebrating with the original Buddy Cops in a Blu-ray Lethal Weapon Collection that contains all four movies, along with a fifth bonus disc for those of you who just can’t get enough yuk-yuks and bang-bang with the dynamic duo.
There have been plenty of imitators since the first “Lethal Weapon” movie exploded onto screens 25 years ago, but it’ll be hard to top the franchise’s combination of slick action, catchy rhythm between the two leads, and R-rated language and bloodletting. Hell, can you still find a R-rated Buddy Cop film nowadays? Your guess is as good as mind. Luckily you won’t have to go very far.
Forced to form an uneasy alliance, two L.A. cops – Veteran cop Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) his new young partner who doesn’t care if he sees another birthday – begin to unravel the mystery of an apparent suicide that turns out to be murder and more.
The first, and best in the franchise, without a doubt. Written by Shane Black, an actor turned screenwriter (who would eventually add director to his credits), “Lethal Weapon” looks and feels like a series of episodic “cop”-like cases that eventually tie together in a neat bow. In between all the shooting, fighting, and crazy antics, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover turned into the perfect Buddy Cops. Gibson is dead-on as the suicidal Riggs, while Murtaugh is vulnerable and tough as his put-upon partner. A great script by Black, great direction by Richard Donner (who would go on to direct all four movies in the franchise), and winning performances from Gibson and Glover turned the “Lethal Weapon” franchise into the model of what all Buddy Cop movies aspire to be. It also features a great supporting turn by Gary Busey as the villain, back when Busey was famous for being an actor, and not for being, well, simply crazy.
The big selling point here is a solo audio commentary track by director Richard Donner. Unfortunately, it’s pretty skippable, and another reason why I prefer cast commentaries. It doesn’t help that Donner is all by his little lonesome and from the sounds of it, would rather be just about anywhere else. You also get a handful of deleted scenes, and for you music fans, the “Lethal Weapon” music video by Honeymoon Suite is also included. Yay! ’80s music video goodness! Also, the original theatrical trailer.
Riggs wows the pretties of a hotel spa before getting to Leo Getz (Joe Pesci). Murtaugh receives bad bodywork news from an auto repairman after his beleaguered station wagon sees some Riggs-piloted street action. Plus, feisty Leo shares a newly included scene in which he recalls a suspect’s address by complex spins of numbers that, well, no one can tell it like Leo. And no one would follow his lead but Riggs and Murtaugh. It’s police procedure, Lethal style. And it’s yours to enjoy as the duo draws a bead on criminals hiding behind diplomatic immunity.
“Lethal Weapon 2” is the perfect follow-up to “Lethal Weapon”. Riggs is more mellow than we last saw him, and Murtaugh, though still way too old for this shit, has gotten used to Riggs’ insanity, and even seems revitalized by his younger partner’s energy. As with the first film, a series of seemingly episodic cases all lead to one bad guy, “diplomats” at the South African embassy trading in some very undiplomatic-like criminal enterprises. The phrase “diplomatic immunity” became a household name after this one. The sequel also revealed more about Riggs’ past, including the death of his wife, the event that sent his life cratering before we saw him in the first movie. Derrick O’Connor as the latest man to challenge Riggs for the title is not nearly as formidable as Gary Busey, but Joss Ackland as the big bad is appropriately slimy, and Patsy Kensit, as the innocent embassy employee who Riggs falls for and vice versa, is appropriately gorgeous. As with most Hollywood sequels, part 2 in the franchise is bigger, louder, and more violent than the first movie, but still manages to maintain a lot of the original’s gritty appeal. The sequel is also filled with killer gun battles, and starts a pattern of big action set pieces to open up the films.
We get another solo commentary track by franchise director Richard Donner. I’m now pretty sure the poor guy was forced to do all the tracks in the same day, because he doesn’t sound any more enthused about the gig the second time ’round. There is a short “Stunts & Action” doc, a small batch of some deleted scenes, and original theatrical trailer.
Bigger, louder, and campier.
Riggs and Murtaugh are back again. This time, they must stop a former cop who has become an arms dealer to L.A. street gangs.
