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LETHAL WEAPON COLLECTION

LETHAL WEAPON

For my money, LETHAL WEAPON is probably the best cop/buddy movie ever made. Of course, I base my opinion of the film’s strong characterization, which has made it one of the genre’s most memorable outings. LETHAL WEAPON stars Mel Gibson as detective Martin Riggs, who on the surface appears to be an almost certifiable nutcase. Because of the suicidal risks he takes on the streets, half of the police department thinks Riggs is crazy, while the other half are convinced he’s bucking for a psycho pension. The truth of matter is that Martin Riggs is a man in pain, who has is having great difficulty dealing with his wife’s death. Because of his reckless behavior, Riggs finds himself transferred out of the narcotics division into homicide, where he finds himself partnered with Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover). Murtaugh is a laid back family man, who is celebrating his fiftieth birthday as the film opens, but he is none to pleased about the present that the department has given him- namely having to work with a dysfunctional detective like Riggs.

As you might have guessed, there is a lot of tension between the two detectives. However, as Riggs and Murtaugh become involved in a homicide investigation that leads back to a band of drug smuggling mercenaries, the two detectives begin to count on one another when they are targeted for elimination. As a movie, LETHAL WEAPON is strong on drama, with a decided undercurrent of comedy running through it. What separates LETHAL WEAPON from the later films in the series is the fact that the comedy and the action are secondary to the character development. Unlike the first film, characterization seems a bit shortchanged in the later installments. The sequels tend to play up the comedy, as well as sometimes allowing the action sequences to overtake the story. Another thing that separates LETHAL WEAPON from its sequels is the series most memorable villain. Once you’ve seen LETHAL WEAPON, you are not likely to forget Gary Busey’s cold as ice portrayal of Mr. Joshua, nor his final showdown with Riggs. The cast of LETHAL WEAPON also includes Mitchell Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Jackie Swanson, Damon Hines, Ebonie Smith, Mary Ellen Trainor, Steve Kahan and Ed O'Ross.

******

LETHAL WEAPON 2

The tagline for LETHAL WEAPON 2 states, "The magic is back." Personally, I don’t think so. In fact, I feel that LETHAL WEAPON 2 is probably the weakest film in the entire series. This isn’t to say that LETHAL WEAPON 2 isn’t entertaining- in a big, loud action movie sort of way. However, the strides the first LETHAL WEAPON made towards creating cop/buddy movies with solid characterization seem to be all but forgotten in LETHAL WEAPON 2. From the word go, LETHAL WEAPON 2 gives one the impression that its stunt and special effects teams must have put in some serious overtime to make this high caliber action movie. The way LETHAL WEAPON 2 is structured, Richard Donner’s directorial duties require him to play traffic cop more than anything else. Heck, the movie opens right in the middle of a nighttime high-speed car chase that is filled with screeching tires, grinding metal, gunfire and explosions. It’s all wonderful, mindless fun, but this film lacks the emotional depth of the original LETHAL WEAPON.

Mel Gibson is back as police detective Martin Riggs, who is far saner in this film, having finally come to terms with his wife’s death. However, Riggs remains something of a cowboy within the department... as his risky, unorthodox methods and class clown demeanor will surely attest. Danny Glover as detective Roger Murtaugh remains the voice of sanity; Murtaugh is able reign his partner in to some degree, but Riggs’ gleeful, juvenile delinquent streak usually gets the best of both detectives. As I stated above, LETHAL WEAPON 2 open with Riggs and Murtaugh being involved in a high-speed car chase. However, because of all the damage that that Riggs and Murtaugh leave in the wake of that chase, the two detectives end up getting reassigned to a special detail, something which the department hopes will be less destructive.

Their temporary assignment requires Riggs and Murtaugh to baby-sit a federal witness named Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) for several days. While the detail sounds easy enough, Leo is probably the most annoying human being on the planet; someone who is capable of driving anyone nuts. However, Riggs and Murtaugh aren’t going to allow any bodily harm to befall Leo, other than whatever minor damage they can inflict themselves. After an attempt is made on Leo’s life, the detectives begin their own investigation, which leads them to the front door of the South African conciliate. Unfortunately, our heroes are unable to do anything about the dirty dealings being perpetrated on American soil, due to a little legal technicality known as diplomatic immunity. Of course, Riggs and Murtaugh aren’t about to let the matter drop, especially after a number of attempts are made on their lives. The cast of LETHAL WEAPON 2 also includes Joss Ackland, Derrick O'Connor, Patsy Kensit, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mark Rolston and Jenette Goldstein.

