So once again we have survived.

Lethal Weapon

tn_lethalweaponFirst of all, I would like to extend my deepest and most profound apologies for the first time I wrote about LETHAL WEAPON and fixated on Mel Gibson’s Swayze-esque hair and David Sanborn’s Smooth Cop Jazz saxophone. I know my comments hurt alot of people and put alot of negativity into the world, and that is something I simply never wish to do. I would especially like to apologize to Gibson’s hair stylist Paul Abascal, who not only did hair on many Swayze, Stallone and Willis (?) classics, but also went on to direct PAPARAZZI and the reshoots of PAYBACK. I know now it was a different time and place that cannot be held to a newer era’s standards of taste and style. In the years since that review I have changed alot, I have learned, I have grown as a man, as a critic and as a spiritual being. I have looked at pictures of JCVD in HARD TARGET and realized Mel’s mullet coulda been worse. So to get ready for Christmas I decided I was ready to try LETHAL WEAPON again.

It’s hard to separate LETHAL WEAPON from the litter of movies it spawned. In the sequels Murtaugh (Danny Glover, PREDATOR 2) and Riggs (Mel Gibson, MAD god damn MAX) are great buddies and there’s wisecracking and everything and I mix it up in my mind with the cliches of interracial buddy movies. But really the first LETHAL WEAPON is not about race and it’s pre-buddy. It’s about the formation of their buddyship. It’s about this regular working family man cop who, on the day after his 50th birthday, is forced to be partners with a younger crazy guy. Like, not just a loose cannon, a guy that we’ve actually seen wake up in his trailer, put a gun in his mouth and start crying and almost pull the trigger. While watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. He’s been suicidal since the death of his wife in a car accident, even has a special hollow point set aside for the job.

For part of the movie the cop-with-a-death-wish is used for action movie fun. Like, he doesn’t worry so much about being held at gunpoint during an undercover drug sting. In fact he begs the other cops to shoot the guy. Also it causes an interesting dynamic when he has to talk a guy down from the ledge of a building. You don’t know what’s gonna happen when he handcuffs himself to the guy and makes the jump with him. But this shit isn’t funny to Murtaugh, who just wants to stay alive and raise his kids and have some beers and fix up his boat like a regular 50 year old. He wants nothing to do with this crazy fucker. It’s not fair that they stuck him with this kid.

mp_lethalweaponThey do have some things in common though. Despite the age difference, both were in Vietnam. Riggs was an amazing sharpshooter from a very young age, part of the “Phoenix Project in Vietnam – assassination stuff,” which seems to both impress and scare Murtaugh, and gives them things to talk about. The case they become involved in is all about veterans too. Murtaugh’s war buddy (Tom Atkins) calls him up, his daughter just got murdered. And there are some nefarious individuals about, including Gary Busey as Mr. Joshua, who are involved in a heroin-smuggling ring that dates back to the war when they were in a special ops crew called Shadow Company.

I don’t think I’ve ever properly appreciated LETHAL WEAPON for being a year ahead of the game on a couple of my favorite movies. It beat ABOVE THE LAW to the topic of special ops people smuggling drugs out of ‘Nam, and of course it was a big ’80s action movie with a Christmas setting before DIE HARD. Also, couldn’t McClane’s famous “Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho” be sort of a one-upping of Riggs’s note to “bad guys” left on the Christmas tree?

I wonder if producer Joel Silver has something to do with some of the LETHAL WEAPON-DIE HARD overlap. They also have similar scenes at the end: everything seems to be resolved, everybody seems to be safe, cops are on the scene cleaning up the mess, suddenly the bad guy has a gun and a cop shoots him dead in slo-mo. Actually, two cops in this one, Murtaugh and Riggs both get him at the same time. A nice moment of teamwork and unity for these newly formed buddies. Now they have one more thing in common: they both killed Gary Busey.

I think hindsight also shows what insightful casting it was to have Gibson in this role. We always thought he was this funny leading man guy but actually this was him, charming but sometimes psychotic. He has some yelling fits, some violent mood swings, also some jokes.

They make a good buddy team because they’re so opposite. Murtaugh is always so exasperated and disappointed in people, Riggs doesn’t give a shit and likes fucking with everybody. And after they go through their roles they can stop and laugh together. Glover’s younger than the 50 years old he’s playing, and he’s in good shape, but he physically plays Murtaugh as tired and worn out. Meanwhile, Gibson in this movie is at his most svelte and athletic, showing off his body and rock star hair like some lost rival of Bon Jovi. And he acquits himself well when he has to run around and fight. Murtaugh famously declares himself “too old for this shit,” but Riggs is exactly young and vital enough for this shit.

Hats off to twentysomething hot shot screenwriter Shane Black for the way he establishes Riggs’s gun skills. First we hear about it – he tells the story about a crazy shot he made in the way that he thought maybe 10 other guys on the planet could’ve made. Then we see it in the scene at the gun range, where Riggs shows off humorously by sending the target as far away as it will go and then shooting a perfect smiley face into its head. Finally, when they’re out in the desert trying to get Murtaugh’s daughter back from a bunch of ex-soldiers with guns we see him making some impossible shots and we know this is the character’s unique skills and not just an action movie pretending everybody can do shit like that.

Its cool how this first Shane Black movie establishes some trademarks he revisits throughout his work. Of course the Christmas setting reoccurred in THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, KISS KISS BANG BANG and IRON MAN THREE. The helicopter attack on cliffside mansion came back in IRON MAN THREE. The funny, wiseass little kids that Murtaugh and Riggs question outside of the hooker’s house remind me of the type of kids he put in MONSTER SQUAD and IRON MAN THREE. (Of course, this being a Richard Donner movie you could also consider them the black Goonies.) They’re little goofballs. How many movies have a kid wearing a Keith Haring t-shirt and wearing 3D glasses? And they say the darndest things. “Mama says police misuse black people. Is that true?” “Yeah, is it true?” they ask innocently.

Black is known for his cleverness, and he’s got cleverness in this movie. There’s an ironic sensibility, an idea that the world of 1987 is crass and shitty and that acknowledging it is kinda funny. Riggs’s idea of success is “We do this right, we get famous. Do shaving ads.” It’s a world where our savior is a broken down, suicidal mess who grew up as a brainwashed super-killer. This is best illustrated when Mr. Joshua (or one of those guys) says “There’s no more heroes left in the world” just before a crazed, shirtless Riggs runs in with dead Al Leong slung over his shoulders and judos and shoots everybody to save Murtaugh and his daughter. Yeah, there’s heroes left in the world, it’s just that they’re crazy motherfuckers.

Then they exit into a normal bar with normal patrons and start shooting bad guys right in front of them.