From the first sequence on, “Lethal Weapon 3” is bigger, louder, and more expensive than the previous two movies combined. It’s also a lot sillier, and sets a new tone for the franchise — one that veers more toward camp, more fun and games and less gritty realism. The addition of Rene Russo as, essentially, the female version of Riggs in almost every way is a sign that everyone involved knows they would never be able to replicate the magic that made the first two movies so appealing, and so have begun adding on fresh elements to keep the franchise from getting too stale. In its own way, though, “Lethal Weapon 3” is a lot more entertaining, especially since we’ve pretty much now realized that the two main leads will always get out of any situation, regardless of how sticky or volatile. This time around, the challenger for Riggs’ championship belt is Stuart Wilson, going the route of a more cerebral villain than the previous two contenders. A hyper-annoying Joe Pesci, introduced in the last movie, adds to the film’s growing campy vibe.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: you get another Donner audio commentary track. At this point I’m starting to realize the studio simply locked the guy in a room and played the first three movies for him one after another and demanded he talk about them. He does somewhat better on the third track, but it’s still pretty skippable. At least he doesn’t appear as if he’s on the verge of falling asleep midway through. You get another 4 minutes or so of deleted scenes, trailers, and a forgettable music video by Sting and Eric Clapton.
Everybody is definitely getting too old for this shit.
Mel Gibson and Danny Glover return as buddy cops Riggs and Murtaugh, with Joe Pesci riding comedy shotgun as chatterbox Leo. Murtaugh is still the family man. Riggs is still the gonzo loose cannon and – what’s this? – family man. His will-he/won’t he marriage to Cole (Rene Russo) is one of the new wrinkles in this powerhouse crowd-pleaser that also stars comedy favorite Chris Rock and international action star Jet Li. This sequel involves an action packed battle with a Chinese ganglord.
Well, it had to happen. And in many ways, “Lethal Weapon 4” is a good retirement send-off for Riggs and Murtaugh and their expanding brood. Riggs has all but settled down with Lorna Cole (Russo), introduced in the last entry, though no rings or vows have been exchanged. Jet Li supplies the villain this time around, and although he’s the smallest challenger yet, he proves to be up to the task of whupping ass. The theme of “Lethal Weapon 4” seems to be that everyone is getting way too old for this shit, and in many ways it makes a great exit for the characters (and the actors who play them). Part 4 builds on the sometimes goofy vibe that had pervaded the franchise with the third movie (the inclusion of comedian Chris Rock doesn’t help combat this), but as always, still manages to pull out the exhilarating gun battles when it needs them. Part 4 also features the best fight sequence since Riggs took on Mr. Joshua in the first movie, so the franchise definitely closed things out on the right (uber violent) note.
The fourth disc includes the fourth commentary track by franchise director Richard Donner, who this time gets some much-needed support from producers J. Mills Goodloe and Geoff Johns. Thanks to the added sounding board, the director finally seems to wake up, which makes you wonder why the studio didn’t give him someone to talk to on the previous three discs. Such a wasted opportunity. You also get a 30-minute doc on the franchise featuring hosting duties by star Danny Glover, along with an original theatrical trailer. I would have really liked to see the cast do commentary on at least one of the movies, but alas, it wasn’t to be.
Disc 5 contains all-new bonus documentaries (or, at least, new-ish). Whereas the bonuses on the four movies feel dated, mostly because they’re recycled material, the new bonuses feel more fresh. They total just under 2 hours, and features plenty of insights into the making of the franchise, behind-the-scenes shenanigans, and new interviews with the cast/crew.
The documentaries include “Pulling the Trigger: Expanding the World of Lethal Weapon”, which is primarily focused on the first three movies; “Psycho Pension: The Genesis of Lethal Weapon”, a look at how the first movie came to exist, featuring 2010 interviews with Gibson and Glover, along with Donner and others; “Maximum Impact: The Legacy of Lethal Weapon”, an exploration of the franchise’s impact on cinema and in particular the Buddy Cop genre; and finally, “A Family Affair: Bringing Lethal Weapon to Life”, a nice reminiscing session from the cast/crew about working on the series.
Visual quality on all five discs are excellent, and the sound is even better. The latter is especially noteworthy since the films (in particular the later ones) are known for their loud and at times gratuitous explosions. If you gotta listen to things blowing up, mind as well hear them in all their explosive glory. There were apparently some complaints when the first two films were released on Blu-ray in 2006, but I can find no fault with the ones that appear in the Collection.