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Lethal Weapon Quadrilogy Review

Below you will find the reviews of all four Lethal Weapon films known collectively as the Lethal Weapon Quadrilogy.

Lethal Weapon (Poster)

I watched Lethal Weapon (1987) as it’s deemed the foremost buddy-cop movie. But the question is whether it deserves to be the best.

After a young woman commits suicide, Detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is assigned to the case, and he quickly finds out she’s the daughter of an old friend. For this scenario, he is teamed up with a new partner, and he is none other than the suicidal Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson). Where Murtaugh is a content family man, Riggs is still grieving for the recent loss of his wife by a car accident. Both couldn’t be more distinct from each other. And one would assume this is a match made in hell.

Their differences are quickly found at their initial meeting. Now, for an 80s action venture, this one’s tone is pretty dark. Most of the opening scenes are nocturnal. And it’s strange to find such a cast in a dusky atmosphere. Still, the comedic parts always manage to divert our attention from the noire. I still felt that the film needed more of these sequences. Yet, after completion I realized that the light and darkness was brilliantly balanced.

Another factor that surprised me was the unpredictability. The plot outline makes it look so foreseeable. But it’s not and the story is quite unusually sensible. The antics of Riggs are indeed hilarious and in-your-face. And the bro-chemistry between the leads is undeniable. Action is sometimes just way oo funny to take seriously. Of course if you live in the 21st century and watch a late 80s Hollywood flick, you’re bound to laugh out loud.

For the negativity, a lot is to be said about the pace. The first 30 minutes are slow. At times the film is too slow and then all of a sudden too fast. The narrative is directed with bizarre timing. Still, director Richard Donner does allow so many of the screenplay’s inclusions to be kept together so well at 110 minutes. With a more than satisfying conclusion.

Another paramount bad-point was the score. This feature’s music is so loud that it often almost mutes the dialogues. The compositions are done well but are out of proportion from the script. It even ruined a minority of incidents with its loud presence.

In the end, I state that Lethal Weapon is not the paramount buddy-cop thriller, but is still one of the best. LW paved the way for similarly-themed pictures like the series of Bad Boys and Rush Hour. And the inspiration is totally apparent when you’ve watched them all.

Lethal Weapon 2 (Poster)

There are only some sequels which surpass the original. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) comes in that category.

Starting off with an adrenaline-pumping car chase, the film’s beginning is at a faster pace than the prequel, and this is a major improvement. This LW is again directed by Richard Donner. But the screenwriter has been changed to Jeffrey Boam who does a way superior job than the last one. And that is writing the perfect blend of comedy and action.

The plot follows Mel Gibson and Danny Glover reprising their roles as the two leading Detectives respectively. They are paired against a group of South African diplomats who are hiding behind their immunity to carry out criminal activities. Along the way they also have to protect the witness Leo Getz played incomparably by Oscar-winner Joe Pesci. The latter’s performance is so good he outshines the main stars. He is surely the most welcome addition to this cast. Also, the antagonists are even more lethal than before and the right thespians were picked for their depictions.

Another positive point is how not only the action but the music has improved. There’s no doubt that the score was nominated for the Best Sound Editing Oscar. The sound effects, especially in action scenes, are well ahead of their own time. And unlike the previous venture, do not interrupt the dialogues.

I loved this one so much it was hard to distinguish the bad from the good critically. But I managed to accumulate some negative factors: 1. The storyline is inferior than before. Where the first film had a dark mystery, this one is all too predictable. 2. The protagonists frequently escape from seemingly inescapable situations. Especially when Riggs is immortal when fighting off so many villains.

Finally, despite the negativity, Lethal Weapon 2 is a joy to watch. It makes up for its flaws with amazing direction/writing. And the hilarious dialogues, especially those delivered by Pesci, are unforgettable. LW 2, like Terminator 2, is undoubtedly one of the best action sequels of all time.

Lethal Weapon 3 (Poster)

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), as the title suggests, is the third installment in the series. Again, Richard Donner returns to the director’s chair, with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover reprising their roles as Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, respectively.

The Plot

Sergeant Murtaugh is about a week away from retirement. But after many criminal incidents, led by an ex-cop Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson), both policemen must hunt him down before the pension date arrives.

The Good

We see much of the old cast returning. The advantage is that again Oscar-winner Joe Pesci makes a comeback as Leo Getz. His scenes are extremely hilarious, not on the caliber of LW 2, but keep our attention diverted from the average storyline.

