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Lethal Weapon

I meant to see APOCALYPTO this week but I was too god damn sick to haul my ass to the theater. So I figured what the hell, it’s December, I’m Vern – might as well revisit LETHAL WEAPON. Haven’t seen that one since the ’80s. One of my buddies swears by it.

Well, it was interesting to watch this movie again, and I had fun, but I can’t say it has aged too well. I know it’s not fair to compare everything to DIE HARD, but LETHAL WEAPON is no DIE HARD. Bruce knew to keep the hair conservative, it will be timeless, no problem. His hair in that movie is so not dated that today, when the LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD teaser debuted online, everybody was pissed that he didn’t have the old hair do.

Lethal WeaponNot so Mel Gibson’s do in LETHAL WEAPON. That fuckin thing better be in a vault somewhere covered in ten feet of lead. What is it about the fuckin ’80s man, where even a ridiculous hair do can be so toxic as to not be cool years later? I mean, you find some silly flip hair do girls wore in the ’60s, or an afro from the ’70s, hell, the fancy high top fades from the ’90s even fair better than pretty much anything these people were trying to do in the ’80s. You cannot look at Mel Gibson’s lion mane of a mullet and take him seriously. Everything else is fine. He’s still lean like MAD MAX, he looks young but he seems grizzled, like life has tossed him through a few windows. He walks with a swagger, he dangles a cigarette from his mouth, he is completely nuts. But still, the fuckin mullet.

(not that the blonde girl who kills herself at the beginning is any better. What the hell was wrong with us, is what I’m asking.)

And then the music. DIE HARD knew what it was doing. Sure, Argyle listens to the Run DMC song in the limo, that’s dated. But the score is all classical. Some of those songs are hundreds of years old. Timeless. LETHAL WEAPON goes the opposite route. It asks, “How can we make a score that will make this movie seem ridiculous as soon as possible?” They called upon the same man who would score DIE HARD, Michael Kamen. Obviously he could not do it on his own so he sub-contracted it out to two experts: Eric Clapton and David Sanborn. (Kenny G was busy holding that one note forever so he couldn’t do it.) Now I know, I know, I don’t mean to insult Eric Clapton, I got nothing against Eric Clapton’s career as a whole. But that does not excuse him for the invention of the Cop Movie White Man’s Blues Guitar style. At least that’s my guess is he invented it and the success of this movie is what started that whole debacle. If he didn’t invent it then it’s almost worse that a man of his stature would come in and play this style. If there is one thing that does NOT make the action more intense for me it is the occasional guitar noodling of a white man trying to sound bluesy.

And you know what, Mel Gibson’s character could sure sing the blues. His wife was killed in a car accident. He lives in a trailer. He carries a hollow point bullet which every day he considers firing into his mouth. Only his job keeps him alive, but while on the job he carelessly risks his life, because he doesn’t care if he dies. Save a bullet, I guess. So if they had a real blues guitarist on here it might even work. A Howlin’ Wolf or a Muddy Waters or somebody. Not an Eric Clapton. And if so don’t saddle him with fuckin David Sanborn.

I’d like to make a movie called GUITAR COP. It is an ’80s style cop buddy movie about a white cop who carries around a guitar and noodles on it while trying to break the case. There is no score, he just plays all the music live while the story unfolds. Every once in a while his partner pulls a saxophone out of the trunk and blows some cheesy late night cinemax softcore porno bullshit like David Sanborn would play. I think it would be pretty good.

Apparently Shane Black was 22 when he sold this script, so it’s funny that he’s telling a story about two Vietnam vet cops, one who’s dealing with his 50th birthday and the other who’s suicidal due to the loss of his wife and everybody at work thinks he’s faking it to get disability. I guess that’s what 22 year olds are into. I really like the premise of the movie that Riggs is suicidal and uses this for his police work. This leads to a couple funny scenes, like when there’s a sniper shooting kids and he figures out that the guy’s not a very good shot, so he walks right out into range of the window and shoots back at him.

You would think maybe Riggs is a “lethal weapon” because he doesn’t give a fuck, but Murtaugh states that he is “into martial arts” and asks “should we register you as a lethal weapon?” and I’m afraid that even in 1987 America should’ve known better than to consider Mel Gibson a martial arts expert. They wouldn’t have let him get away with that in his native land of Australia, so we should never have accepted it here. He does a good job though. He’s charming, and gets to go off his rocker in a way he doesn’t do in many other movies (no, I will not make an anti-semitism joke here). He doesn’t entirely hide his Australian accent either, so you can tell this was a long time ago.

Danny Glover (PREDATOR 2) is good, Gary Busey (PREDATOR 2) is the villain, so you got some good stuff in here, much like the movie PREDATOR 2. There is the surprising scene where the house explodes out of the blue, and the funny scene with the neighborhood kids afterwards. But to me, this only stands out a little bit from all the other stuff that copied it. The mystery is not all that fascinating. Gary Busey doesn’t get as much to do as in UNDER SIEGE, etc. As far as action, well, I will not say how it compares to DIE HARD.

