Thursday, May 27, 2010

“I'm gonna die on a toilet, aren't I?”

Lethal Weapon was a big hit, so 1989 brought a sequel, the aptly named Lethal Weapon 2. I’ve got nothing else to add here so let’s get to the Director’s Cut.

So Riggs & Murtaugh start off in a car chase that ends in a crash and the discovery that the perp’s car was full of South African Krugerrands (coins illegal in the US at the time). After some mysterious threats to the Murtaugh family, the team end up running witness protection to a federal witness who’s going to rat out a South African drug smuggling ring hiding behind the consulate in Los Angeles, (remember, this was during Apartheid). Buddy cop antics ensue.

Sergeant Roger Murtaugh: Danny Glover seems to get the bulk of the character development in this movie, what with having his family threatened by bad guys. Again. Except its worse this time, since they break into his home several times and they’re eeeeeeeviiiiillll South African racists. Still, by the end of the movie, Murtagh proves himself to be quite the badass with his revolver.

Sergeant Martin Riggs: Mel Gibson is starting to heal from the loss of his wife, but then he finds out that one of the South Africans is a hired killer and was responsible for Riggs’ wife’s death in an “accident” that was meant for him. I’m not sure if that’s a plot hole or not, but whatever. He wants to get some vengeance for that.

Leo Getz: Joe Pesci turns in an interesting performance as a weasely, foul-mouthed white collar criminal who’s first on the list for the smugglers to wipe off since he’s going to testify. He becomes an unwanted sidekick for our heroes with some funny bits.

Arjen Rudd: Joss Ackland (who’s deep bass voice has been in a lot of movies and tv shows) is the smug and corrupt South African minister of diplomatic affairs for the LA Consulate, and DAMN he is a real bastard who waves around his diplomatic immunity like it was a sparkler on the Fourth of July. Only, he wouldn’t do that because he’s not American and… Okay, simile over.

Pieter Vorstedt: Derrick O’Connor is Rudd’s right hand man, and a real bastard himself. He’s the guy who killed Riggs’ wife.

Rika van den Haas: Patsy Kensit is Rudd’s blonde bombshell secretary who is the only not-evil South African in the film. She doesn’t agree with Rudd’s stances and doesn’t know he’s a drug smuggler. She also draws Riggs’ attention because, well, she’s hot. The relationship doesn’t really end well.

Director Richard Donner & cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt again and visually we get a lot more of what the first movie established. Car chases, gunfights, occasional helicopter stuff and explosions (and various combinations thereof). Not very deep, but its well shot and fun to watch, so mission accomplished.

Shane Black & Warren Murphy on Story, Jeffrey Boam on Screenplay. The story is…a bit odd to say the least. First, it paints a significantly unflattering light on all white South Africans as either moustache-twirling villains or clueless/powerless to do anything. Look, Apartheid was an awful, awful system, but the lack of subtlety about it here is…not so much surprising as it is disappointing. The villains are pretty weak in this film compared to the last one, which is a shame, considering the character development done with Riggs & Murtaugh. It feels a bit like a very dark (and things do get surprisingly dark at points) R rated after school special in its message.

Still, the movie has some very bright spots, like the absolutely hilarious-yet-tense toilet bomb scene.

Michael Kamen & Eric Clapton joined by David Sanborn. The music is fine in general and includes quite a few songs by the Skyliners among other things.

Lethal Weapon 2 is an entertaining ride, but its also somewhat weighed down by trying to make some serious social commentary on institutional racism in South Africa and this isn’t the right kind of movie for that kind of effort. I mean, its got a toilet bomb for crying out loud! Not quite as recommended as the first, but it does continue the adventures of Riggs & Murtaugh, and that’s always a fun time.

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