Lethal Weapon (1987)

An electrifying, bluesy tour-de-force lifted by Glover & Gibson’s infectious charisma in buddy-cop dynamism, thrilling action sequences, phenomenal genre-subverting elegance-dripping ’80’s score, & well-executed detective case. 7.8/10.

Plot Synopsis: Following the death of his wife, Los Angeles police detective Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) becomes reckless and suicidal. When he is reassigned and partnered with Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), Riggs immediately clashes with the older officer. Together they uncover a massive drug-trafficking ring. As they encounter increasingly dangerous situations, Riggs and Murtaugh begin to form a bond. Riggs’ volatile behavior might just help them apprehend the criminals — if it doesn’t kill them both first.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Review: Lethal Weapon. One of the most notable buddy-cop thriller series of the synth-fueled ’80’s now ubiquitous in pop cultural fandom, I wanted to take a nostalgic trip back to where it began to diagnose why it become such a hit phenomenon. The innovative backwoods energy it drips from its first mysterious, lusciously-dark Christmas penthouse-jump shot instantly set the tone for that discovery in what’s easily one of the best thrillers and action flicks of the prime years for the genre that’s certainly seen better days than today. An electrifying, bluesy tour-de-force lifted by Glover & Gibson’s infectious charisma in buddy-cop dynamism, thrilling action sequences, phenomenal genre-subverting elegance-dripping ’80’s score, comedic stylism, & well-executed detective case, Lethal Weapon deserves every bit of its status as an iconic piece of ’80’s pop culture and police films.

Riggs & Murtaugh. Easily the highlight of the film and what makes it a crank out of the park is the legendary buddy-cop duo to end all duo’s. Brought to life by spectacular melds of characterization, performances, and situational screenwriting, the infectious charisma of Glover’s blusey, soulful veteran cop Rog and Gibson’s aussie iconically-mulleted off-the-rocks beat cop Riggs are a match made in action heaven. They’re each meticulously developed over the course of the nicely-timed 1hr 50min, Glover as a family man willing to sacrifice anything for their safety and Riggs as suicidal widowed husband who grows to love life in emotionally-powerful, It’s A Wonderful Life-reminiscent fashion in this also an action/Christmas movie the best other than Die Hard. Their witty banter and comedic dialogue is absolutely sensational, with mega-quotable now-ubiquitous lines like the ever-present “I’m too old for this sh*t,” “you ever met anyone you didn’t kill?,” and my personal favorite gag and joke in-film: “thin is my middle name! ..With your wife’s cooking, I’m not surprised.” The comedic stylism that lands almost every joke they pitch as a surprise but happily-welcomed addition to the canvas, infectious dynamism, and inimitable chemistry between these two characters make it no surprise the series is so famous today.

Intensity in tone/thematics with thrilling action sequences and a effective detective case. Heavy themes like suicide, depression, drug abuse, prostitution, torture, and post-war triggered PTSD are all juggled in their respectably-ballsy script tackling such topics in a film you’d be forgiven for expecting (and disappointed by intellectually) was all about bullets, explosions, and macho inferiority complexes. We are taken through a topsy-turvy detective case that even tricks us the viewer into thinking we just witnessed a standalone hooker named Amanda Humsucker jump off a balcony from her own free will, when there’s a lot more to the mystery than meets the eye. The unpredictability in the case leading us to enter houses dubbed “thin leads” only to have them be subject to targeted explosion clearly to disguise evidence makes for a thrilling plot puzzle only bolstered by its quick-cutting, wildly-motioned action squences from shootouts to combat sequences to powersliding car chases for what must have been a rip-snorting, electrifying time at ’80’s summer movies.

The soundtrack and visual work. One of the other massive selling points that delineates Lethal Weapon clearly from its comparatively-duller kin is the sophistication in subversive soundscape with surprising attention to cinematography and location settings. From its first Christmas-y, lusciously-dark suicidal shot as alluded above, we’re casades with smooth jazzy melodies, saxophone, and cymbal-rolls that make it almost feel like we’re being serenaded at an elegant five-star restaurant – not an action movie comparatively dumb and basic when talking about (usually pop-thrusted) score. Bluesy guitar-plucked riffs, energy-dripped synth chords, and even some electro-funk in classically-80’s fashion are presented to us for a truly majical experience for a thriller or action flick I was shocked to see but absolutely love. The camerawork and visuals are great too utilizing a wide range of spectacular location settings from cliffside mansions to rain-soaked slums to desert salt flats looking straight out a Leone film to that final hydrant-watery fight sequence feeling like a kaiju movie as one of the most stunning action scenes I can remember from an ’80’s blockbuster – only to go back to character dev. in the next mossy funeral visit blending emotion and visuals in sublime ways.

Negatives in the film are the non-Riggs/Murtaugh performances and ending. The acting outside Glover and Gibson is absolutely awful – literally such amateurish, sickening gruff I cannot believe it made its way into the film. It feels like these people have never even seen a movie before delivering lines so brutally-bad I’m sure those reading this could easily do better instantaneously, from the hooker mumbling “you’re hilaaaaarious” (not helped by some weirdly awful lines in stark contrast to Riggs and Murtaugh lines), Mr. Mendez looking like he just saw the devil incarnate with one guy just burning himself for a second for intimidation (really? it was not even remotely that big a deal, guy), to multiple times bystanders getting so pissed they actually FIGHT an armed gunman simply taking their car as a getaway vehicle (what on earth? guess these people reallllllllly like their cars.. and have a death wish over something wholly replaceable?). Finally, that note and the fact that much of this ridiculousness and bad acting/lines is sequestered in the finale that’s a much different quality level than the rest of the film: worst. Some of the ending situations are downright silly, like the citizens challenging armed gunmen simply taking their cars, Rog thinking one grenade could take out everyone in a couple-hundred-feet radius, and the idea that cops would just let Riggs and the General – who happens to be a murderer, cop-killer, and heroin-trafficker too for good measure – have a fight scene in the middle of suburbia wherein the army of (armed) cops around just stand-by doing absolutely nothing.

Overall, Lethal Weapon is an iconic ’80’s buddy-cop thriller that deserves every bit of its name recognition and fame. Despite brutal non-Riggs/Murtaugh performances and a problematically-written and executed ending, LW is an electrifying, bluesy tour-de-force lifted by Glover & Gibson’s infectious charisma in buddy-cop dynamism, thrilling action sequences, phenomenal genre-subverting elegance-dripping ’80’s score, comedic stylism, & effectively-mysterious + unpredictable detective case for a film that helped define the late 20th-century action movie. “I’m getting too old for this sh-“

Official CLC Score: 7.8/10