Not bad, but let’s not be building any monuments or anything.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 14th, 2006 at 3:18 am and is filed under Action, Crime, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Responses to “Lethal Weapon”

  1. I agree, Vern. Embarassing full disclosure: prior to last week I had never seen a LETHAL WEAPON movie. So I decided to fix that issue and watched all four. This first one is no DIE HARD, you’re right. The major flaw of every LETHAL WEAPON movie in my opinion is that the plots feel like rote obligation. I don’t think I could even describe any of the plot details of these movies in more than a sentence or two, and it’s only been like a week since I watched them. I notice you didn’t bother with the plot in this review, either. The saving grace is that they’re pretty engaging as character pieces, Gibson and Glover are great. But the series offers diminishing returns as these two get watered down and more characters get added. I rate them:

    LETHAL WEAPON – 8/10
    LETHAL WEAPON 2 – 7/10
    LETHAL WEAPON 3 – 6/10
    LETHAL WEAPON 4 – 6/10

    In my opinion. Now I gotta watch 48 HOURS/ANOTHER 48 HOURS.

    This review also makes me wonder what you’d say about my hair, since I am currently rocking a bizarre combination of Jewfro/Jheri curl

  2. I’m glad you finally saw this series. No need to feel bad, since I still haven’t seen The Godfather yet.

    I have to admit I felt the same about the “rote obligation” feeling of the plots but weirdly wish they made the plots even more disposable if that makes sense. Like my favorite scene in any Lethal Weapon movie is the dinner scene in part 1, where they’re eating the tarts and Murtaugh’s daughter is making goo-goo eyes at Riggs. It has nothing to do w/ “the case” and is just a bunch of likable characters getting to know each other, and it’s kinda perfect. In a weird way I wish the whole kidnapping of the daughter and the “this time it’s personal” stuff got saved for part 2 b/c the first half/police procedural stuff is so good and unlike the other cop blockbusters at the time.

    On a related note, I better see if there’s a Cop Out review on here. God, that movie was terrible.

  3. The scene where Murtaugh realizes that his daughter’s acting gig is in a condom commercial is pretty priceless. Yeah, the character stuff is really good. To judge these movies on plot… well shit, the “diplomatic immunity = license to evil” stuff alone in part 2 is enough to sink the whole franchise from a plot perspective.

  4. I don´t know….it doesn´t feel right comparing different movies. they are both excellent in what they do. So enjoy them instead of bickering of who´s better than who. What is this Fuckin kindergarden?

  5. The original Paul

    October 2nd, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I will inject my startlingly penetrative insight into this debate, for a small fee of course, and say:

    Meh, quite like both of them.

    (That’ll be thirty dollars please.)

  6. Vern – Will you ever bother reviewing the sequels?

  7. This is the “Die Hard” of buddy cop movies.

  8. it’s also the “Die Hard” of Mel Gibson ass shots

  9. Almost certain Eric Clapton is to blame for the “Cop Movie White Man’s Blues Guitar” style you talked about. And the beginning of it can be traced to his theme song for Stephen Frears’ THE HIT, and subsequent to that his first collaboration with Michael Kamen, the original EDGE OF DARKNESS. Kamen is one of my favorite movie composers, and a good chunk of why I enjoyed DIE HARD was his score. The LW scores are good too in my opinion, but don’t hold it against you to scorn them for the endless mimic-ing of that score to come from later action-crime films.

  10. While this review is not as thorough as the second time Vern took a crack at LETHAL WEAPON, I will concede that GUITAR COP sounds like it would be awesome. Can we make it sort of a PETER AND THE WOLF thing where every character has his or her own signature instrument? The love interest plays the cello (because chicks playing the cello is hot), the lead henchman rocks a trombone (the stabbing motions are very aggressive), the weasel Joe Pesci informant character plays a piccolo, the mysterious double agent is a bassist, the hypertensive police chief plays tuba, and the main villain is a drummer. (I got this last idea from my favorite HK action film, Master Yeun Woo Ping’s RED WOLF, in which the heroes enter the finale to find their nemesis playing a kickass drum solo.) Get John Chu to direct and throw in some breakdancing kung fu scenes and we have the greatest movie Mouth will ever write seven paragraphs about.

  11. . . .

    I’m digging Jon Chu’s career directational/budgetary strategery:

    One movie for Mouth,
    one for the Beliebers,
    one for Mouth,
    one for Beliebers,
    one for Mouth. . .

    so I feel like this GUITAR COP will someday be possible. No reason Shane Black can’t mash out a treatment for STEP UP 6: TWERK OF RECKONING.

    Something in The Chu Zone would have to be better (again) than most other movies featuring weaponized musicality — KUNG FU HUSTLE, that Dolph thing COMMAND PERFORMANCE, THE FP, or the yodeling parts of MARS ATTACKS, for examples.
    Something in the battle-music vein of THE SCHOOL OF ROCK or MICHAEL CERA INEXPLICABLY ATTRACTING 2 GIRLS WAY OUT OF HIS LEAGUE VS THE WORLD or 8 MILE is a good place to start. Or STEP UP 3D, duh.
    You would think that I’d have loved PITCH PERFECT; you’d be very very wrong, but the premise was up my alley. Can someone remake PITCH PERFECT but add clarinets & electric guitars and somehow replace all the romance subplots & all the “jokes” (except Adam Devine’s, he’s awesome) with carnage choreography from the mind of Panna Rittikrai?

    There’s a good chance none of the preceding paragraphs makes any sense to anyone but me, but whatever, I’m just trying to be that little kid listening to “Over The Rainbow” while slo-mo standing in the middle of a John Woo masterpiece. Gotta have dreams.

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