US Release Date: 07-10-1998
Directed by: Richard Donner
- Mel Gibson, as
- Martin Riggs
- Danny Glover, as
- Roger Murtaugh
- Joe Pesci, as
- Leo Getz
- Rene Russo, as
- Lorna Cole
- Chris Rock, as
- Detective Lee Butters
- Jet Li, as
- Wah Sing Ku
- Darlene Love, as
- Trish Murtaugh
- Traci Wolfe as
- Rianne Murtaugh Butters
At least they had a good time.
Lethal weapon 4 opens with one of two WTF scenes. Riggs and Murtaugh come across a man dressed like Iron Man, randomly shooting a flame thrower at cars and buildings. Upon Riggs's suggestion, Murtaugh undresses to his underwear and flaps his arms to distract the pyromaniac, while Riggs shoots him?
The movie then switches to Riggs and Murtaugh fishing on Murtaugh's boat at night. Getz is, for some reason, with them. They just happen to get rammed by a large boat smuggling illegal Chinese aliens into the United States. Among the illegal aliens is a man who is being brought in by some gangsters to help with forging Chinese money.
Illegal aliens is the social issue of this movie. Noted liberal, Glover, has this over-the-top line where he defends illegal aliens by saying, "What happened to bring me your tired, your poor, your wretched masses yearning to be free?" An over weight white guy responds, "Now it reads, No Vacancies." Glover, riding proudly atop his high horse, sarcastically states, "I guess your parents were native American?" Chinese can come here Glover, they just need to take the legal steps that everyone else has to.
Like a Democrat making a speech on borders, this film never actually calls them "illegal" aliens. After Riggs discovers that Murtaugh is sheltering a Chinese family in his home, he does inform him that his actions are in fact, illegal. Murtaugh then defends his crime by saying, "I am freeing slaves like no one did for my ancestors." The only dig from the right is when a politician, who supplies some Chinese with fake documents, tells a Chinese man to tell the illegal aliens to vote for the incumbent President, (Bill Clinton). Conservatives have long accused the left of giving favors to illegal aliens for just that reason.
Glover and Gibson still have that camaraderie going that made the series so successful. However, like any number of 70's, 80's Burt Reynolds films, Glover and Gibson seem to be having more fun than the audience. Chris Rock plays the role of a rookie detective, who is secretly married to Murtaugh's daughter. He tries to be nice to Murtaugh as he is now his father-in-law. Murtaugh takes his kindness to mean he is gay. Several scenes are played for laughs on this subject but none are that funny. Murtaugh has got to be one of the worst detectives of all time. He breaks the law, and has no clue his own daughter is married.
Jet Li is around to amp up the action, and he succeeds. Had the movie spent more time on him, and less on the humor, this movie could have better distracted me from it's leftist politics. Although I liked the comic tension when Riggs and Lorna discuss marriage, did Rock and Pesci really have to do a "cell phones fuck you everytime" routine? Do not get me started on the dentist office, laughing gas scene!
As for the second WTF scene; Riggs and Murtaugh are in a highway car chase. The elevated highway goes around a tall building. Murtaugh and Riggs jump their car off the highway, crash through the glass wall of the building, drive across the office space, sending countless people to run for their lives, crash through the other side of the building to land back on the highway, and continue the pursuit. As Scott would write, they jumped the shark. At one time I thought another sequel would be a good idea. Now I think it is best to let this sleeping dog lie.
Mel Gibson and Jet Li in Lethal Weapon 4.
After the disappointing Lethal Weapon 3, my hopes weren't very high for this 4th and final installment. Surprisingly however, it's actually mildly entertaining, despite several weaknesses.
There are, as Eric said, a couple of WTF moments. The opening scene with the flamethrower didn't bother me. Sure, having Murtaugh strip down to his underwear is silly and not very plausible, but it's not so bad. Having the car drive through an office building, on the other hand, is a real slap your forehead moment. It's a long way from Riggs putting a gun in his mouth in the original Lethal Weapon to this over-the-top bit of action. There are always such moments of action in these movies, but this one goes way too far to be even remotely plausible.
Part of the film's problems is that its production was rushed. Reportedly, the script was still being finished during filming and production only ended 33 days before the film was released. Several plot points were also mandated by the studio. It was Warner Bros. who suggested including Chris Rock's character and who insisted that Joe Pesci return, despite him becoming more annoying in each film.
The cell phone rant is the most dated aspect of the film and I agree it's not very funny. The laughing gas scene is another poor moment. It's never good when the characters are laughing more than the audience.
Eric was bothered by the liberal political stance of Murtaugh in regards to illegal immigrants, but his opinions are consistent with his character and this is hardly a movie making a political statement. I'm surprised he didn't mention that the villain of the movie wasn't a rich, white guy, since Hollywood's tendency to make them the universal go-to villain is one of his pet peeves.
Glover and Gibson definitely still share a great chemistry. I have no idea if they are friends in real life, but they make one of the most believable set of buddies in any buddy film. The series began witha younger cop/older cop vibe with Murtaugh getting close to retirement, but now, 10 years later, with Murtaugh still not retired, Riggs seems to have gained on him in age, prompting the "We're not too old for this shit." line near the film's climax.
Jet Li definitely makes a great villain. The final fight between him and both Riggs and Murtaugh is the best action scene in the film. It's a tense and violent fight where Riggs and Murtaugh both get their asses roundly kicked and very nearly killed. Only by working together do they manage to subdue the lightening fast Li. It's such a good fight scene that it almost makes up for some of the earlier silly moments.
Financially, this was the least successful of all the Lethal Weapon films. Gibson was tired of the part at this point and even lobbied to have Riggs killed at the film's end. There's been plenty of talk of reviving the series one last time. A script has been floating around about Riggs's final case, with him dragging Murtaugh out retirement for one last go-round. So far at least, Gibson has resisted coming back, despite his career sinking to its lowest point. Given the uneven nature of the previous films and the expectations that would be attached to any new film in the series, Mel's decision is probably the correct one.
How did this scene make it into the final cut?
The camaraderie between Gibson and Glover remains intact but this well ran dry after Lethal Weapon 2. The action scenes are ridiculous. The only decent one Scott already mentioned, the climactic fight where Murtaugh and Riggs double team Jet Li's super villain. Otherwise there isn't a speck of reality to be found in the silly fourth installment in this successful franchise.
At least twenty minutes from this two hour movie should have been trimmed, especially the aforementioned god-awful laughing gas scene (see photo). It's downright embarrassing. And like Scott I think Joe Pesci has grown irritating. I kept hoping Leo Getz out of the movie. That should have been Murtaugh, not Getz, in the cemetery scene with Riggs at the end, and especially in the scene where they are rushing Lorna into the delivery room. What sense does it make to have Leo share this important moment with Riggs and Lorna? I also found it quite ironic, in hindsight, that a rabbi marries them. He asks Riggs if he's Jewish and Mel Gibson replies, “Not necessarily.” (Just don't get him drunk.)
Chris Rock makes a positive addition to any movie so I have no complaints about his character. I guess the best thing I can say about Lethal Weapon 4 is that it's no worse than Lethal Weapon 3.
Photos © Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures (1998)