Movie Review: The “Lethal Weapon” Series (Pt. 4 of 4)

…aaaannnnd we’re back for the 4th and final entry of our 4-part tribute to the “Lethal Weapon” franchise.  It was quick and painless and I hope you’ve enjoyed the first three installments.  If you’re just now joining us, jump back to Part 1 to get caught up! (I just learned that a Lethal Weapon marathon is coming on cable television this month, so my timing is great!)

Lethal Weapon 4 (1998): Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs must contend with the inevitable effects of aging while awaiting the birth’s of Roger’s grandchild from his daughter Rianne and Rigg’s first child with Lorna. Meanwhile, both detectives and their families are threatened by the Chinese triad and their deadliest assailant yet, Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li).

  • Coolest Moment: Riggs punches through a car window from another vehicle and pulls a Chinese henchman through, while on the highway.
  • Funniest Moment: (Two scenes)
    1st Scene: Murtaugh, Riggs and Det. Butters (Chris Rock) attempt to interrogate restaurant owner Benny Chan, all the while under the influence of laughing gas. During this time, Butters confesses that he is the father of Murtaugh’s grandchild to be.
    2nd Scene: Riggs and Murtaugh antagonize and gloat over foiling Wah Sing Ku’s plan to purchase his brother’s freedom with counterfeit money. They joyfully exclaim “We fucked you, and it’s BEUUUUTIFUL!” before the conned purchaser angrily draws a gun and Riggs yells, “Uh-Oh! Here we go-” as the two run for cover before the shooting starts.
  • Most Suspenseful Moment: Murtaugh desperately calls out to a missing Riggs who is underwater, pinned by concrete and about to drown (I honestly thought he would die in the series finale).
  • Best Line/Exchange: The final scene and closing line when someone is asked to photograph everyone with the newborns at the hospital.
    Person with camera: “Are you all friends?”
    Group: “Nooooo! We’re FAMILYYYYY!”
  • Most Enjoyable Moment: (Two scenes)
    1st Scene: Leo Getz shares an analogy about losing a pet and replacing it with another to illustrate that the new pet was not better than the first, just different. This helps Martin understand that it was alright to marry Lorna and that he should not feel guilty about moving on from his deceased wife; that his love for her would always remain and her memory would not be betrayed or disrespected.
    2nd Scene: The inclusion of the song, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” throughout a 4-movie photo montage ‘trip down memory lane’ during the closing credits.

Rank (Out Of The Four): #3 – I found this to be incredibly enjoyable as a finale. It was a little difficult to watch Riggs’ struggle with the fact that Father Time had found a way into his life (shown struggling to jump from one rooftop to another, difficulty during fights with younger opponents, etc.). Roger’s line, “You can’t beat the clock” is enough for anyone to take a step back and absorb the moment and the thought, because it’s true – you can’t beat it. I also love the ongoing joke revolving around the newspaper picture of Murtaugh in his underwear, distracting a man with an assault rifle and flamethrower at the beginning of the movie. Watching that photo resurface at the police station continuously as he and Riggs tell their fellow officers that the joke has grown old and that “enough is enough” was funny. Learning that Riggs was the one putting it up was even funnier. A testament to the great relationship between the two.

This is among my all-time favorite movie series, featuring a four-movie-long list that includes: family growing issues, continuous jokes, gags, lines like “I’m too old for this shit”, Riggs constantly dislocating shoulder, Leo Getz’ bumbling intervention and the two never agreeing on whether they should proceed on “1, 2, then go on THREE” or “1, 2, 3, THEN go”. One memorable continuing skit is police psychiatrist Dr. Stephanie Woods’ (Mary Ellen Trainor) unending failed attempts to counsel both Riggs and Murtaugh with her “we really need to talk” each time she catches them during the most awkward moments, like Murtaugh on his knees in front of Riggs with a bouquet of flowers in LW3. It comes to a hilarious conclusion during LW4 when Riggs sincerely approaches her for advice on marriage, only to have her reprimand and run from him in disgust, believing it’s just another attempt to toy with her. Even watching the children grow up (the youngest goes from elementary school student to college) is like watching your own family over the years. Endearing.

It also brings in returning characters Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), Captain Murphy (Steve Kahan) and Internal Affairs love interest Lorna Cole (Rene Russo).

