Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Favorite Era: Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

I already covered the franchise as a whole but I thought it over and decided the second Lethal Weapon movie really deserves a highlight.  The bulk of the plot (Riggs and Murtaugh vs. racist South African drug smuggling diplomats while also trying to protect a witness) was covered in the other Lethal Weapon article so let's take a closer look at the sequel.
  • Lethal Weapon 2 was released right in the middle of the best summer season of the 80's.  1989 had a hell of a lot of great releases such as the third Indiana Jones film, Batman, Licence to Kill, just a bunch of terrific stuff.
  •  A good movie should give you an idea of what to expect within the first few minutes.  In the case of this one, it gets there in a matter of seconds with a brief but of the Looney Tunes theme and them it's right into a huge car chase.
  • For all the crap he's earned, it has to be said that Mel Gibson is pretty damn great as Riggs.  Funny, crazy and cool, he's a very good action hero.  Danny Glover as Murtaugh is the perfect compliment to him, more balanced and cautious but able to bring the badass when called for.  They make a great comedic/action duo.
  • As fun as the action stuff in the film is, the real quality comes form the scenes at the police station and the family stuff with Murtaugh.  At the end of the day, the series turned into a story about family and the chemistry with the cops, Murtaugh's family and our leads provides the film with some heart.  Also gives us a chance to catch out breath a laugh a little between berserk action scenes.
  • The villains of the film are pure 80's excess.  Not only are Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland) and company evil drug dealing scumbags, they're racist South Africans with diplomatic immunity.  Granted they're not the brightest bad guys of all time (trying to surrender after shooting a cop in full view of his partner, really?) but in a movie like this you're really there just to see the bad guys get mulched so it works out in the end.
  • I also like the rather overblown touch of having the bad guys also be responsible for the death of Riggs' wife which ended up sending him over the edge before the first film began.  It's completely gratuitous but yet, it still works.  Even better is how they end up targeting the entire squad, killing pretty much every body except for our two leads.  Something like Delta Force 2 might have more in terms of excessive detail when it comes to making the bad guys as nasty as possible, but Lethal Weapon 2 does it with class.
  • And yes, I do realize I just described a Joel Silver movie as 'classy'.  I feel weird about it too.
  • Ackland is pretty good, giving his character a sort of reptilian quality and Derrick O'Connor is also solid as his henchman.  Both actors do well in making you want to see their characters get killed in the worst possible manner.
  • Joe Pesci is probably the casting highlight of the movie as Leo Getz.  A crooked accountant who just so happens to be testifying against the main villains (this is implied for the most part until the end), he is funny as hell and also adds a different dynamic to the Riggs/Murtaugh stuff as they're now bickering with a third person as opposed to just with each other.  Pesci has always been good and here is no exception.
  • I always got a chuckle from Riggs not only habitually running after speeding cars/trucks but routinely catching them!  The chase scene that comes about forty minutes in is quite a blast with a nice payoff.
  • Patsy Kensit is okay in the film, really she's just there to get naked and eventually get killed after getting close to Riggs.  Well, that and so there is at least one South African character who is not a scumbag.
  • The toilet bomb scene is great.  The chemistry between Gibson and Glover really shines in scenes like this as they can give you both sincerity and humor in the same instant.  The best part of this though is that the technique they use to survive the blast actually works!  Thank god for Mythbusters.
  • The last act is nicely done with the stuff at the stilt house and the docks.  It's a nicely over the top way to end the movie and I have to say that Rudd's death scene is one of the more gratifying bits in any action movie.
Lethal Weapon 2 is the best of the series.  Fast, funny and better than the original.  Richard Donner directs with his usual steady hand, the score from Michael Kamen is good and virtually every beat the script hits is spot on.  It's a real winner.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.