A simple thing I love: when Riggs gets shot with his vest on it hurts like hell! He doesn’t recover right away. We’ve seen the old “you thought he got shot dead but actually he was wearing a vest” trope in a thousand cop movies, but they usually act like it just bounces off and then you stand back up. Riggs treats it more like he got run over by a car.

You also gotta give it to Richard Donner. I’ve never rated him in the upper echelons of action filmatists, but maybe I’ve underrated him, and at any rate he’s got some good work here. Two examples that come to mind: the scene where Murtaugh meets with Tom Atkins in his office to confront him about what he knows. There’s a window behind Atkins and we can see things going on out there. As the camera pans around him it stops where the window is perfectly lined up to reveal that Riggs is standing out in the distance, looking up into the window, backing up Murtaugh in case anything goes wrong.

And the most show-offy scene is the build up to the showdown in the desert. There are these sunny, wide angle shots of the two parties approaching each other cautiously, the helicopter blowing up huge clouds of dust, total Leone shit. This is not at all what you picture when you think of the cliches of late ’80s buddy cop movies.

I’m still a little befuddled by the martial arts aspect. There are a few things that suggest it could’ve been part of the JCVD/Seagal wave of western martial arts action. Jeff Speakman is… THE LETHAL WEAPON. First, they actually talk about Riggs being a “lethal weapon” because of his fighting skills. Then he uses some jiujitsu type leg maneuvers to escape electroshock torture from Al Leong. Most importantly there’s the weird climax where they do one of my favorite tropes: get the bad guy dead to rights and then put the guns down and fight honorably. This scene is awesome with Riggs’s line “What do you say, Jack? Would you like a shot at the title?”, the brutality of the fight, the then-novelty of jiujitsu on film, and the preposterousness of Murtaugh being able to convince the huge number of police on the scene to back off and let them duel on his front lawn.

So I’m glad they did it, this is a nitpick, but to me it feels slightly off, kinda unearned. The movie hasn’t established a context of them taking pride in their fighting styles either as athletes or as rival schools or disciplines. I thought Joshua was just a guy with guns. I didn’t know he was a contender. That’s why I wonder if maybe Black pictured it being a Chuck Norris movie or something. He thought it would star some guys known for spin kicks, not for driving fast.

It doesn’t matter. It’s a good story, or at least good enough characters that the story works out. I don’t fully understand why fighting some guys with Murtaugh cured Riggs of his suicidal tendencies, but I’m glad he found a friend.

Maybe he’s just depressed because of the time of year. As far as Christmas cheer, this one is subtle enough that you could watch it during other parts of the year, but it’s in there. The drug sting happens on a Christmas tree lot. When Atkins gets shot the bullet goes through a carton  of eggnog he’s drinking. A Christmas Carol is seen playing on a TV. There’s that note on the Christmas tree I mentioned. At the end, Murtaugh’s house is all boarded up from action movie damage, and the kids have drawn Christmasy stuff onto the plywood. The best Christmas/action movie juxtaposition is the opening credits. That cheeseball song “Jingle Bell Rock”  is playing but then the title comes up in manly 3D metallic lettering.

And you know what, I didn’t pick up on this until just now but Darlene Love, who plays Murtaugh’s wife Trish, is the same Darlene Love who sang the song “He’s a Rebel.” In 1963 she sang several songs on Phil Spector’s classic Christmas album. You’ve definitely heard her song “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” and David Letterman has made it a tradition to have her sing it on his last show before Christmas every year. She’s been doing that since 1986. So there you go, there’s Christmas even in the casting of the movie. They shoulda had Gene Autry or Burl Ives playing a police chief or commissioner.

I’m glad I revisited this one. Maybe I’m having my Ebeneezer Scrooge or Grinch moment on this. I don’t even mind the music that much this time. In part 1 there’s actually less of the Eric Clapton and David Sanborn noodling, more of the pre-DIE HARD bombastic Michael Kamen orchestra. God bless the LETHAL WEAPONs, every one!

Merry Christmas everybody.


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 Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 at 1:42 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

119 Responses to “Lethal Weapon”

  1. I know this was done for the Christmas aspect, but is there any way you could be persuaded to review the three LW sequels as well?

  2. Merry Christmas Vern! Thank you for all your years of writing on the films of the cinema. It’s always a treat to read your insightful and genuine reviews. I also love the fact that you have some of the best, most respectful and thoughtful forums on film, internet-wide!

    Peace on earth, good films for man!

  3. A Festivus miracle — not only does Vern air out grievances with his old self, he apologizes, makes peace, and defeats his old LETHAL WEAPON-reviewing self in a feat of strength via the updated review.

    My most recent LW screening resulted in some of the same observations:

    -Black wrote this 7 years before UFC 1, when Gracie jiu jitsu started its dominance of pro fighting, and like Vern said this came out a year before Seagal shook up the western world with his eastern-influenced aikidominance. Remarkable prescience.

    -Related: Non-fighters don’t “get” fight technique today, and they didn’t “get” it in 1987, as exemplified by Murtaugh’s cheering “Break his fucking neck!” when he sees Riggs putting Busey in a kind of triangle, which is a submission move but not a skeleton crusher. Murtaugh’s misguided encouragement is like a fan squealing from the stands to will his placekicker to throw a touchdown, or wanting Shaquille O’Neal to play point guard, or soliciting Vern’s opinions on the works & legacy of Walt Disney (oh wait…).

    -Vern might be right about Black envisioning or wanting a more skilled combathlete than Busey for that role, but the guy put in the work and Donner made it look legit. Lot more than we can say about a lot of action cinema today, especially high budget action-comedies with big stars.

    -I love this movie so much I forget that it goes dark places, so it’s always jarring & uncomfortable when I watch it with someone and I’m cheering & quoting lines and then there’s a bit of suicide/PTSD/murder/kidnapping/torture material; in the view of whoever is watching LW with me, I’m some kind of freak who might need help b/c I’m laughing the whole time someone is about to swallow a bullet or getting electrocuted, etc.. But then they look at Mel Gibson’s hair and they laugh, too, so it’s all good. I can repress my jovial affinity for violence as a solution or as a way of life & death and bury it nice & deep where it won’t ever come out in some psychological schism years from now during x-mas on the top floor of a southern California high rise. Totally healthy.

    -I’ve tried to shoot a smiley face in a paper target several times. At short distances. I’m as good a marksman as Riggs, if you interpret my smileys as having been influenced by Picasso.

  4. It’s a Christmas miracle. Not to say we toldja so, but we toldja so. Glad you’ve come around on this movie (you really should give LW2 another shot too, don’t bother with the rest).

