Before the phrase “buddy cops” became its own genre, Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) were blowing up the gritty side of Los Angeles at the expense of taxpayers. The Lethal Weapon franchise kicked off decades of buddy cop films and TV shows, which tried to match the wit and intensity of Gibson and Glover. However, after rewatching the first movie straight through Lethal Weapon 4, it’s clear that these two actors transcended the simple good cop vs crazy cop stereotype. Riggs and Murtaugh have a family relationship that makes them two of the best cops to ever enter the action-movie foray. And, their playful banter never gets old even though the characters did.
Before the franchises added big names like Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock and Jet Li to the roster, Lethal Weapon focused strictly on Gibson and Glover. It may have seemed like an odd pairing with even odder characters for the time. The heroic white cop with a death wish was paired with a by-the-book partner, a black cop who always seemed to be at the tail end of a joke. However, Director Richard Donner and writer Shane Black never focused on race as core tenants to the characters, something subsequent buddy cop movies tried to emulate to little success. The characters had much richer lives and contrasted histories. You always wondered if Riggs was a war veteran or what fate would befall Murtaugh’s family because of his officer lifestyle. It created mystery and tension, while Gibson and Glover added in smart humor through each sequence of escalated conflict. Who could forget the scene where Riggs had to pull Murtaugh off of a toilette bomb?
The newly released Blu-ray collection brings home all four movies as well as four new retrospective featurettes on a fifth bonus disc. It’s a great way to rewatch a series that began in an era before large-scale CG special effects. And while action scenes do get a little crazy once Jet Li takes to the screen, the core characters remain the same. Seeing Murtaugh and Riggs develop a brotherhood over the course of four movies and end on a family photo is especially satisfying.
The documentaries feature Donner along with Gibson and Glover as well as several members of the original creative team. Archival footage is presented throughout the mini-featurettes and will give you two hours to relive some of the great moments of Lethal Weapon, starting with that fatal first fall that began the series. What’s great about this series is that the key creative members stuck through the entire franchise. Although you may get the feeling of sequel-itis by the third film, it’s still Dick Donner . This is in sharp contrast to the original Christopher Reeves Superman films which clearly change from the first movie to the second film, and even more drastically with the third and fourth films.
If you like buddy cop movies, Lethal Weapon belongs in your collection. There were buddy cops before and several after Riggs and Murtaugh, but no two cops matched this Lethal duo.
- Psycho Pension: The Genesis of Lethal Weapon
- A Family Affair: Bringing Lethal Weapon to Life
- Pulling the Trigger: Expanding the World of Lethal Weapon
- Maximum Impact: The Legacy of Lethal Weapon