The Lethal Weapon series is one of the most successful franchises in film history. Debuting in March of 1987, the first film would spawn three sequels and a host of imitators. Lethal Weapon certainly didn’t invent the buddy cop genre, but it certainly helped to tweak them. The pairing of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover was a stroke of genius, Richard Donner’s direction nearly flawless, and the script by first time scribe Shane Black was the perfect balance of action and character development.
Mel Gibson plays Martin Riggs, a narcotics cop. While he’s good at his job, Riggs leaves behind dead bodies and a damage bill, no matter the case. Since the death of his wife in a car crash, Riggs doesn’t really care whether he lives or dies, and he approaches police work with that mindset. One day, he is partnered with Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), a 50-year-old homicide detective considering retirement. They are paired together to investigate the death of a prostitute and a possible connection to drugs.
The case itself isn’t as important as what the two men learn about each other, and the bond that’s formed. On top of that, these guys have unexpectedly interesting personalities. Initially, Riggs appears to be a very calculating guy, with some psycho tendencies that can be triggered easily. However, as Murtaugh gets to know him, it becomes clear that Riggs is really just a lost soul in search of an anchor. Some of the best scenes in the film occur when Murtaugh takes Ross home to have dinner with his family. You get the sense that each man sees something in the other that they want; Riggs would like a family, Murtaugh wants to be a better detective.
With Ross and Murtaugh firmly established in the first film, Donner begins the sequel with a thrilling car chase. We are right in the middle of the action, as the guys are on the trail of a South African diplomat Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland), hiding behind the immunity laws of the United States to participate in smuggling and money laundering. It’s never clearly explained why Rudd and his buddies are involved in any of this, but it provides an opening for lots of fun action, and a romantic interest for Riggs in Patsy Kensit as Rika, an employee at the South African consulate.
The best addition to the Lethal Weapon franchise is Joe Pesci as Leo Getz, an accountant who unwittingly worked for Arjen Rudd and his associates. Pesci performance as Getz isn’t that kind that blows you away with dramatic flourishes. Instead, it’s the way he takes all the abuse Riggs and Murtaugh have to dish out, and keeps coming back for more. He seems to enjoy being a whipping boy!
By the time Lethal Weapon 3 rolled around, the franchise was beginning to show its age. Even so, the film still offers a good deal of fun. Further, Gibson and Glover have fine tuned their offbeat chemistry to a perfect pitch. Leo Getz is along for the ride, as the guys try to find out who is stealing guns from the police evidence room and reselling them to street dealers. Naturally, the street dealers are selling them to gang leaders, which are causing all sorts of issues.
The best addition to the series here is Rene Russo as Internal Affairs cop, Lorna Cole. Her scenes of flirtatious banter with Gibson shine, and she handles her action scenes very well. Even so, Lethal Weapon 3 leans too heavily on the explosive spectacle. One of the franchises best characteristics was the true conversational, buddy feel. Action was simply used to enhance things. It was in this film that action began to take over characterization.
Now we come to the much maligned Lethal Weapon 4. While it’s definitely the weakest entry in the series it’s not a bad film. While the usual cast of characters isn’t as funny, and the story isn’t as dynamic as earlier entries, this film still manages to be a modestly enjoyable action flick. The quips and explosions aren’t quite as gripping as they once were, but these characters are still fun to watch. It should be said that Chris Rock’s new character of Leo Butters never really fits in with the rest of the group.
Perhaps most importantly, Lethal Weapon 4 serves as a perfect swan song for the series. As Riggs faces his fear of marriage and children, Murtaugh (who has been dodging retirement for more than a decade), has to face the fact that a lack of mobility and general aches and pains might mean it’s time to hang it up.
The Lethal Weapon Collection arrives from Warner with a series of increasingly impressive transfers (a 1.85:1/1080p effort for the first film and 2.40:1/1080p for all of the sequels). Lethal Weapon begins on a sour note, with some soft and grainy shots. Thankfully, things get much better from there, detail improves and the grain reduces to a nice filmic quality. Lethal Weapon 2 doesn’t suffer from as much excessive grain in the opening shots, but does have softness throughout its first act. The transfers start to get truly impressive with Lethal Weapon 3. We get wonderful clarity and depth. Lethal Weapon 4 is the best, with an image that pops off the screen at times because of its clarity. The colors are also incredibly vivid.
Like the video, the DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio gets progressively better with each installment. Directional effects are apparent in all the films, with channel panning increasing with each movie. By the time we get to the fourth installment, the soundtrack has become a truly immersive experience. Dialogue is consistent and well-balanced on all films.
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH, Italian SDH, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish subtitles are available.
The following special features are included:
Disc One: Lethal Weapon
- Audio Commentary: Director Richard Donner doesn’t offer a lot of insight int o the production. Instead, he just says what ever comes into his mind, which allows for long stretches of silence.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 30 minutes): Fourteen deleted scenes are included: “Breakfast,” “Morning Ritual,” “At the Range,” “In the Line of Fire,” “Questioning Dixie,” “Home,” “Wanna Jump?,” “Swimming Pool Shootout,” “Home for Dinner,” “Kiss Goodnight,” “Watch Television with Me,” “Caught,” “Kidnapping” and “Busted.”
- Music Video (SD, 3 minutes): “Lethal Weapon” by Honeymoon Suite.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 minutes)
Disc Two: Lethal Weapon 2
- Audio Commentary: Donner just doesn’t seem very interested in this commentary thing, and doesn’t have much to say.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 4 minutes): Three deleted scenes are available: “Trish’s Car,” “By the Numbers” and “What’s the Water Like?” Unfortunately, this batch is presented in lowly standard definition.
- Stunts & Action (SD, 4 minutes): A vintage featurette, utterly forgettable.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 minutes)
Disc Three: Lethal Weapon 3
- Audio Commentary: Donner actually makes an effort to discuss the themes that run through these films, but he still drifts off, and seems generally uninterested. Why did they make him do this?
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 4 minutes): Three more hit-or-miss deleted and extended scenes for your viewing pleasure: “Doggie Heaven,” “Interrogation” and “Did You Forget Something?”
- Music Video (SD, 5 minutes): “It’s Probably Me” with Sting and Eric Clapton.
- Teaser and Theatrical Trailers (SD, 4 minutes)
Disc Four: Lethal Weapon 4
- Audio Commentary: Donner has some help here from producer J. Mills Goodloe and associate producer Geoff Johns. The result is a revelation. They an overview of the production, providing tidbits that fans of the film(s) will be interested to know
- Pure Lethal! New Angles, New Scenes and Explosive Outtakes (SD, 31 minutes): A fun mishmash of content from all four films, hosted by series star Danny Glover.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 minutes)
Disc Five: New Documentaries
- Psycho Pension: The Genesis of Lethal Weapon (HD, 24 minutes): Donner, Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, writer Shane Black and a host of supporting actors, producers and current and former film executives discuss the birth of the Lethal Weapon franchise.
- A Family Affair: Bringing Lethal Weapon to Life (HD, 30 minutes): Creating the look, characters and feel of the Lethal Weapon series. Donner, Gibson, Glover, Black and others discuss on-set relationships, and collaborations that turned Lethal Weapon into a multi-million-dollar franchise.
- Pulling the Trigger: Expanding the World of Lethal Weapon (HD, 30 minutes): A discussion of what was required for the sequels.
- Maximum Impact: The Legacy of Lethal Weapon (HD, 22 minutes): The cast, crew and others look at the themes explored in the Lethal Weapon films, as well as discuss the franchises legacy.