    My favorite thing in the Lethal Weapons is the way Murtaugh’s family essentially adopts Riggs and treats him as one of their own. All of that stuff is just really well handled.

  5. Vern, I see a lot of Dirty Harry parallels in LW. Surprised you didn’t mention it. It has obviously been a huge inspiration for Shane Black. I know he’s a fan.

    Mouth, I kinda doubt that you’re as afraid of the shot as Gibson is. I wish Donner would have filmed him from the side or from the back, beacuse he blinks more than any actor I’ve seen. And he’s supposed to be a marksman?

  6. I always thought that the Gibson/Busey fight was one of the dumbest moments that 80s action cinema has to offer. And that comes from someone who really loves this movie and all of its sequels.

  7. The first paragraph in the review is the writing of a man who has strived for excellence and achieved it. Well done Vern. You have just handed in an A+ review.

    Merry Christmas.

  8. The Undefeated Gaul

    December 24th, 2013 at 5:01 am

    Love this movie, very close to Die Hard on my list of ultimate 80s action classics. One thing I always notice now when I rewatch it is how weird it is having the dad from Dharma & Greg as the main villain.

  9. Yeah, Vern should review the whole LW series. It was the Fast And Furious of the 80s and 90s.

  10. Vern I can’t understand why you wouldn’t rate Richard Donner with some of the top action directors. The work he did on Superman, the Lethal Weapon series, 16 Blocks, Conspiracy Theory, and even Maverick( he also did the majority of action scenes on Superman II before being fired) should give him some serious consideration. I think you might have overlooked him becuase he worked in other genres with The Goonies, Scrooged, even The Toy and was a little hard to peg down. I know that when I saw Richard Donner’s name on an action movie I knew there were going to be some interesting sequences and good action and I was there. Even the terrible Assassins has some good moments. Great director in my mind.

  11. For about six months, this was my favorite movie of all time. Then DIE HARD came out and it got bumped to #2. It’s still easily in the top five. I’m pretty sure I know the entire script by heart. (Even Murtaugh’s rap. “The hooda-hodda-hodda!”) I even love all the director’s cut and deleted scenes stuff that shows how Riggs spends his days and nights. He drives around and picks up a hooker to watch the Three Stooges with, he gets into a bar fight, he breaks up a schoolyard shooting (talk about eerily prescient). All this dude does is get into trouble. I love it. I’d watch a whole movie of Riggs going on little side adventures that he never even bothers to tell Murtaugh about.

    The only thing I don’t love about this movie is Riggs’ weird homophobia about lesbian hookers. That was definitely not ahead of its time.

    In conclusion, Christmas came early this year because LETHAL WEAPON is no longer a bone of contention between Vern and me. There’s peace on earth and goodwill toward a motherfucker.

  12. Great review, great movie, always thought it was ahead of the pack given what it felt like when I saw it in the cinema and then all these other films came out after. Better than the rest of the series by a mile too.

  13. great review for a great movie. glad it got a reevaluation, because you can’t deny LW.

    I totally agree with the fight at the end seeming unearned. it really kind of comes out of nowhere, and other than the knowledge that Busey was in ‘nam, there isn’t much build-up to how badass this dude is with his fists. however, I’d say its definitely made up by the fact that its even happening, there in front of many cops, in the middle of a fresh crime scene. almost good enough to forget that by the time they get to part 3 its pretty fucking terrible.

    Great xmas gift to the world, Vern

  14. The iconic “Do you want a shot at the title?” was thereafter widely used at my school after this movie started being a regular on ITV replays. I was glad to see you mention the desert ambush bit too which I always really liked but nobody really brings up when they talk about the movie. The current DVD version of the film also has that earlier demonstration of his super-shooting with the sniper who is shooting at kids that Riggs takes out with his Beretta.

    Oh and on the topic of actors blinking when they fire shoots mentioned above, one of the worst ironically is Chow Yun Fat who often looked like he was having a fit.

  15. “The only thing I don’t love about this movie is Riggs’ weird homophobia about lesbian hookers.”

    For the longest time I interpreted the line that same way. I can’t remember it specifically, but I think now I see it as just a line about kissing hookers in general. One can see how it can have that subtext, especially now.

    Not much I can really add here except that I take some issue with Vern’s issue of the guitar and sax noodling in the scores. By itself I find it okay (the complete scores to each film were recently released in a massive box set from La-La Land Records), and maybe they are distracting in the movie but I never thought so. I’m a fan of Kamen’s scores, but especially the ones where he equally mixes his rock and classical background. Forgotten as it is because of the movie’s legacy as a flop, it might have been better put to use in his LAST ACTION HERO score than it was in the LW series.

  16. “A Christmas Carol is seen playing on a TV.”

    It’s not just playing in the background. Gary Busey shoots the TV because he’s mad that Alistair Sim doesn’t know it’s Christmas.

  17. This is certainly the best of the series, it’s such a tough, dangerous movie. I think that Donner is definitely up there as an action director; certain sequences in all 3 movies are truly masterfully executed. The freeway chase in part 4 is a stunner. Managed to pick up the whole set on blu for £10. Bargain.

  18. And by all 3 movies I mean all 4 of course. Merry Christmas!

  19. Jesus Vern, it’s “Momma says policemen SHOOT black people.”

  20. “Riggs’ weird homophobia about lesbian hookers”? Drawin’ a blank on that one. I do remember Murtaugh’s bon mot to that hooker at the beginning of the movie: “All dressed up and no one to blow”.

    Between those two moments, I get the impression maybe Shane Black had an unfortunate experience with a ho in the salad days of his youth, and decided to go cathartic with it. Whatever works, y’know?

  21. doesn’t the 4th movie open with a guy going on a flamethrower rampage while listening to “Fire’ by The Ohio Players on a Walkman?

  22. The Undefeated Gaul

    December 24th, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Griff – yeah, and then Murtaugh does a little dance in his underwear. Good stuff. A long way from the more realistic and brutal part one, but it still worked for me.

    Even though 4 is not a good film, it has a lot of stuff in it that makes it worth it in my opinion. The freeway chase that Dirk mentioned is fantastic (even though it’s pretty goddamn obvious that Riggs is played by a stuntman in 80% of that sequence) and the end fight with Jet Li is a classic. The whole “I wonder how he was able to pull my gun apart in one move?” – “All right. Let’s go ask him.” exchange followed by that brutal punch-up always gets my adrenaline flowing. No matter how unbelievable it is that a guy like Li would let himself be killed by two old guys, they still get away with it. Yes, I have a warm place in my heart reserved for LW4.

    Not for LW3 though. That is the one truly shit entry in the franchise with pretty much no redeeming qualities that I can think of.