The eye candy Rene Russo is a welcome addition as Sergeant Lorna Cole, who is Riggs’ new love interest this time around. And the enactments by Gibson and Glover have actually improved. They still portray the same characters but with such renewed energy you’d be surprised this part was released three years after the last one.

I would say that the action was toned down compared to the predecessor. Even though it’s not as over-the-top, it’s still notable for the era it was made in. The trademark car chases are ever present in this sequel. And even though this is the third go, they never become repetitive to us viewers or fans.

The Bad

LW 2 outshone its prequel. But LW 3 has many things missing from what makes the series so lovable. One is the lack of a good story. The plot is monotonous. At times you’ll wonder whether the main team is trying to track down the villain, or fight off secondary bad guys. Unlike the first two entries, LW 3 has an average storyline which suffers from a wavy narrative.

The second is the lack of a memorable devil. Joss Ackland placed LW 2’s evil-doer to cinematic perfection. Wilson doesn’t have the same level of wicked charisma. So, this was a major disappointment for a flick with such a reputation for producing high-class scoundrels.

Another negative factor was that LW 3 features many trademarks of its craft. But Murtaugh is made to say his signature dialogue so many times it become more than monotonous. And the funny situations the duo are caught in are just not that laughable. Still, Pesci’s impersonation does make up for the dryness of the script.

The Verdict

All in all, LW 3 is not an awful film. It features the same individuals. The same theatrics. And the same adrenaline-pumping finale sequence. Yet, it doesn’t make any improvement to the source material. Where LW 2 exceeded its predecessor, LW 3 descends from its previous offering. And (so far) is my lowest-rated instalment in the franchise.

Lethal Weapon 4 (Poster)

Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) follows the proverbial saying: ”Last but not the least”. This fourth offering makes sure the series ends with a bang!

The Plot

LAPD officers Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) must contend with a Chinese crimelord, who is in the USA for reasons unknown.

The Good

Well, after the third had me super disappointed. LW 4 is like that fallen boxer who rises up before the final countdown. It is pure action from start to finish.

The film opens with not the traditional one, but two, yes two adrenaline-packed scenes. And these are impressively shot for the era they were made in. Overall action throughout the running time is exquisite. The choreography is top-notch, and with Jet Li making his American cinematic debut, it ought to be.

This forwards me to the casting. Gibson, Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo and a minority of other familiar faces reprise their roles. Chris Rock is a newbie yet a more than welcome addition. His role as Detective Butters is superb. His deadpan delivery is deadly. And when his and Pesci’s impersonations initially meet, the audience will lose their wits at the screen. Li stars as the primary villain. He is one martial-arts wielding bad-ass. And a way better fiend than the past one. The troupe was chosen perfectly.

I think what won me over the most was the impeccable blend of comedy and action. This equilibrium takes me back to LW 2. Richard Donner again offers his directorial expertise by mixing high-budget shockers with crafty one-liners from the main duo. Channing Gibson (no relation to Mel Gibson) takes over the screenwriting duties. And he has crafted a script superior to the third outing. Even in serious situations, the feature’s tone is so well-polished, that you’ll be feeling both sad and happy at the same time.

The Bad

There’s just one major flaw: The narrative. Where the first’s was great, second’s was good, third’s was average – here we have a similarly mediocre plot. The theme is not as predictable as LW 3 but it’s just too far-fetched. Especially when the principal pair find out the scoundrel’s motives, it’s deduced in such an improbable way, that it’s impossible to avoid laughter.

The Verdict

Lethal Weapon 4 has better action than all of its predecessors. The reason could be that it’s created a lot of years after those parts. Still, it doesn’t disappoint as a last stand. It could have risen above Lethal Weapon 2, which I consider the franchise’s best, but that one had a superior story. Ultimately, it earns the second-paramount spot in this buddy-cop quadrilogy.

Nisar Sufi
Nisar Sufi
Content Writer, Indie Horror Author, Book Reviewer, Film Critic and Fortune Teller @knowthyfuture
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Below you will find the reviews of all four Lethal Weapon films known collectively as the Lethal Weapon Quadrilogy. I watched Lethal Weapon (1987) as it's deemed the foremost buddy-cop movie. But the question is whether it deserves to be the best.After a young woman...Lethal Weapon Quadrilogy Review