Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Lethal Weapon 4 posterStarring Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li.
Written by Channing Gibson, Alfred Gough, Jonathan Lemkin & Miles Millar.
Directed by Richard Donner.

Grade: D-

Review by Carlo Cavagna.

No longer lethal, Detective Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) is a crotchety middle-aged weapon now. He's slowing down. He's getting his butt kicked by the bad guys. He can't even hold his own in a friendly sparring session with a younger cop. Yet he can't bring himself to say the words--those trademark words uttered by his partner Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) in each installment of the Lethal Weapon series.  That's right--Riggs is getting too old for this sh**!

Or is he? Is it that he's getting too old for this sh**, or is it just that this sh** is getting too old? Lethal Weapon 4 features more of the explosions and fast-paced, bantering, hyperkinetic dialogue that characterized its three predecessors, and if you don't pay close attention, you'll miss the jokes. Some will evoke a laugh, but the wall-to-wall verbiage is so thick that it seems as if the writers' real intent is not to make you laugh, but to distract your attention from the fact that there is no substance to the film.

Joining Gibson and Glover are series regulars Joe Pesci (as annoying former mob accountant Leo Getz), who debuted in Lethal Weapon 2, and Rene Russo (as an internal affairs officer and Rigg's now-pregnant girlfriend Lorna Cole), who joined the cast in Lethal Weapon 3. Rounding out the cast is young detective Lee Butters (Chris Rock), who is secretly married to Murtaugh's eldest daughter, also pregnant. "The gang's all here," the tagline proudly announces, and that's precisely the problem.  Too many wacky characters, not enough plot. What little plot there is focuses on the smuggling of illegal aliens from China, who are forced into near-slavery once they arrive in order to pay off the cost of the trip. Naturally, Lethal Weapon 4 features plenty of explosions.

As bad as Lethal Weapon 4 is, it wouldn't have been difficult to fix the movie. Simply delete the rarely funny Chris Rock and the no-longer-funny Joe Pesci and focus more on the relationships between Riggs and Murtaugh and between Riggs and Lorna Cole. With Riggs facing middle age, Murtaugh about to become a grandfather, and Cole afraid to tell Riggs that she wants to get married, there was potential for some substantive drama to go with the one-liners. Then maybe Lethal Weapon 4 might have recreated the relatively successful blend of comedy, action, and drama delivered by the first Lethal Weapon.

Balletic martial arts star Jet Li (as chief bad guy Wah Sing Ku) is Lethal Weapon 4's one saving grace. Another Hong Kong import, Jet Li is younger, more graceful, and more photogenic than the better known Bruce Lee. Li doesn't speak any English, but his fight scenes, choreographed by Hong Kong director Corey Yuen, are sheer pleasure for any action-film devotee. It's difficult to believe that Murtaugh and Riggs have any chance of even laying a hand on Li, but you know that the final confrontation is inevitable, and that somehow, the good guys will prevail.

Review © April 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Image © 1998 Warner Bros.

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