  23. Not even Rene Russo? – LW3

  24. Part 3 indeed has Rene Russo, not to mention that awesome opening sequence where they really for real blew up an entire office building and knocked the whole fucking thing down. Plus the motorcycle/armored car chase is pretty awesome. The weak-sauce villain drags the whole endeavor down but it’s not a bad movie, really.

  25. It’s funny how little the Vietnam vet thing matters to the overall franchise. It was largely just a plot device in the first film to establish a connection to the villains and Riggs’ skills and only Riggs’, as Murtaugh doesn’t seem to be bringing a lot of military experience to things beyond him showing up at the desert meeting with a grenade. But great series, and one I don’t think really does an interracial thing so much as inter-generational. I can recall way more things about the age difference than the race difference between the two, what with one having a family and one not, the differing dress sense, even the classic trope of the older guy carrying a revolver while the younger one has a semi-automatic. I’m not saying it’d totally be the same if they were the same race, but I could picture someone like James Caan as Murtaugh and it being largely as effective a duo.

  26. http://video.klru.tv/video/2272950873/

    Around 4 minutes into this video, Shane talks about his original idea of LETHAL WEAPON being an urban Western, and some ideas that didn’t entirely wind up in the film that revolve around the idea of the Vietnam vet being rejected by then-modern American society, only to be needed when the stakes are as high as they get in the movie.

  27. When I rewatched LETHAL 1 the jujitsu surprised me because by the time they get to Jet Li in 4 they’ve totally forgotten Riggs knows any martial art. Could’ve been interesting.

  28. Merry Christmas and best wishes, Vern and readers

  29. Ya, part 4 isn’t really a good movie per say, but I have a soft spot for it. It’s kinda like the Bad Boys 2 of the series, in that it’s an hour too long, and leans too much on comedy (cough…Chris Rock),
    but it’s got one of my all time favorite car chases, and Jet Li is awesome in it. It’s one of the last big budget R-rated action movies that doesn’t pull it’s punches, and unlike Michael Bay, Donner is a great action director and knows how to shoot and edit a car chase/shootout.

    I love that final fight too, cause it’s one of the rare times in an action movie where you’re genuinely terrified for the protagonists.
    And all the rain and awesome lighting and stuff.

    Part 3 is shit though, totally forgettable.

  30. Not too mention that part 4 is actually damn excellent for a movie, that started shooting without a finished script! They pretty much wrote it on the fly, yet it feels more coherent than many other movies that were written and shot that way.

    And I really love the moment near the end (spoiler for a hit movie from 1998), when Riggs and Murtaugh seriously consider just walking away from Jet Li, because they know they can’t fight him, but then do it anyway, just because it’s the right thing to do.

  31. Anybody else have kind of a problem with these drug war movies where it’s awesome to kill your way up the food chain and use any means necessary to achieve your goal of putting the bad guy drug dealers in the ground?

    I know, hindsight and all of that, but Vern has had a legitimate gripe about movies that act like the Salem Witch trials were justified, I think maybe we ought to consider these drug war movies in the same light.

    I also think this movie is cheesy as fuck. ON DEADLY GROUND is more serious, and purer.

  32. Would’ve been more awesome if they really walked away from the climax of a big summer movie. Yet that final fight is really well done. True, compared to how worse it’s gotten, LETHAL 4 feels more coherent than TRANSFORMERS 3. It never doesn’t feel like an improv movie though. That laughing gas scene, come on. Not even funny. What breaks my heart is that it was no longer Riggs and Murtaugh. It was the Mel and Danny show. Wouldn’t it have been great to see a drama where Riggs was finally too old for this shit and realized what his partner had been feeling all those years?

    I love 3 though. I love Rene in it and I love how enamored Riggs is with a woman who can take care of herself and won’t get killed on him. Some good stuff with Murtaugh shooting a gang kid and falling apart a little. Riggs is less lethal and more zany but it’s evolving. He’s getting more grounded, not that 4 goes anywhere except a clean haircut.

    But this is about LETHAL 1, a good dark drama I always appreciate every time I watch it even though I don’t remember it as a spectacular. And Donner is a great director. RADIO FLYER is some powerful stuff.

  33. I don’t know, I really feel like I’m in the minority, but I love what the series became during its run. Part 1 is great, but I find myself revisiting and enjoying the sequels more, because I love their themes of real friendship and family. The last line spoken before the closing credits of part 4 felt so well deserved at this point.

  34. aw man, RADIO FLYER, I didn’t know Donner directed that, that movie makes my manly tears flow

  35. The LETHAL WEAPON series became a unique hybrid of action spectacular and sitcom. The only analog I can think of is the SCREAM series in horror. You watch both franchises as much to check in on the characters as you do for the genre stuff. I wonder if the Marvel movies will ever get to that point.

  36. In the fourth one there’s very little shooting. Is that a build up to the fight with Jet Li or did Donner join the anti gun lobby between #3 and #4?

  37. All of the LW sequels had some kind of really really blatant political message in them, courtesy of Donner, a notorious lefty. LW2 was anti-apartheid (and pro-albacore tuna), LW3 was pro-gun control (the thing with the armor-piercing bullets and how easy it was for kids to get guns), and LW4 was pro-immigration. Kind of charming for big summer action extravaganzas to actually have some kind of political conscience.

  38. caruso_stalker217

    December 25th, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    This is a classic, obviously, but I’m still a LW2 guy. It is the GODFATHER PART TWO of action films and single-handedly ended apartheid, if I remember correctly.

    And I probably say this every time LETHAL WEAPON comes up, but LW4 > LW3.

  39. Just wanted to dip in with a merry motherfuckin X to our host and all the crew here. I don’t contribute here much, but I’ve probably read and enjoyed about 87% of the words on this sight (working on the rest). One of the best spots on the whole web. Thanks for keeping it real all these years, Vern.

  40. So LETHAL 2 ended Apartheid, ROCKY IV won the Col War and RAMBO II won the Vietnam War. Why don’t we have an action movie today that solves the economic crisis? And it’s not Uwe Boll’s ASSAULT ON WALL STREET.

    Donner is very political. His biggest cause is animals/anti-fur/pro-ocean but I’d imagine him being anti-NRA and anti-income inequality.

  41. Lethal Weapon’s a movie that gets better every time I see it, and I’m glad you revisited it Vern. I always was surprised by how readily you dismissed it in the old review. Gibson slapping a triangle choke on Gary Busey is still one of the all-time coolest action movie moments for me. Though overall I appreciate it a lot more as a detective flick than I do for its action. Gibson’s performance is exceptional, and it’s easy to see how it spawned multiple hugely successful sequels predicated on the idea that people just wanted to spend more time hanging out with these two guys.

