REVIEW: LETHAL WEAPON 4 (1998, RICHARD RONNER / M.GIBSON, D.GLOVER)

Friday, 12 June 2015


  • Original Release: 1998
  • Also starring: Rene Russo, Kim Chan, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan
  • Running Time: 127min
  • Rated: R
  • Reviewed format: Blu-Ray (Lethal Weapon Collection)
  • Budget: $140 000 000
  • Gross: $129 734 803 (USA) (30 October 1998)


Most of the movie series get worse towards the end. The first Lethal Weapon movie starring Mel Gibson
and Danny Glover was released way back in 1987, and was an instant classic of "buddy-cop-movies" genre. A pacey action movie flavored with a good bit of comedy. The fourth Lethal Weapon movie came out a decade later than the first, in 1998, directed by Richard Donner, still featuring the same main star actors Gibson and Glover as officers Murtaugh and Riggs. The directorship of Lethal Weapon movies has been kept in hands of Richard Donner ever since the first movie of the series, who initially came known of directing classics such as The Goonies and The Omen.

There was always this sort of a "good cop, bad cop" setting in Lethal Weapon movies, with Murtaugh (Glover) being the older, more calm and reasonable cop, while Riggs (Gibson) was the wild one with more questionable ways of solving the issues. That's something, that has ever since been done to death in the movie industry, but the humor and chemistry between these two actors was always very entertaining. The series have always been balancing themselves in the middle grounds between action and comedy, containing a good dose of both, with the first two leaning more towards action, and now, the latter two leaning bit more towards the comedy. However, those balance adjustments of the style have been more minor, than major between each of the movies, as the series have progressed forward.

Lethal Weapon 4 revolves around the same style of presentation and tricks, than what we've seen before, being perhaps closest to "the part three", continuing the same trend than it's prequel. The fourth movie of the series isn't as "raw" as the first or even the second. The first Lethal Weapon certainly was the darkest of the series with least comedy, the second bit lighter, and the third moderately lighter, with a lot more goofy comedy. Lethal Weapon 4 keeps the "rawness" up to par with the third, not being any more watered down in violence, which is a nice thing, as I expected this to be even more "family friendly" movie than the prequel.

However, if you've ever seen the first Lethal Weapon (1987), you probably remember that Martin Riggs' even at times psychopathic character, had quite serious, bitter, and dark side of personality, even though there was some humor added, too. We don't see that side in here, nor have we since the second movie of the series. But in some way, this movie still feels true to the movie series' original style, if we look the bigger picture. It's still not "too light".




In the fourth installment, officers Riggs and Murtaugh return as bit more aged, noticing themselves being "too old for this shit!", even on the Riggs' part. Things on police force, however, don't go as peacefully as they perhaps hope for, when the officers find themselves (quite randomly) involved with local Chinese mafia, who are transporting the Chinese to United States as slaves for money. The slavery-pattern involves money laundering, and one of the Chinese crime-lords is also trying to buy his brother free from a Chinese prison, to get him transported to American grounds.

As Murtaugh and Riggs are having a peaceful evening with their mouthy friend Leo Getz (acted by Joe Pesci, also featured in the third movie of the series) on Murtaugh's brand new fishing boat, they almost get overran by a bigger cruiser in the dark waters. While they start pursuing the cruiser and demand it to stop for a closer investigation, the Chinese crew of the cruiser start firing at them. After a victorious firefight (well, not quite so, as poor Murtaugh's brand new boat sinks), Riggs and Murtaugh investigate the cruiser which appears to be a slave-carrier of Chinese mafia, full of Chinese slaves.

Riggs and Murtaugh start investigating the Chinese slavery-pattern closer. They get a little help from always-so-wacky Leo (which is bit over-the-top, but you cannot not love Pesci's performance, anyways), who now works as a private detective. Also, in the group joins new addition to the movie series, Detective Lee Butters (stand-up comedian and actor Chris Rock), who starts investigating the case with the two main stars.

Now that we have wacky Leo (Pesci) and almost as wacky Butters (Rock), it's unquestionable, that the movie takes turn into rather comedic approach, perhaps even more than in Lethal Weapon 3. I found the humor in the first and the second Lethal Weapon movies bit more "mature" and dark, than on third, and obviously on this fourth part. The third and fourth are slightly more childish, but still not overly so. However, Lethal Weapon 4 has some clever lines and fun jokes, which will give you many chuckles during the movie, if you give it a chance. The comedic chemistry between Gibson, Glover, Pesci, and Rock works fine most of the time, although it's sometimes bit over-acted, over-the-top so to say, almost "cartoon'y".


(some goofy moments with Pesci and Rock)


What I particularly like about Lethal Weapon 4 is, that it's action scenes are entertaining. There's a good mixture of speedy chases, gun fights, martial arts stunts (thanks to Jet Li), and even decent amount of explosions (although, do not expect anything like Schwarzenegger's "Commando"). Lethal Weapon series, while somewhat softened since the first movie, have kept relatively consistent overall style and presentation, and have always featured some good action scenes and entertaining buddy-cop-theme. The solid style has maintained probably, because Richard Donner has directed every movie in the series since the first one, and still did the fourth.

