a critiQal film review Lethal Weapon (1987)

Plot: On his 50th birthday, family man and cop Roger Murtagh (Glover) is partnered with renegade cop Martin Riggs (Gibson). Worried about his new partner's sanity, Murtagh must nevertheless put his trust in Riggs when the two stumble onto a group of drug-dealing mercenaries who will stop at nothing to keep their operation running smoothly.

Reviewed
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  • ...a classic buddy cop action film that kicked off dozens of imitators, this one has stayed strong despite it's age.

Since it’s now officially the Holiday season, we’ve started our Christmas Movie Marathon. Having kicked it off on Thanksgiving Day with , we continue our Marathon with a film most wouldn’t even think about when it comes to Christmas – despite it’s Christmastime setting – Lethal Weapon.

We all know by now this film has already spawned 3 sequels since being released back in ’87, but most of us tend to forget how much Christmas is wrapped up in the film. From the intro of “Jingle Bell Rock” to the fight in the Christmas tree lot and the ending involving Christmas dinner at the Murtagh’s, there is a lot more of Christmas in the film than most remember, so we decided to include it in our Christmas Movie Marathon this season.

But, since we hadn’t seen the movie in years, would Lethal Weapon be as enjoyable today as it was back in the day, or is this one film that should now be getting coal in it’s stocking?

Mel Gibson, who hasn’t popped up in movies lately thanks to some inappropriate comments he made, really shows why he was a fan favorite throughout the 90’s. In Lethal Weapon, he’s impressive in his role as a cop on the verge of suicide who has only put it on hold because of how much he enjoys his job. Sure, he’s got a bit of a messianic complex, portraying the unstoppable hero, but no matter whether he’s on the verge of breaking up completely on calmly striding into a gun fight, he delivers a solid performance that will leave viewers hoping to see more of Riggs in the future.

Danny Glover’s Murtagh, on the other hand, plays the solid cop going about his daily routine. He’s the solid rock that gives Riggs the solid base he needs as he struggle with his suicidal thoughts. The friendship between the two seems entirely genuine, and viewers wouldn’t be surprised if they were great friends off-screen as well.

The bad guys, namely in the form of Gary Busey’s Mr. Joshua and his shadowy boss (played by Mitch Ryan), are a rather unimaginative lot, but what they lack in imagination they make up in gusto. Busey plays the psycho Mr. Joshua very well, letting a chilling psychotic evil show through the calm and collected exterior. Best of all, he’s able to show off the psychopath within with almost no dialogue whatsoever, letting his actions and his stare do the talking for him.

The plot, by this point, is a bit old, since so many wannabes have taken up the reins since ’87. Back then, however, the idea of a buddy cop movie with as much violence as humor was something entirely new, and filmgoers lapped it up. Lethal Weapon was able to balance it’s extreme violence and disturbing images with a real solid sense of humor, and was able to relieve the tension of the film when it was called for with amazing ease.

True, the ending mono-a-mono fight between Riggs and Mr. Joshua is a bit ridiculous by this point, now that bravado and the days of Stallone/Schwarzenegger fighting machines is behind us, but the rest of the film still stands up quite well, mostly thanks to the easy banter between Murtagh and Riggs.

A classic buddy cop action film that kicked off dozens of imitators, Lethal Weapon – despite it’s rather hokey “i’m the bigger fan” showdown fight near the end – doesn’t seem dated in the least, and viewers will be happy to continue revisiting Murtagh and Riggs’s first encounters – and their continuing adventures in the sequels that followed.

Does the film, with it’s Christmas elements, really get one into the Christmas Spirit? Well no – but it’s still fun to watch, any time of the year.

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