    Also I’m just gonna post this again because it’s awesome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7D1CqVrGXdo

  42. The Original... Paul

    December 26th, 2013 at 5:21 am

    I have nothing to add here, except it’s nice to see Vern come over to the side of the angels on this one. Other than that, you guys have pretty much said it all.

    Merry Christmas everybody!

  43. The sound is especially good on this movie. My favorite is when Busey & Co flies away in the helicopter and Riggs fires a whole clip in their direction. The sound is just Incredible. And I’m absolutely not a gun fanatic.

  44. Rumour has it Bruce Willis was considered for the role of Riggs. And Mel Gibson was offered the role of McClane before Willis. It’s a cracy world we live in. Actually Bruce was number 7 on the list, after Arnold, Sly, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford and Mel.

  45. Not to intentionally repeat myself, but Al Pacino was apparently offered and said he would have done it if he was allowed to do his own stuntwork. This is from the book “Conversations With Al Pacino” by Lawrence Grobel, which is a pretty good for more little tidbits like that. I think De Niro might have been offered too, and oddly enough IMDB has it that Bruce was in contention for the Charles Grodin role in MIDNIGHT RUN, which wound up opening the same week as DIE HARD.

    Mel was really close to playing Eliot Ness in THE UNTOUCHABLES but chose LW instead. Costner was fine in the role, but I can imagine how more intense Mel would have played some of the more tense stuff (especially on the rooftop with BIlly Drago).

  46. I can’t see 80s wisecrackin’ crazy-eyes Mel as Ness. He’s too intense and emotive. Costner is such a cold fish that he’s perfect for a straitlaced, by-the-book fed who gets slowly but surely coarsened and corrupted by having to work The Chicago Way. It makes his little smirk at the end when he says “I think I’ll have a drink” so much more satisfying. The guy finally lightens up.

  47. The thing about that is, is LETHAL WEAPON pretty much established the “wisecrackin’ crazy-eyes” Mel. I haven’t seen the Mad Max movies but I’m guessing from what little I have seen from them that he played the role more stoically. And other than those, he did mostly period pieces or war movies until LW. So it may have not been a huge stretch for him to take the role of Ness, which may be why he turned it down in favor of something more contemporary.

  48. He did play the role of Max stoically, in the classic Clint Eastood fashion, but that’s not really what Ness is like. He’s not a strong silent antihero. He’s a suit. A law enforcement nerd. He plays by the rules, something Mel’s persona, even at that early time, was not suited for. You take one look in those eyes and you see the fire burning in there. Ness needs to have that fire slowly build over the course of the whole movie until you can believe that this Treasury agent, basically an accountant with a badge, can throw Frank Nitti off the roof of a courthouse in cold blood. You’d believe Mel could do that from frame one. There’s nowhere for the character to go.

  49. Majestyk, Elliott Ness was Norwegian, so there’s no way anybody could play him too crazy. Forget about Robert Stack and Kevin Costner. The real life Ness needs to be played by Nic Cage!

  50. I’m not talking about the real Ness, of whom I have little knowledge. Maybe Mel would have been perfect for that guy. I don’t know. (The movie is completely unconcerned with historical reality anyway. It’s a film that prints the legend.) I’m talking about the interpretation of the character in David Mamet’s script. That guy, a boring family man forced to compromise his ethics to deal with a society gone savage, is all wrong for Mel, who starts at a certain baseline of barely constrained fury and builds from there.

    THE UNTOUCHABLES is one of my favorite movies, by the way. Great filmatism, great violence, great score, great lines, great characters, great all around. It makes me yearn for a scene in EXPENDABLES 3 where they all find one of their own dead with “expendable” written in blood over his corpse.

  51. It’s one of mine, too. At least tied with CARLITO’S WAY as my favorite DePalma picture. Only Brian (and maybe QT for INGLORIOUS BASTARDS) can get away with the kind of history-bending that goes on here. I recently watched GANGSTER SQUAD, which while it doesn’t claim to be an accurate depiction of what went on, reading about the vast differences between the film and what really happened made me feel a little cheated.

  52. Man I used to love THE UNTOUCHABLES but I watched it again a year or two ago and it seemed so incredibly square to me. Even Connery wasn’t doing it for me anymore. Still enjoyed De Niro though, and the score.

  53. It’s kinda sad that Nicholas Cage never had a major action franchise the way Mel, Bruce and Sly did.

    I guess The Rock and Face-off didn’t really have any sequel potential, or maybe it’s something he resisted back then. Instead, we get sequels to National Treasure and Ghost Rider. What a waste of a great talent.

    I’d kill to see the further adventures of Cameron Poe.

  54. There was an 8MM 2 technically.

    The missed franchise opportunity with FACE/OFF was it should have been two new actors each time swapping faces.

    There was an idea for a THE ROCK sequel Bay says on the commentary track, but given what Bay became maybe its best they didn’t go there. Wait, did I just say that?

    Oh, duh, there was KICK-ASS 2 which Cage opted out of. What we really need is VAMPIRES KISS: THE NEXT GENERATION. Cage could play Peter Loew’s own son.

  55. Great review, Vern. I know that your scholarly historical examination only applies to films (says so right there in the title of your blog), but for those that might be interested in the VERY particular sub-genre of ex-Vietnam-vet-white-cop-with-mullet-and-black-partner-who-overcome-their-(non-buddy)-early-relationship-to-investigate-heroin-smuggling-by-veterans-using-body-bags, you should note that the MIAMI VICE episode “Back in the World” predates LW by almost two years. In full disclosure, this was a season 2 episode and Sonny Crockett’s mullet did not reach Full Riggs’ Hairsplosion™ until season 5.

  56. The “Vietnam ex-special forces smuggling stuff” plots were pretty common in MAGNUM P. I. from what I remember, and that started in 1980. I think I remember THE PRESIDIO having a similar feel in its plot but they were smuggling diamonds instead, or something, but that was 1988.

    I agree partially with Vern’s first review (the lame-ass Cop Rock is really cheesy and distracting) and wholeheartedly with his second review (even with the music and Mel’s 80’s hair the movie stands up).

  57. Jimmy, MIAMI VICE did everything a couple of years before everybody else.

  58. If anything, the whole franchise owes a debt more to THE COSBY SHOW than anything else, for the Murtaugh family dynamic in particular. Not that Roger and his clan was a direct copy of Cliff Huxtable, but the dynamic over the 4 films began to appear like something more akin to a sitcom. That’s not a criticism really, but there are certainly more interesting dramatic diversions that element of the sequels could have taken.