Note: There’s an incredibly cool moment before the final fight scene in LW4 when they both realize they have to face off in a fight they may not survive against the seemingly unbeatable Wah Sing Ku. After agreeing that it isn’t worth dying for (and since babies were on the way), they decide to leave him be and search for him later. Before leaving, Riggs questions how Ku was able to strip and disable his handgun so effortlessly earlier, indicating he honestly wanted to know if he could best their opponent. Murtaugh gives one a final sigh and replies, “Well, let’s go ask him”, consigning to face Ku one last time, together.

What do I love most about the LW series? The development of their lopsided friendship. If you pay close attention while watching, you’ll see their relationship evolve from unwilling pair to argumentative, yet effective partners to inseparable duo to brothers sharing the same family. I think the most powerful moment of their friendship was in LW3 when Riggs exclaims to an upset Murtaugh (drunk and struggling with the accidental shooting of his son’s friend in a firefight):

Martin Riggs: You selfish bastard! You selfish bastard! You’re just thinking about yourself, Goddammit! What about me, hunh? We’re partners, we are partners. What happens to you, happens to me. After all the shit we’ve been through, don’t you get it? Don’t you get it? When you retire, you’re not just retiring you, you’re retiring us. You’re retiring US.

Roger Murtaugh: That’s not my problem. That’s not my problem!

Riggs: You’re the only family I’ve got! I’ve got three beautiful kids, I love them, they’re yours. Trish does my laundry, I live in your icebox, I live in your life! What am I gonna do? What am I supposed to do?

Murtaugh: I don’t care.
Riggs: Yes, you do.
Murtaugh: I DON’T CAAAARE!
Riggs: Yes you, DO!

Murtaugh swings unsuccessfully at Riggs and they land in each other’s embrace in tears.

Lethal Weapon 1, 2, 3 & 4
A lesson in friendship.
A lesson in brotherhood.
A lesson in love…

A lesson in family…

Hope you enjoyed my points about each movie and why I love the series so much.  It gave birth to sagas such as “Beverly Hills Cop”, “Rush Hour”, “Bad Boys” and even “Men In Black”.  But to me, there’s nothing like the comraderie of Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs.  I know the producers have been going back and forth about a fifth installment which was supposed to have been put into production as late as 2017, but to date, nothing is certain.  And although I think they should leave it where it is, I’m sure it will be constructed well enough for us all to enjoy one last ride.

I only wish they had made that planned a sequel to 1986’s “Running Scared” starring Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal.  I heard it was to be titled, “Still Running”. 

That would have been nice…

…but that’s another blog.

4 comments

  1. Watched them all over time and, surprisingly, this one was my favorite. One of my favorite scenes was when they were at the police station and Butters and Leo get into that crazy loud conversation over cellphone coverage. That and the end of the chase scene after Riggs almost falls off the roof and they end up interrogating that random guy on the street that ends up being a waiter (“And you physically assaulted me! I want my lawyer!)

    I also love the end credits montage set to “Why Can’t We Be Friends”. I felt that was a nice touch to the series. And, just a bit off topic, concerning the “buddy cop” genre: now, correct me if I’m wrong, I thought that “48 Hours” gave birth to that genre as we know it today 🤔 I’ll have to look it up because I could be well in the wrong.

    Great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You know, so many people talk about “Lethal Weapon” as being the birth of it all that I failed to mention “48 Hours”. I know many categorize 48 Hours as being more of a “Buddy Movie” (omitting the word “Cop”) like “Midnight Run” with Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin (or “Renegades” with Keifer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips) because only one was in law enforcement. But it doesn’t matter, I consider them pretty much the same and agree with you, thus I made a minor modification to the conclusion of my post to reflect your opinion. And yes, 48 Hours came before LW, along with a few others that weren’t as well-known as either.

    Thanks for making that note and as always for reading and your support!
    So glad you enjoyed it!

    Like

  3. …oooooh and I forgot about the 70s Buddy Cop movie “Freebie And The Been” with James Caan and Alan Arkin as well as “Partners” with Ryan O’Neal and John Hurt!

    Like

  4. Ahh…you know what you are right about “48 Hours”. It slipped my mind that Eddie Murphy was actually NOT a cop in that one but Nick Nolte *was* (how I can forget the fact that he was in jail at the beginning of that is beyond me).

    Like

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