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Lethal Weapon 3 (1992, Richard Donner)

Lethal Weapon 3 is an expert action movie. Director Donner, cinematographer Jan de Bont, editors Robert Brown and Battle Davis do phenomenal work. Even though the cop action thriller plot of the film is its least compelling–dirty ex-cop Stuart Wilson is funding real estate development through arms dealing–those sequences are still good. The actors carry over everything from their stronger subplots into those scenes.

Mel Gibson gets the showier subplot, romancing a likeminded–and similarly martial arts trained–fellow detective, played by Rene Russo. The ever-about-to-retire Danny Glover has something of a family drama, but also a crisis of character arc. Joe Pesci is around to make plot contrivances a little more palatable. He’s also great for the other actors. Everyone reacts well to Pesci, even if they don’t have a lot of dialogue.

Because Donner is excellent at directing the actors in this film. The sequence where Gibson realizes Russo’s a little bit of a goofball (after the audience is already in on the joke) is beautifully done. Gibson and Glover do get their moments–lots of male-bonding, lots of man tears–but Gibson’s scenes with Russo are basically a showcase for her. She brings such a strong personality to the character right off the bat, the subsequent character reveals are basically mini-delights for the audience. And Gibson and Glover. It’s a phenomenal part and Russo’s fantastic.

Between the two leads, Glover gets the better personal story arc. He gets the harder material–he also gets some great comic material–while Gibson basically just toggles between fun and crazy. Gibson’s really good at the toggling and there’s a maturity to his performance–just because the beast looks upon the face of beauty, it doesn’t mean he’s as one dead, not in Lethal Weapon 3.

The score–one assumes Michael Kamen did all the Michael Kamen sounding action music while Eric Clapton and David Sanborn handled the soul-searching, but who knows–is omnipresent and occasionally too much. It’s too slick against that beautiful de Bont photography and Lethal Weapon 3 starts to feel plastic. But then the actors do something, something in their performance, something in the script, and the integrity comes through. Sometimes the music even ends up helping with it.

Solid supporting turns from Steve Kahan, Damon Hines and Gregory Millar. Glover’s family otherwise doesn’t have enough to do–Darlene Love’s in maybe three scenes, gets one good one. Ebonie Smith has zip. Traci Wolfe has a couple decent moments, but again, not enough. Lethal Weapon 3 is a strange picture in it having too many good things going on while it still needs to be an action movie. Going longer wouldn’t have helped either, the pacing is perfect.

Stuart Wilson’s villain is a bit of a liability. Donner uses him sparingly, or always with a better performance in the same scene. Except maybe two with chief henchman Nick Chinlund–the villains in Lethal Weapon 3 are really lame, thank goodness the rest of the film makes up for it.

Also want to mention the great production design from James H. Spencer.

Lethal Weapon 3 is a great time at the movies. Donner finds just the right mix of comedy, action, drama and suspense.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; screenplay by Jeffrey Boam and Robert Mark Kamen, based on a story by Boam and characters created by Shane Black; director of photography, Jan de Bont; edited by Robert Brown and Battle Davis; music by Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton and David Sanborn; production designer, James H. Spencer; produced by Joel Silver and Donner; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Gibson (Martin Riggs), Danny Glover (Roger Murtaugh), Rene Russo (Lorna Cole), Stuart Wilson (Jack Travis), Joe Pesci (Leo Getz), Darlene Love (Trish Murtaugh), Steve Kahan (Captain Murphy), Damon Hines (Nick Murtaugh), Traci Wolfe (Rianne Murtaugh), Ebonie Smith (Carrie Murtaugh), Gregory Millar (Tyrone), Delores Hall (Delores), Nick Chinlund (Hatchett), Jason Rainwater (Edwards) and Mary Ellen Trainor (Stephanie Woods).


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Lethal Weapon 2 (1989, Richard Donner)

Lethal Weapon 2 opens with the Looney Tunes music. It’s appropriate. I don’t think any other film series has so successfully adapted the sitcom to the big screen. The whole point of Lethal Weapon 2 is not to think–maybe as a ten year-old, I believed the South Africans could get away with all their crimes on U.S. soil under the veil of diplomatic immunity (hey, it’s not like there’s any oil in South Africa, so it’s totally unrealistic)–you’re not allowed to think about the plot, Mel Gibson falling in love with Patsy Kensit (which also seemed a lot more likely when I was ten or eleven) or, I don’t know, anything else. It’s a crowd-pleaser, one where the good guys are good and they win.