The movie starts with a good slow-burning action scene, where Riggs and Murtaugh arrive to the scene to arrest a psychotic flamethrower crook, who's wearing bullet-proof armor (looking like being ripped off from "The Exterminator" movie). It features similar cracks and jokes we've seen before, but which still make us laugh, me at least. There's the ever familiar "should we go on three, or after the three?" -count down sequence, as well as Riggs tricking Murtaugh to run on his underwear, and flap his arms like a chicken to distract the flamethrower man. There's handful of nice action scenes, in addition to the one above, like one very nicely done and memorable, speedy highway chase, which features a jump from an elevated highway road with a car to a tenth floor of an office building through the glass windows, and then driving through the office floor, and jumping back to the highway. The stuns look old-school all the way! It's gorgeous, because it doesn't look like computer generated CGI piece of crap, that we're used to see these days. Often times (especially on the action movies) the new technology doesn't provide better looking visuals with the stuns, than the old way of doing it, and we have a prime example right here.

Another thing I liked here perhaps even more than on the third movie, is that the main villain is great. The Chinese martial arts mastering crime lord's name is Wah Sing Ku, who is played by Jet Li. This time even aging officer Riggs, who knows some martial arts himself, meets his match, and finds out that he too, indeed, is "too old for this shit". Li and his Chinese mobs put up a good show, and overall I think that the fourth movie is perhaps even more speedy than the third. At least, by judging purely by it's action scenes.

Riggs' girlfriend (since the third movie), Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), who I always felt was bit out of the place in the movie series, has a slightly smaller role this time, than previously. I felt that this was a good thing. However, Lorna's role in the movie revolves around her pregnancy, and there are plenty of scenes about Lorna's and Riggs' relationship, about planning to get married and of the baby. That's my main complaint about the fourth part.

The movie runs 127 minutes, a long run for an action movie. It could had been cut up to perhaps, say, 15-20 minutes shorter, and it would had felt more effective. The parts that could had been cut, in my opinion, should had been many of those non-important relationship involving scenes (particularly of Riggs and Lorna), which seem to be adding up unecassary running time to the movie, and slowing it's tempo down.

While the story between Lorna's and Riggs' relationship is bit more "serious", and thus unfitting to the movie (at least on as lengthy form), Murtaugh's daughter's Rianne's story fits in better. Rianne is also pregnant (bit too much pregnancy on this film!) and the story revolving around that subject is done in more comedic manner. I don't want to spoil it, but there's several good jokes about it between Riggs and Murtaugh.


(The highway chase scene)

Conclusion

To sum this up. I think that the fourth Lethal Weapon keeps up the same style, generally speaking, than all three movies of the series prior to it. Action scenes are entertaining. Stunts of the movie, which are done with certain old-school flavor, following the roots of many action movies of the 80s and early 90s, look a lot more "real" and realistic, than what we see in many action movies today with fully computer generated visuals. We've seen many of the jokes between Riggs and Murtaugh in the movie before, but their chemistry is still entertaining to watch. In it's seriousness/rawness-value, Lethal Weapon 4 comes close to the third movie: it has some good jokes, although some of them are bit childish. Lethal Weapon 4 is not as dark and raw as the first, or even the second of the series, but the movie still manages to escape being dropped to "whole family's comedy" category. Pesci's and Rock's acting bring comedic tone to the movie, but the action scenes with the Chinese mafia, especially lifted by Jet Li's presence, do bring that necessary speed and rawness to the movie. Lethal Weapon 4 could had been much more disappointing, after slightly watered down part three, but instead Donner and the cast managed to avoid another drop in the quality, and bring the movie's quality level up to, at least, par with it's prequel. Yet another solid Lethal Weapon movie directed by Richard Donner, which main problems lie on unnecessarily slowed down pace at times, caused by some useless relationship issue and pregnancy based scenes, that should had probably been dropped off totally thus cutting the movie shorter, or be replaced by other scenes tied to the main storyline.


The Good
  • Rated R
  • Gibson & Glover chemistry still works
  • Good villain (Jet Li)
  • Which means there are many martial arts scenes
  • A good blend of slightly childish comedy and raw action
  • Old-school action sequences look great
  • Pesci and Rock are solid
  • Faithful to the movie series
  • Not a letdown compared to the prequel
The Bad

  • Too long
  • Too many pointless relationship scenes slow the movie down
  • ...which should had been replaced with a few more raw action scenes
  • Misses the initial darkness of the first two movies of the series, that made the movies more explosive 
  • Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) feels still bit out of the place in the movie


6 Bullets out of 10

(Surprisingly solid movie, after the series took a direction towards more watered down, family friendly approach with the third installment)
Buy Lethal Weapon 4 from Amazon.com