I first saw Lethal Weapon when I was twelve. It was edited for television and even so, it rocked my world. Mel Gibson’s sheer unstoppable hotness coupled with all that badass action left me helpless. It was all I could think about for months: I would obsessively replay the movie in my mind, talk about it incessantly to anyone who would listen, and when I had a free moment, I would dash to my room for a peek at the ad torn from TV Guide with that smokin’ hot picture of Mel in it. Several months later, another movie came along to quell my obsession. It was (wait for it!), Lethal Weapon 2.
Indeed, I was not the only one to fall hard for Lethal Weapon. Audiences made it one of the biggest action movie franchises around, and the cast and crew had so much fun together, they stuck together through four sequels. The Lethal Weapon Collection on Blu-Ray is an impressive gathering of all four films and more extra features than you can shake a stick at. It will (pardon my dorkiness) ROCK YOUR WORLD.
If these films have somehow eluded you, I should backtrack a bit and explain that the series follows the police exploits of middle-aged family man Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and his new partner Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), a suicidal widower and former military sniper whose deadly sense of aim and unpredictable behavior qualify him as a lethal weapon. Though the partnership is shaky at the outset, with Murtaugh just hoping to survive a day in Riggs’ company and frequently muttering, “I’m too old for this shit,” the two quickly learn they have more in common than first thought. Their intense loyalty to the job (and one another) overshadows any differences between them, and Riggs is promptly adopted by the entire Murtaugh family: wife Trish (Darlene Love), foxy daughter Rianne (Traci Wolfe), son Nick (Damon Hines), and youngest daughter Carrie (Ebonie Smith).
Though there is a meaty and elaborate plot to each of these films (murder, drug dealing, arson, and human trafficking respectively) it is truly the characters that make the movies. Though established and stable, Roger’s family evolves and grows up over the course of the films, and we see a full character arc in Martin Riggs. He comes to us a broken, tortured man, but by the second film he has embraced his friendship with the Murtaughs and even takes an ill-fated chance on love with a beautiful young South African woman (Patsy Kensit). By the third film, Riggs is ready for a relationship with his equal – the fearless Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) – and the fourth film finds him embracing family life. It’s a long and tumultuous ride, but it’s rewarding watching these characters (who feel like old friends) grow and move on.
The first two films are unquestionably the best in the series and rival one another in quality and enjoyability (easily 8/8 Moviepie slices). As Leo Getz, a needy, neurotic protected witness placed in the care of Riggs and Murtaugh, Joe Pesci adds dimension and comic relief to Lethal Weapon 2. His presence is less necessary and less welcome by the third and fourth films, but the character is so memorable that you can’t really begrudge the fact that he showed up. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for new sidekick Lee Butters (Chris Rock), who appears in the final film. We don’t need a new guy at this stage of the game, we really don’t need a new guy who is still…Chris Rock. That’s not saying he doesn’t have his place, but he’s not someone who melts into a role and disappears. The third and fourth films, while equally solid in their own right, do not measure up to the first two and would garner 5/8 Moviepie slices. Like Leo Getz, you’re glad to see them, but not quite sure they were necessary.
Overall this is a gorgeously mastered collection, and the extra features alone are worth the upgrade. Each film comes with audio commentary by Richard Donner, the original theatrical trailer, and additional scenes. Music videos for “Lethal Weapon” by Honeymoon Suite (so good!) and for “It’s Probably Me” by Eric Clapton and Sting are included, as is the Lethal Weapon 4 documentary “Pure Lethal: New Angles, New Scenes, and Explosive Outtakes”. A fifth bonus disc includes recent interviews with the major Lethal players (Richard Donner, Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Shane Black, and Joel Silver). With over an hour of material, the disc is as impressive for its thoroughness as it is for its length. The Blu-Ray collection is a boon to any video library, whether you are a casual viewer or a die hard fan.