I was thinking all along I saw this before. I know I saw Lethal Weapon 2, but when I opened this up on Amazon Prime Video there was nothing familiar. This is Lethal Weapon, the original and the beginning of an over-long franchise. This came out in 1987 from Warner Brothers, filmed in and about Los Angeles and the WB studios in Burbank. It’s the film that brought Mel Gibson into the big time. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.
Opening scenes are a helicopter view of downtown LA at night. Eventually the focus is on the window of an upscale apartment. Zooming in through the window we see a striking blond, seductive, half dressed, in bed. She’s obviously having difficulty—a drug influence is apparent. Presently she arises, and you guessed it, she steps to a balcony several floors above the street and pitches forward.
And that is the end of that. It’s time to start the movie.
We meet the two principals. Gibson is LAPD cop Martin Riggs. Danny Glover is LAPD sergeant Roger Murtaugh. Apparently Murtaugh lives in Burbank, and well on a police sergeant’s salary. He has just turned 50, and his loving family greets him in his bath.
Next we meet Martin Riggs, and this is beginning to take on the air of an art movie. We see a dog running hell bent for leather across a dry lake bed. This place is the pits. The dog comes to the door of a mobile home parked out in the boonies.
Here is where Riggs lives, alone. Except for the dog. He lets the dog in. And, yes, you do get to see Mel Gibson butt naked.
Gibbs works undercover, here turning a street drug buy into a bust. It turns out badly. Somebody opens fire from ambush, and just about everybody except Riggs winds up dead. It is a going trend for Riggs.
Riggs has problems. Back in his comfortable abode by the dry lake bed he gazes wistfully at a wedding photo. We see a lovely bride, now dead. Riggs has a special hollow-point bullet he plays with. With effort he continues on with life.
Reassigned to homicide, Riggs meets Murtaugh, his new partner. There is some initial confusion as to whether Riggs is a perp with a gun in the squad room. Riggs settles the issue, and the two are off to a rocky start.
Their first experience is not comforting to Murtaugh. They are assigned to thwart a jumper atop of a highrise. Riggs takes the task, and he handles it by handcuffing himself to the jumper and launching the both of them into thin air. Of course, Riggs knows all along there is a fire department air mattress waiting to catch them.
Murtaugh, though, is unhinged by the episode, and it almost breaks up a beautiful romance.
All is settled soon enough. Riggs and Murtaugh are assigned to investigate the blond jumper case. It turns out the body beautiful was poisoned prior to her plunge. The pair insert themselves into an upscale property, where the resident opens fire with a shotgun. Down on the ground, shot by Murtaugh, the perp comes up with a pistol. Riggs saves his partner’s life, and the partnership is solidified.
More bonding. A shootout at the police pistol range demonstrates Riggs’ prowess. Murtaugh places a hole dead center in the face of a paper target. Riggs goes deeper. He rolls the target back to 50 yards and paints a smiley face on it with his 9-mm Beretta. This is going to come in handy later.
The two figure out the now dead perp was just a set up. There must be more to this. They go to the abode of the hooker who reported seeing the blond suicide. Yes, it’s the old exploding house scene. Now Riggs and Murtaugh know they are onto something more than a porn star being murdered.
Without detailing the remainder of the plot, Murtaugh’s friend and army buddy Michael Hunsaker (Tom Atkins) is the father of the dead blond. About the time he is ready to reveal details of the drug smuggling ring he is involved with, a helicopter with a sniper appears outside the window, and he is drilled into silence. It gets deeper, with Murtaugh’s teenage daughter being taken hostage by the dope ring.
Meanwhile, Riggs is gunned down on a Los Angeles street in a drive-by shooting. Fortunately he is wearing his ballistic vest and survives. That gives the dynamic duo an advantage. They fake Riggs’ death and arrange for him to cover the meeting with the dope ring.
This encounter ends with many of the ring members dead, but with Riggs, Murtaugh, and Miss Murtaugh now in the hands of the dope ring.
To summarize, torture is attempted without success. The ring leader is ex army General Peter McAllister (Mitchell Ryan), and he wants to know for sure that Hunsaker has not passed on cataclysmic information. But, Riggs turns the tables. Naked, hanging by chains cuffed to his hands, and about to be executed, he head-butts his tormentor and kills him. Then he escapes the chains, and he and Murtaugh rout the dope ring, blazing there way out of the basement beneath McAllister’s strip club, killing any and all who challenge their exit. Murtaugh gets the satisfaction of seeing McAllister coming to a fiery end inside an exploding car.
That leaves the ring’s hit-man-in-chief, Joshua, played by Gary Busey, as only Busey can play a bad guy. The two cops figure Joshua’s next move will be Murtaugh’s house, and they head there. When Joshua arrives (killing two cops along the way), he machine guns his way through the front door, only to be greeted by a welcome message on a scrap of paper. Riggs aims a runaway car through a front window to take Joshua off his guard. There’s some kung-fu in the front yard with all the police force watching, but eventually they have to shoot Joshua when he attempts to kill two cops.
Riggs has Christmas dinner with the Murtaugh family, and the dog comes, too.
This is a surprisingly-well written, directed, acted, and photographed film. The budget was $15 million, and it grossed $120.2 million. Hence a bunch of sequels. Last I looked they were discussing Lethal Weapon 5. We will likely never see it, what with Riggs and Murtaugh pushing walkers.
Some elements of the plot are desperately short of credibility. The druggies kill Hunsaker by sniper fire through a window from a helicopter flying outside his palatial home on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Really? This feature has only one reason for being, and that’s to pour extra drama into this epic. There are so many ways this ploy is likely to go wrong. How are the killers going to know Hunsaker will be standing by the window in that room? And from a helicopter. If you want to commit murder, and you want the whole world as a witness, the best way is to fly in with a helicopter and open fire. At the very least somebody is going to get the tail number off the aircraft and call it in.
Then there’s the kidnap ploy? Why? The lame reasoning is that the general wants to know whether fatal information has been divulged? And his recourse is to stage a kidnapping and a prisoner exchange (assuming Riggs is already dead)? Neither you nor I can count the ways this can go wrong.
Riggs and Murtaugh show up at the prisoner exchange site. Riggs situates himself within sniping distance, concealed in tall grass. Riggs and Murtaugh expect to take down all the druggies in a shootout. And they don’t have a backup team standing ready if and when this goes wrong? Are these people for real?
Otherwise, a movie worth seeing if you haven’t already. Plenty of T&A for both the guys and the ladies. Lots of gunfire. And deadly karma writ large. What else could you want?