Tuesday, June 01, 2010

“I got 8 days to my retirement, and I will NOT make a stupid mistake!”

1992 brought Lethal Weapon 3 to theaters, promising more Riggs & Murtaugh antics, which should never be a bad thing. Time for the Director’s Cut.

So Roger Murtaugh is eight days away from retirement and very, very, very aware of the danger that means to a buddy cop such as himself. So of course he & Riggs screw up royally in a bomb defusing situation and get busted down to patrolmen, where they stumble on a gunrunning scheme that’s putting a lot of high powered “cop killer” ammunition and guns in the hands of the LA street gangs (which restores them to sergeant status). Car chases, big explosions, buddy cop banter and shootouts ensue.

Sergeant Martin Riggs: Mel Gibson’s character is now trying to quit smoking, so in desperation he resorts to dog biscuits, displacing his addiction onto them. Its funnier than how I explain it. His whole arc is about starting a relationship with a new woman, finally having coped with (and avenged) his wife’s death.

Sergeant Roger Murtaugh: Danny Glover’s character provides some fun meta-commentary on the old cop movie cliché of the guy who’s “one week away from retirement.” Then he goes and shoots a gang kid in self defense who happened to be his son’s friend and falls into a guilt-ridden depression. Character development!

Leo Getz: Joe Pesci returns, only this time as a real estate agent for the Murtaughs’ who are trying to sell their house after Roger retires. Again, he’s a largely unwanted sidekick, but provides some useful information.

Detective Lorna Cole: Rene Russo plays an Internal Affairs officer looking into how the heavy firepower is getting onto the streets. She gets involved in the case with our heroes, then she gets involved with Riggs in particular, if you know what I mean. She also gets to kick some serious ass in the film, so why not, she’s the badass.

Jack Travis: Stuart Wilson is our bad guy, a cop gone rogue who’s running a massive gun smuggling racket because he wants to… wants to… get back at the police force for some reason? It’s been a little while since I saw it, but I’m really drawing a blank here on his motivation. That’s not a good sign in a villain. Though in his defense, he’s a very hands-on kind of villain who does his own dirty work.

Richard Donner again, but this time with Jan de Bont as cinematographer. It’s a Lethal Weapon movie, so we get a lot of finely done action sequences. The shootout at the end is particularly memorable because it involves a construction site being lit on fire.

Jeffrey Boam and Robert Mark Kamen on screenplay & story duty with Shane Black getting credit for the characters. The movie hits all the right notes to qualify as a Lethal Weapon movie: witty character banter, simple villains you enjoy seeing get their comeuppance, the occasional heavy-handed social commentary and so on, but while the script gets more right than it does wrong (Riggs & Murtaugh are so fun that I just don’t really care about the “villain of the week” in these movies) there isn’t all that much that’s impressive from a storytelling standpoint. Happily, the “blowing stuff up” standpoint gets top marks.

Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton & David Sanborn are joined by Elton John on the score, which yields some pretty fun results. We also get songs by Eric Clapton, Elton John, Boyz II Men and Cypress Hill. It’s a pretty good spread.

Curiously, these Lethal Weapon reviews are relatively short, largely because I don’t have any reason to tear them to pieces or raise them up onto a pedestal. I’m also repeating myself a lot, like when I say this: Lethal Weapon 3 is a fun action movie with some great set pieces and entertaining characters, though it’s not a particularly original or transcendent film. So far, I’d say Lethal Weapon 3 was the runt of the litter.

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