******

LETHAL WEAPON 3

While everyone may not agree with me, I think that LETHAL WEAPON 3 is a marked improvement over the second installment, thanks to the addition of Rene Russo to the cast of usual suspects. Russo’s solid chemistry with Mel Gibson reenergizes the series, which make her character, internal affairs investigator Lorna Cole, a welcome addition to the film series. Sparks start flying the moment Cole first butts heads with detective Martin Riggs (Gibson), over a case they are both working on. However, the longer they are together, the two come to realize their similarities outweigh their differences. In fact, when it comes to police work, Cole proves to be as gung-ho crazy as Riggs. Of course, Cole hides her mild case of insanity a whole lot better than Riggs.

LETHAL WEAPON 3 opens with Riggs and his partner Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) responding to a call involving a bomb in the parking garage of an office building. Murtaugh wants to do the logical thing and wait for the bomb squad. However, Riggs decides to check out the situation, convinced that the whole thing is nothing more than a hoax. To make a long story short, the ensuing property damage is enough for the department to bust the two detectives back down to patrolmen- exactly what Murtaugh needs when he is only days away from retiring from the force. However, as quickly as you can say "high-speed chase to catch a couple of bank robbers," Riggs and Murtaugh are reinstated to their former rank. Things take a surprising turn for Riggs and Murtaugh, when they discover that the bank robber they have just arrested turns out to be a link to a weapons smuggling ring, something which has the full attention of the internal affairs division. While internal affairs claims jurisdiction over the suspect, our heroes are unwilling to let anyone snatch their case away from them.

While the film is action packed, LETHAL WEAPON 3 also plays up the comedy of Murtaugh’s impending retirement, as well as giving Danny Glover some solid character moments, as Murtaugh comes to a crossroads in life. Joe Pesci gets a few laughs as Leo Getz, the single most annoying human being on the face of the planet. Strangely enough Leo is working as Murtaugh’s real estate agent, that is, until he gets pulled in on Riggs and Murtaugh’s case. The cast of LETHAL WEAPON 3 also includes Stuart Wilson, Steve Kahan, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Damon Hines, Ebonie Smith and Mary Ellen Trainor.

 

******

LETHAL WEAPON 4

Eleven years after the first LETHAL WEAPON both Mel Gibson and his character Martin Riggs have the right to exclaim the same thing that Danny Glover's character Roger Murtaugh has been saying since the first film: "I'm getting too old for this (bleep)!" Despite the fact that father time has started to catch up Martin Riggs, LETHAL WEAPON 4 proves to be one of the better entries in the action/comedy series. The rapport between Gibson and Glover gets better with age. So does the good-natured comedy, it remains fresh and funny even in this forth installment. LETHAL WEAPON 4 finds detectives Riggs and Murtaugh both promoted to rank of captain- just to get them off the street. It seems that the detective’s past escapades has made it difficult for the city to get insurance. Of course, their cushy new positions don't keep them out of trouble. The newly promoted captains soon find themselves investigating a boatload of illegal Chinese immigrants who were going to be used as slave labor in sweatshops. It doesn't take long for Riggs and Murtaugh to run afoul of Uncle Benny (Kim Chan), the local Chinese crime lord. However, Uncle Benny turns out to be small potatoes compared to Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li), a far more lethal criminal from China who intends to stop the investigation.

The plot of LETHAL WEAPON 4 contains other complications for our heroes; Murtaugh discovers he is going to be a grandfather at the same time that Riggs discovers that he is going to become a father. In addition to the magical combination of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, LETHAL WEAPON 4 features some delightful work from its ever-growing stock company. Joe Pesci is hilarious in his third appearance as the annoying motor mouth Leo Getz, who is attempting to become a private detective this time around. Rene Russo is underutilized as Martin Riggs' girlfriend Lorna Cole, however she remains very pleasant to look at. Comedian Chris Rock injects a lot of good humor into the film with his portrayal of Lee Butters, a young detective who always seems to be under Murtaugh's foot. LETHAL WEAPON 4 doles out both comedy and action in equal measure. As always, the stunt work in this forth installment is outstanding. Fans of the LETHAL WEAPON movies will find the expected car chases, gunplay and explosions. Hand to hand fighting in this film is exemplary; thanks to the appearance of Hong Kong action star Jet Li whose martial arts prowess is extraordinary. Director Richard Donner does his usual superb job of directing traffic; Donner gets the absolute best from all actors and technicians working under him.