  59. In retrospect, it would’ve been cool had they flipped the personas of Riggs & Murtaugh for LW4. So here we go, six years after LW3… Riggs is happily married to Rene Russo’s character, lil’ Martin Jr. is starting kindergarten, another baby’s on the way, the trailer’s been replaced by a quaint 3-bedroom suburban home, and gone is the pickup truck in favor of an SUV.

    Meanwhile, Murtaugh’s a semi-drunken mess with a scraggly beard and a Lawrence Hilton Jacobs afro. His wife has left him for 1.) an FBI agent she was screwing on the side, and 2.) his refusal to boycott tuna, his son is selling rocks on a streetcorner in Compton, and his older daughter is well-entrenched in the porn industry (“I knew that rubber commercial was a bad idea!” laments Roger).

    Never woulda happened, but still… I can dream, can’t I?

  60. That would have been cool, actually. So much time passed between the third and fourth installments (actually a little bit longer than the first three combined if you think about it), that shift like that in the characters would have felt more natural to the flow of the franchise.

    For what it is though, 4 is kind of remarkable once you consider they started shooting six months before the release date without a shooting script. `

  61. The fact that LETHAL WEAPON 4 was completed at all and isn’t a gigantic fucking mess is a miracle. I think post-production on that bitch was like a month or some shit.

  62. Did you ever notice how big Danny Glovers arse is? Its impressive not merely due to the size but also the projection. Its practically at right angles to his back. I always thought he’d make a good drinking partner – you see, I live in the UK, where we get beer in pints, and sometimes holding those things gets bloody tiring, they’re heavy when full, and as its often cold and raining here fingers can become chilly when holding a new pint outside (especially for smokers). If Danny Glover was out with you, you could just stand your pint on his bumcheek, leaving you free to gesticulate or smoke or whatever. Its a shame he never comes to the pub. Lightweight.

  63. Eric— To employ/paraphrase the parlance of the series, he’s too old for that shit (tipping a few at the local pub). Plus, he only drinks beer on his boat (landlocked in the backyard) w/Riggs.

    It’s odd that the one thing you took away from Lethal Weapon was the size of Murtaugh’s bum. It’s not as though they make a running joke of it, or that his big & unusual tookus eventually factors into saving a life (I’m thinking taking a stray bullet, or maybe an enormous fart that’s a well-timed distraction, or a 1-anus killing machine moment unto itself).

    Still… an interesting approach vector.

  64. Eric – perhaps you inadvertently saw the gay porn tie-in LETHAL RECTUM and are just on the wrong thread?

  65. “Mama says police misuse black people. Is that true?” is actually “Mama says policemen shoot black people, is that true?” Although the idea of “misusing” black people is certainly an odd one, i’m not sure what that would entail.

  66. “In retrospect, it would’ve been cool had they flipped the personas of Riggs & Murtaugh for LW4.”

    What would have been much more cooler if they went all the way and just did a FREAKY FRIDAY-type scenario where they switch bodies. Certainly would have been a good acting exercise for them, like how I heard during the filiming of RAIN MAN that Tom Cruise and Hoffman would play scenes as the other characters.

  67. RIP to Mary Ellen Trainor, one of the most recognizable Joel Silver Players. From all 4 Lethal Weapons as the long-suffering police psychiatrist, to the anchor in Die Hard to the secretary in Action Jackson, seeing her pop up in these movies always brought a smile to my face. I still haven’t seen the very first episode of Tales from the Crypt (the evil Santa Claus one), which is one of her rare starring roles. I should probably check that out soon.

  68. Aww man that’s sad as hell. Donner also used her in SCROOGED and THE GOONIES. I didn’t know her name she was always known to me as “that lady!” cause I instantly recognized her anywhere but RIP nonetheless. Those scenes with her and Mel were always classic.

  69. Damn I realized the news hit even harder because I was feeling a bit low after watching Bruce Timm’s latest Justice League short.

  70. That news was a real bummer. She was in like every movie I loved when I was 11. Like all 11 year olds, I assumed that would last forever.

  71. Also one of the female police officers in BACK TO THE FUTURE II.

  72. onthewall2983 – She was also Mrs. Robert Zemeckis in real life at the time.

    Another fun fact: she’s the one who introduced Supreme Chancellor of Disney’s Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy to Steven Spielberg.

  73. RIP Mary Ellen Trainor, though in my heart you will always be trying to wrangle an asshole co-anchor, a loose cannon cop, a South American guerilla/hostage-taker and a bunch of nerdy little boys.

  74. Re-reading this review again always makes me smile. It’s practically an Xmas tradition with me now – like re-watching LW itself (and DIE HARD, or course). It’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all.

    (Can it be almost 30 years since LW came out? Man, that’s scary.)

    I love the film so much it’s pretty much beyond any critical analysis from me: it just IS. But it’s always fun looking for new stuff.

    One part of the movie that is seldom discussed (I think) is the moment where Riggs changes from suicidal to wanting to live – and he wants to live because 1) peeps be trying to kill him – if anyone’s gonna kill Riggs, it’s Riggs; and 2) he realises that getting shot really hurts. Fuck that.

    There’s something wonderfully warm hearted yet twisted about this: wanting to kill muthafuckas is enough of a reason to go on living for him. He’s got things to do now. It’s uplifiting. Healing through vengeance: who can’t get behind that?

    Is the final Riggs/Joshua fight “unearned”? Possibly, strictly speaking, yeah – but it’s badass, it’s wanted by the audience and it’s just plain awesome: these all override any and all criticism, I think.

    And Riggs and Murtaugh killing a dude together, with Murtaugh holding Riggs like that – it’s beautiful. It’s the true beginning of their friendship. Nothing cements a relationship like someone wrapping a blanket around you. And helping you kill a prick.

    The film is ultimately about family. And other things.

    In essence, I love this review, I love this film, I love Xmas and damn it, I love you guys, too. Merry Christmas!

  75. It’s OK, guys, they’ve kept the logo:

    LETHAL WEAPON | Official Trailer | FOX BROADCASTING

    The iconic cop duo Riggs and Murtaugh are back in the all-new FOX Series LETHAL WEAPON. Don't miss them as they work in a crime-ridden modern-day LA. Subscri...

  76. I am not sure if anything is OK.

  77. I try to stay positive and all, but imagine when Moe Szyslak tries to smile. That´s me trying to stay posituve.

  78. Let’s just say that, hypothetically, someone was making a LETHAL WEAPON TV show (which obviously they’re not, ha ha, what a dumb idea, can you imagine?), would it star recast versions of Riggs and Murtaugh, or would they just sub in some off-brand racially and temperamentally mismatched partners and call it a day? Both options sound terrible in their own way. The first because how you gonna compete with Gibson and Glover? And the second because the distinct personalities of Riggs and Murtaugh are the very core of the franchise and replacing them suggests that the (hypothetical) showmakers think that all the LETHAL WEAPON brand means is just any old pair of black and white cops cracking wise and working together, no big whoop, maybe we’ll get a couple new ones around Season 3, keep things fresh.