How the film diverts attention is rather simple, but interesting. The villains–instead of necessarily having to do bad things–are automatically villains. The terrorists in The Delta Force were more human. The South African villains–Joss Ackland is an amazing creep, he looks like he’s going to lick Kensit’s face in one scene–are perfect. They’re bad and it’s fun to watch them get killed off in interesting ways.

Gibson’s okay in this one–his character is a little too tame, so much so, when he goes wild at the end, it seems forced. Danny Glover’s got a lot of one liners but he’s good. Joe Pesci’s funny. Derrick O’Connor is a solid villain.

It’s a perfect waste of time.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; screenplay by Jeffrey Boam, based on a story by Shane Black and Warren Murphy and on characters created by Black; director of photography, Stephen Goldblatt; edited by Stuart Baird; music by Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton and David Sanborn; production designer, J. Michael Riva; produced by Donner and Joel Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Gibson (Sergeant Martin Riggs), Danny Glover (Sergeant Roger Murtaugh), Joe Pesci (Leo Getz), Joss Ackland (Arjen Rudd), Derrick O’Connor (Pieter Vorstedt), Patsy Kensit (Rika van den Haas), Darlene Love (Trish Murtaugh), Traci Wolfe (Rianne Murtaugh), Steve Kahan (Captain Ed Murphy), Mark Rolston (Hans), Jenette Goldstein (Officer Meagan Shapiro), Dean Norris (Tim Cavanaugh), Juney Smith (Tom Wyler), Nestor Serrano (Eddie Estaban), Philip Suriano (Joseph Ragucci), Grand L. Bush (Jerry Collins), Tony Carreiro (Marcelli), Damon Hines (Nick Murtaugh), Ebonie Smith (Carrie Murtaugh), Allan Dean Moore (George) and Jack McGee (the carpenter).


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Lethal Weapon (1987, Richard Donner)

One of the more impressive things about Lethal Weapon is Danny Glover convincingly playing a fifty year-old at, approximately, the age of forty. It’s never a problem in a film rife with problems.

First, Lethal Weapon‘s plot doesn’t really make any sense. There are huge jumps in logic as Glover and Mel Gibson’s “investigation” proceeds. The problem with making a high profile action movie, ostensibly for somewhat thinking adults, is the film’s never believable as a police procedural. Shouldn’t Glover have been taken off the case when it’s revealed the victim died because her father contacted him?

Worse is the change in Gibson’s character–for the first twenty-five or so minutes, he’s supposed to be a suicidal nutcase, then the film realizes it’s a lot more funny to have him and Glover bicker in as heterosexual life partners. And they do have some great scenes together, but it makes all the references to the previously essayed suicidal nutcase moments fail miserably… especially the nonsensical ending.

There’s also the big fight scene between Gary Busey and Gibson, which is ludicrous (it’s also never believable Gibson was ever going to kill a defenseless Busey so including it was just a way to tread some running time water).

The big loud music from Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton doesn’t work overall. At times it’s as bad as smooth jazz on a gum commercial.

Donner’s got some great, discrete moments as a director here; he’s unappreciated.

It’s fine–engaging and icon-making.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; written by Shane Black; director of photography, Stephen Goldblatt; edited by Stuart Baird; music by Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton; production designer, J. Michael Riva; produced by Donner and Joel Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Gibson (Sergeant Martin Riggs), Danny Glover (Sergeant Roger Murtaugh), Gary Busey (Mr. Joshua), Mitch Ryan (General Peter McAllister), Tom Atkins (Michael Hunsaker), Darlene Love (Trish Murtaugh), Traci Wolfe (Rianne Murtaugh), Jackie Swanson (Amanda Hunsaker), Damon Hines (Nick Murtaugh), Ebonie Smith (Carrie Murtaugh) and Lycia Naff (Dixie).


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