******

Warner Home Video has made the films that comprise the LETHAL WEAPON COLLECTION ($80) available on Blu-ray Disc in 1.85:1 / 2.40:1 aspect ratio presentations that have been encoded onto the discs with the VC-1 codec. For the most part, the LETHAL WEAPON COLLECTION sports impressive 1080p presentations, however the original LETHAL WEAPON offers up the least pretty face, due to the gritty way it was shot, plus it is the only film photographed spherical 1.85:1. LETHAL WEAPON shows the most grain and is the darkest film in the collection, but is marked by a greatly improved presentation that leaves the previous Blu-ray in dust. Sharpness and detail are good, but not exemplary due to the film's photographic style. Color are strong, Black and whites appear accurate, but shadow detail in under-whelming; again owing to the stylistic choices of the cinematography. The rest of the group are presented 2.40:1 and have much slicker appearances, which get progressively better with each installment. There is nothing to complain about in regards to sharpness and image detail in the sequels, which just gets stronger as each film gets newer. Across the board color saturation is strong, stable and each sequel boasts attractive flesh tones. Blacks, whites contrast and shadow detail can't be faulted in the sequels, which like everything else, improves with each subsequent installment. Grain is noticeable across the entire series, but it lessens, as the film stocks upon which each sequel was shot gets newer and slicker.

Each of the films that comprise the LETHAL WEAPON COLLECTION are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. While a decided step up over previous home releases, the lossless soundtracks for LETHAL WEAPON and LETHAL WEAPON 2, cannot deny the fact that both films were produced during the Dolby Surround era. This is not to say that either film sounds bad, just that they don't explode the way newer all digital soundtracks do. For eighties era actioners, LETHAL WEAPON and LETHAL WEAPON 2 sound terrific; distinct channel separations, clear dialogue and more than respectable surround usage. Sound effects don't have that more live than live quality of new soundtracks and can come across as a bit canned sounding. However, the lossless encode helps to smooth out the musical component on each and give the music a boost. Sonically, fortunes improve for LETHAL WEAPON 3 and LETHAL WEAPON 4, which were produced closer to the all digital era and benefit from better audio techniques in place during the 1990s- the third film being a marked improvement over its predecessors and the fourth film offering marked sonic improvements over number three. Both tracks are highly engaging, and have better utilization of all the outlying channels. Fidelity is stronger in these lossless encodes, with the sound effects and the music reaping the rewards. The bass channel also sees improvements in the latter two installments. Dialogue is understandable across the board and becomes more natural sounding as the series progresses. French and Spanish Dolby Digital tracks are also provided for each in various channel configurations. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials that pertain to each of the films and series in general. LETHAL WEAPON includes the following supplements: Starting with a running Audio Commentary with director Richard Donner. Other supplements include Deleted Scenes, a Music Video for the song Lethal Weapon by Honeymoon Suite and a Theatrical Trailer. LETHAL WEAPON 2 includes the following supplements: Starting with a running Audio Commentary with director Richard Donner. Other supplements include Deleted Scenes, a Vintage Featurette on Stunts & Action and a Theatrical Trailer. LETHAL WEAPON 3 includes the following supplements: Starting with a running Audio Commentary with director Richard Donner. Other supplements include Deleted Scenes, a Music Video for the song It's Probably Me by Honeymoon Suite and a Theatrical Trailer. LETHAL WEAPON 4 includes the following supplements: Starting with a running Audio Commentary with director Richard Donner, plus producer J. Mills Goodloe and associate producer Geoff Johns. Other supplements include a Featurette entitled Pure Lethal! New Angles, New Scenes and Explosive Outtakes and a Theatrical Trailer. Moving onto the Bonus Disc, one will find the following Newly Produced Hi-Def Featurettes: Psycho Pension: The Genesis Of Lethal Weapon (twenty four minutes), A Family Affair: Bringing Lethal Weapon To Life (thirty minutes), Pulling The Trigger: Expanding The World Of Lethal Weapon (thirty minutes) and Maximum Impact: The Legacy Of Lethal Weapon (twenty two minutes).

The LETHAL WEAPON movies are action classics in their own right and I am glad they have finally been given spiffy, new hi-def presentations. Definitely recommended.

 
LETHAL WEAPON COLLECTION 


Lethal Weapon Collection (Lethal Weapon / Lethal Weapon 2 / Lethal Weapon 3 / Lethal Weapon 4) [Blu-ray]

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DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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