    I would look this up myself but Google only works for actual shows, not hypothetical shows that would never be allowed to exist in a fair and just universe, such as this LETHAL WEAPON show I just made up for some reason, probably just as a mental exercise to think of the worst idea ever, except for a DIE HARD TV show, which would be worse.

  79. When you think about part one and then think about part 4 you realize that making a TV show version really isn’t that big of a deal.

  80. Isn’t this the sort of thing that Vern was talking about with geek culture? It’s really not a big deal. It’s a tv show. It’s not like the movies are suddenly going to disappear from existence.

  81. Go back to sleep, Sternshein.

  82. Also Verns opinions are his own. They are not universally acclaimed truths. If I wish to hold suspicion towards the exploitation of a certain brand, I think I am entitled to it.

  83. I’m so tired of things being terrible. We’ve got fictional terrible like Majestyk’s hypothetical TV show and never ending X-Men/Captains of America/Bat and/or Super Men fighting and fighting and pissing and moaning when they should just get a cup of coffee and discuss things. Then we have real world terrible of the soul destroying political landscape, and young women being sexually assaulted by complete fuckwits and then assaulted again by the criminal justice system and some of the more heinous bottom dwellers of social media or shot to death after giving a concert. I think I’m going to watch some episodes of the Muppet Show (original, because, again with the terrible for the new one) and then go sit in the dandelion patch for awhile.

  84. Oh, and I didn’t say during the recent American Ninja/Truffaut series, but, thank you, Vern for being very far from terrible. It truly brought a smile to my face. You sir, are always a bright spot in this sometimes terrible world.

  85. Shoot, you’re absolutely right. Vern’s opinions are his own and it was really stupid of me to engage with you in a discussion or argument over a tv show adaptation over a beloved movie franchise.

    I just discovered you have a website. I love the retro geocities inspired look of it. The spelling errors was a nice touch too. I feel it adds an authenticity to your thoughts on action cinema. I definitively have a new found respect for you. Well, I’m off to sleep.

  86. From where I sit the problem isn’t that the movie is being remade into a show, it’s that it’s being done for a major network as opposed to cable. I’d be more excited if it were on FX or even TNT. But FOX seems to be in love with the idea of making movies into TV shows even after their version of MINORITY REPORT went nowhere.

  87. Putting aside whether it’s a smart choice to reboot Lethal Weapon for television, this show just doesn’t look very good. I like Clayne Crawford in Rectify as the weasely antagonist, but he just seems entirely miscast here. And it sounds like he can’t quite hide his southern accent. What really kills these trailers are the terrible attempts at humor. It just looks painfully unfunny.

    I like the idea of using television to expand the world of a film, like Minority Report was apparently trying to do. (Although, I never watched that show because it still looked terrible.) And Fargo is one of my favorite shows currently on television, so this can be done. But straight up rebooting a film for TV seems so limiting. Even films have largely moved away from the reboot game, or at least they use time travel to pretend like they’re not erasing everything that came before.

  88. It´s those fucks at FOX.

  89. TV has a long history of this anyway, going back to M*A*S*H and THE ODD COUPLE. Whether or not this or any other major network reboots of movies will work remains to be seen, but I feel like this could have a fighting chance of actually being passable.

  90. It’s sad but let’s face it: it’s product, it’s an IP, it’s a brand, it’s there to be repackaged and resold.

    I’ve already had my LETHAL WEAPON 30 years ago. Let someone else have this one. Maybe it’ll put them on the road back to the original.

  91. I also liked Crawford in Rectify. He was the most sympathetic of all Holden’s trauma-fall-out victims. Initially he’s a brute and a jerk, but then shows his vulnerable side after what Holden does to him. It breaks through his macho posturing and dickishness. (And fucks him up in other unforgivable ways). I could see him as a smartass Riggs with an emotional side.

  92. Even if the show looked great, it’s on FOX. I distrust FOX most amongst all the networks. They’re the most likely to stick their grubby fingers into the creative pie until it’s all turned to shit and then they cancel it after one season.

  93. “It’s sad but let’s face it: it’s product, it’s an IP, it’s a brand, it’s there to be repackaged and resold.”

    LETHAL WEAPON was a series of films that had remarkable continuity in terms of cast and crew for a franchise of that size and length. That’s what makes the later sequels, as half-baked as they are, still worthwhile. It’s the personalities of the personnel, both behind the camera and in front of it, that made the movies special. Which is why, no, I don’t think LETHAL WEAPON is a brand, a product, an IP. It’s a collaboration between a select group of people. Take them away and you have just some generic buddy cop bullshit coasting on the name recognition created by someone else’s hard work. It’s a good thing it doesn’t exist or I’d be upset about it.

  94. Sternshein – The thing is even though say Riggs is the opposite of what he was in the original by time of the 4th I can still recognize him as Riggs.

    It’s because of what Majestyk already brought up. We’ve seen him grow from movie to movie. So I could totally buy that the suicidal insane dude grew to be more pacified and normal after years of unconditional love and support from his surrogate family. That’s actually a believable notion.

    A supposedly suicidal and insane 21st Century Riggs already being more like his 20th Century counterpart’s part 3 and part 4 iteration in a trailer alone not so much cause he hasn’t even traveled half of the journey there. Not that the show will last long enough to let us see him get on such a pathway anyway.

  95. Broddie: I really love that Riggs healed over the course of the series. I care about that character a lot (I had a cat named Riggs when I was 12) so it makes me happy to know that he found love and acceptance and a will to keep fighting through his darkness even when it would be so easy to give up. I’m glad the series left him in a good spot, unlike that fuck-up John McClane who I gotta keep worrying about.

    Which, incidentally, might be why I’m one of the proud few who like DIE HARD 5. That last shot of him reunited with both his kids was a long time coming and felt pretty fuckin’ heartwarming for a guy like myself who thinks of McClane as his fictional divorced alcoholic uncle, the kind you always wish would get his shit together but probably never will. I’m sure by the next movie he will have fucked it all up again, but for those few seconds (theatrical cut only), he earned that rare moment of contentment.

  96. Mr. M I didn’t like DIE HARD 5 at all but I also appreciated that ending as well. Like having Winstead return made me smile but that was the cherry on top seeing John no longer be estranged with his two seeds. It’s been something that was definitely earned since 1988. Now all we need is a good John and Holly reunion by DIE HARD 6. I just really hope Bonnie Bedelia is up for it.

