Should I Watch..? 'Lethal Weapon 2'
What's the big deal?
Lethal Weapon 2 is an action thriller film released in 1989 and is obviously the second instalment in the Lethal Weapon series created by Shane Black. The film reunites director Richard Donner with stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover who reprise their previous roles as LAPD officers Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, this time on the trail of South African drug dealers. The film's cast also includes Joss Acklund, Patsy Kensit, Derrick O'Conner and future series regular Joe Pesci. Like the first film, the film was warmly received by critics and went on to earn more than $227 million which made it the third most successful film of the year after Tim Burton's Batman and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. Donner, Gibson and Glover have all admitted that this film is their favourite in the series so far.
What's it about?
After working together for a year, Riggs and Murtaugh manage to apprehend unidentified suspects smuggling illegal South African krugerrands - solid gold coins minted under the nation's Apartheid regime. However, the South African Consul-General Arjen Rudd warns the detectives off the case and before long, the duo are tasked with supervising the irritating federal witness Leo Getz. However, it soon becomes apparent that the two cases are linked.
Getz, who has a past laundering money for a number of shady characters, leads Riggs and Murtaugh to a gang of smugglers attempting to assassinate him. However, Rudd quickly arrives and invokes his diplomatic immunity on behalf of his associates. Realising that there is nothing more they can do, Murtaugh goes into hiding with Getz while Riggs blatantly begins defying his orders by harassing Rudd and dating his secretary Rika van der Haas - unaware that Rudd's security head Pieter Vorstedt has been asked by Rudd to murder the two officers...
Det. Martin Riggs
Det. Roger Murtaugh
Rika van der Haas
Jeffrey Boam *
Release Date (UK)
15th September, 1989
15 (2010 re-rating)
Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller
Academy Award Nominations
Best Sound Effects Editing
What's to like?
Even if you haven't seen the original, you're in pretty safe hands with this film which sticks rigidly to the buddy-cop formula it helped to create. The film still contains plenty of blistering action scenes, wonderful chemistry between Glover and Gibson and just about enough plot to justify the chaos. In addition to the existing strengths, the film adds Pesci's motor-mouthed wise guy who contributes a lot of the film's humour alongside the two leads as well as an impossibly hot Kensit as a welcome love interest for the previously suicidal Riggs.
Speaking of Riggs, he appears to thrown off the emotional shackles that plagued him in the first film to become more of a loose cannon than before. If anything, he feels more like comic relief against the more by-the-book nature of Murtaugh. But actually, this is a good thing - it makes Lethal Weapon 2 a bit lighter than the first film and absolves Gibson of really having to act as a desperate man. He and Glover have so much fun that you can feel it through the screen and once again, they lift the film beyond the genre's stereotypes. The film's story also has a bit of heart as well, rightly pointing out the injustices of Apartheid in a way that few seemed to at the time.
- Director Donner was shocked when Gibson told him he was drinking five pints of beer for breakfast - despite his alcohol problems, Gibson was also on time and thoroughly professional throughout the shoot.
- The film's soundtrack included a song by short-lived English pop group Eighth Wonder. The band's lead singer was none other than Patsy Kensit.
- Despite the film's anti-Apartheid stance, it was passed uncut in South Africa and was a huge success.
- Riggs was supposed to be killed off in this film but the script was rewritten because the producers wanted to make more movies. This decision led by creator Shane Black leaving the series for good.
What's not to like?
If anything, Lethal Weapon 2 feels as dated as the first film. Not just because it feels like a gazillion other buddy-cop pictures but the script puts the film at a very specific place in history, much like the pre-Millennium wave of thrillers dealing with the forthcoming threat of Y2K. The film's pacing and focus on action means that there isn't as much room for character development as the first film - which is a problem when Riggs' character has changed so much. He has gone from being a suicidal man on the edge without a care for his own safety to being a trigger-happy cop with a glib sense of humour. What happened and why doesn't Murtaugh have a similar change of character?
The other thing I didn't like was the strong sense of déjà vu from the film and not just because of Gibson and Glover blowing up half of LA once again. Even with the minor tweaks to the formula, it still feels very similar to the first film to the point where you wonder exactly what the point of this film actually is. With its urbane villains, drug smugglers and chief henchman overseeing the underlings, the film's only real additions was Kensit's romantic interest and Pesci's character and he's supposed to be annoying. Was there not anything else they thought they could have offered audiences?
Should I watch it?
Niggles aside, there isn't much to really touch this for straight-up action with a comedic twist or two. Lethal Weapon 2 may be very formulaic but it's a good deal of fun for adults in the right mood - Gisbon and Glover remain a class double-act and with Pesci goofing it up on the sidelines, the film's action provides the thrills to the cast's spills. If you enjoyed the first film then chances are, this will float your boat as well. Not much more to add, to be honest.
Great For: fans of the first film, action fans, adults
Not So Great For: anyone expecting anything different, Patsy Kensit's self-esteem, people who obsessively check underneath the toilet
What else should I watch?
Sadly, it would be a slow decline for the series which continued to throw different ideas into the mix when there wasn't call for it. Lethal Weapon 3 adds Rene Russo's Internal Affairs agent and attempts to resurrect Murtaugh's forthcoming retirement (the one he was approaching back in the first film, remember?) while Lethal Weapon 4 brings in Chris Rock as a young rookie as well as retaining the ever-growing list of supporting cast. But none of them offer anything different besides the identity and machinations of the baddie. At least the first movie had some interesting elements to Riggs' mental health...
Of course, there is no shortage of buddy-cop movies that attempt to emulate the success of this series. Rush Hour is a great example that sees Jackie Chan's wily martial artistry teaming up with Chris Tucker's wide-mouthed imitation of Eddie Murphy. It too has a real eye for action as well as providing plenty of laughs between the set pieces. Speaking of Murphy, he appears in his own buddy-cop series - Beverly Hills Cop may have pre-empted the Lethal Weapon franchise by a couple of years but they're still good movies to watch and enjoy. Except Beverly Hills Cop 3 which is as much fun as being beaten by the LAPD.
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© 2016 Benjamin Cox