  97. Good point about MASH and The Odd Couple, OntheWall. And arguably the MASH TV show is an improvement on the film, which I finally saw a couple of years ago and hated.

    But I wonder why you need to reboot Lethal Weapon, other than the fact that people will recognize the name and possibly tune in. Outside of the actors and Shane Black’s scripts, there’s nothing all that distinct in the premise. Rename the characters and the TV show, and people might see it as being inspired by Lethal Weapon, but I don’t think anyone’s going to get too upset about it ripping off the films. They’d probably just file it under mismatched buddy cop show.

    You would think that the studios would have learned their lesson after the Rush Hour TV show, which I didn’t even realize had aired until I heard it was cancelled.

  98. For whatever reason I ended up liking DIE HARD 5 on home viewing a lot more. Also there are some funny deleted scenes on the disc.

  99. Altman’s MASH is one of my favorite movies from that era. However the show was as boring as dirt. Back in the 90 when it used to come on late night after a Simpsons rerun the theme’s opening notes were a sign for me to either;

    1) Go to bed
    2) Switch over to TNT for Monstervision
    3) Switch over to USA for UP ALL NIGHT
    4) Switch over to Comedy Central for MST3K
    5) Switch over to HBO for DREAM ON or TALES FROM THE CRYPT repeats from the previous weekend
    6) Switch over to Cinemax for a random b-movie or an episode of RED SHOE DIARIES
    7) Switch over to Showtime for THE OUTER LIMITS

    I have never gotten the popularity of and the love for that series…at all. THE ODD COUPLE on the other hand was definitely my jam.

  100. I’m the opposite. M*A*S*H the TV show is a classic. I spent more hours watching that show as a child than any other, and it introduced me to a lot of themes, concepts, and narrative techniques a lot earlier than I probably could have learned them anywhere else. The movie, however, is practically unwatchable. I appreciate the thinking behind all the mumbling and overlapping dialogue, but in practice it just makes a wall of noise that makes me start zoning out pretty much immediately. It’s like the whole movie is taking place inside the background murmur at a crowded restaurant.

    The book is okay, though.

  101. Yeah I like the show better than the movie as well.

  102. Mr. M

    That’s opinion of almost all of Altman’s entire filmography. One exception being Popeye, which is amazing.

  103. Yeah, POPEYE really grew on me the last time I watched it. The combination of Altman’s proto-mumblecore naturalism and the heavy stylization of a fantastical comic strip environment created something really special. Great soundtrack, too.

    I don’t really have that much Altman experience, to be honest, since M*A*S*H kind of turned me off on exploring him. I remember liking THE PLAYER, but I believe that’s considered to be one of his more mainstream ones.

    I actually just picked up M*A*S*H at a thrift store, so I’ve been meaning to give it another shot. Maybe I’ll be at the right place in my journey to get what it was going for this time.

  104. Ah POPEYE one of filmdoms truly genuine cocaine classics.

  105. For prime Altman, check out THE LONG GOODBYE. An absolute classic and possibly the best film made in 1973 that isn’t MAGNUM FORCE or ENTER THE DRAGON.

  106. Oh, right. Duh. Can’t believe I forgot THE LONG GOODBYE. I just watched it again a couple months ago. It’s great. Easily my favorite Chandler adaptation. It actually improves on the book. And it’s a great fucking book.

  107. Since we’re talking Altman, THE PLAYER was also made into a TV show, that came and went. I still haven’t seen his 70’s films.

  108. Personally I think MCCABE & MRS MILLER is Altman’s best work. And the TV series MARLOWE, PRIVATE EYE the best Chandler adaption.

  109. Funny. I remember THE LONG GOODBYE to be a pretty dull book

  110. It’s not action-packed or anything, but Chandler had a rare gift for perfect sentences. That kind of thing goes a long way with me. Plus, I love that the mystery itself is less important (it more or less gets solved in the first few pages, even if Marlowe doesn’t want to hear it) than the way it affects the detective and his moral code. Which is why I love the movie so much. The book pushes that code to the breaking point and finds it vulnerable to exploitation but more or less viable. The movie pushes the code until it snaps and becomes something else. I love seeing Marlowe brought to that. He can be a cold fish so I enjoy seeing him get angry enough to do what he did at the end. Usually finding the truth is enough for him, the dispassionate observer, but the movie spurs him jnto action. The whole movie, his catchphrase is “It’s okay with me,” a very 70s malaise motto to have. The movie is about him finally finding something he’s not okay with. I love the book but the movie’s ending is so much bolder and even, in its way, more noble.

  111. Thanks for the elaboration. As you said Chandler has a way with sentances that makes his work special. And reading everything he writes is worthwhile. But this one I never cared for. The way you elaborate why it works for you makes me want to go back to revisit it and all, but there is just so much time to read stuff as I feel this will never happen.

  112. I was reading a Lew Archer book for the first time a while back and I remember while he never had the exact knack for language as Chandler, but the plot of it was more enjoyable than the Chandlers I have been reading.

  113. I’d say the Archer novels are the platonic ideal of the hard-boiled detective genre. That doesn’t mean they’re the best, but that they take the formula invented by Hammett and expanded by Chandler and bring it to its logical peak. Which, even though they’re all excellent examples of the form, makes them feel slightly generic to me. They don’t innovate nothing, but the way they polish well-worn ground to a perfect sheen is admirable. They exemplify the genre in the way the work of more idiosyncratic authors doesn’t always.

    All this to say that, I agree, the Archer novels are excellent. You ever see HARPER? Paul Newman’s prettier than I pictures Archer but he does a great job giving some spark and life to the characyer.

  114. They are certainly more generic for damn sure. I finished THE BARBAROUS COUST and just started THE BLUE HAMMER. They feel exactly as the type you are getting when you are reading them, no more no less. THE BARBAROUS COAST was just the kind of detective novel I was expecting so I was pleased with it, Whether or not it is good that is another matter. I know what I am getting when reading them.

  115. Republican Cloth Coat

    June 15th, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    CALIFORNIA SPLIT. If you’re curious about 70’s Altman, start with that, I say. Elliot Gould and George Segal star.

  116. Sure, they but they are done really well. It’s Vern’s classic blues song analogy. The format seems really simple, which is why it takes a real talent to play it well. The hard-boiled genre, in particular, is tricky, because it’s easy to slip into pastiche. MacDonald never does that, but he also doesn’t go so far the other way that he doesn’t deliver the kind of tough guy attitude and hard-boiled language that makes the genre what it is. I’m glad people are still reading him.

  117. Broddie: I just watched a bit of an interview with Martin Scorsese where he professed his admiration for the TV version of THE ODD COUPLE. But wasn’t RED SHOE DIARIES on Showtime?

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