Lethal Weapon 3 – #1 in the US (May 15 – 17)
All-Time Domestic $144,731,527 | All-Time International $177,000,000
All-Time Worldwide $321,731,527
Lethal Weapon 3 goes to “wacky town” but retains the heart of the first two outings.
Lethal Weapon began its franchise life in 1987. It was a runaway hit with the combined talents of screenwriter Shane Black, director Richard Donner, and producer Joel Silver. The trio of talent teamed Danny Glover and Mel Gibson as a contrasting partners. Roger Murtaugh (Glover) is straight-laced and by the book. Martin Riggs (Gibson) is a manic depressive loose cannon on the force. Together, the two are a force to be reckoned with if they can manage each other for more than two seconds.
“Buddy cop” films were nothing new before the series, but Lethal Weapon perfected it with a punch. It was dark with a hint of humor and chaos. This carried over into the excellent Lethal Weapon 2 to amplify what worked the first time. 2 is a closer follow-up to the tone and style of the first than the third film in the series. This was my first time watching both the second and third parts and the shift is noticeable in a back-to-back viewing. Lethal Weapon 3 is where it dives into what most audiences think of when it comes to “buddy cop” films. It’s a wacky pair off to beat bad guys, destroy half a city and crack jokes along the way. It’s not a bad sub-genre at all as they are always a blast to sit back and watch.
The Lethal Weapon films are a bit harder to watch considering Gibson’s personal actions and behavior. Gibson was a terrific actor. Yet, his racist remarks and anti-Semitic statements will forever cloud any enjoyment of films starring Mel Gibson. This review will focus only on the movie at hand, but it’s best to bring it up now before giving any praise to Gibson’s performance of Riggs. He is the heart and soul of the series that happens to be played by a less than a likable real-life person.
Riggs and Murtaugh are back at it again, but Murtaugh is eight days away from retirement. After setting off a bomb without the aid of the bomb squad, the two are forced to be regular beat cops on patrol. Upon spotting an armored truck stealing money, they come upon a case involving a former LAPD lieutenant named Jack Travis. Internal Affairs takes over with Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) overseeing the case to discover that Travis has been helping distribute armor-piercing rounds across Los Angeles. Riggs and Murtaugh tackle the case alongside Cole and with the annoyance of now-real estate agent Leo Getz (Joe Pesci). The case against one of their own can either end in triumph or tragedy and that in itself depends on if Riggs and Murtaugh can keep it together once again.
Lethal Weapon 3 heads down the comedy route with less drama than the last two films. It becomes the typical summer blockbuster by being a crowd-pleaser, but still retaining a heart. Gibson and Glover are perfect together. Their mismatched personalities balance each other out and it does feel that time has passed to make their bonds stronger.
Gibson is still as manic and charismatic as before. He can still hang with the best of them while still being his own self. He still jokes about but cares about the task at hand. He is a likable character that still retains what is loved about him. All this makes his romance with Russo’s Cole work too. Russo is the perfect match for Riggs echoing his chaotic energy with more control. The scene where they share the scars on their body is filled with brilliant chemistry between the two. Both have experience on the force, can kick all the ass, and have magnificent hair. If Russo or Gibson faltered at any point in their performance, their hair would do all the heavy lifting.
Glover’s Murtaugh gets time to shine with him on the verge of retiring but has to combat his own actions in the field. Murtaugh is devastated during a shootout killing someone that his own son knew. Even attending the funeral in apology results in him being slapped and told to find the person that gave the kid the gun in the first place. It’s devastating and causes him to get lost in his cups for the night. Glover’s performance is heartwrenching and adds the drama the first two films strived for. Despite all the wackiness and comedy, the harshness of reality can creep in at any time. Glover conveys Murtaugh’s responsibility for his action and well as his redemption with true emotion and care.
On the opposite spectrum is Pesci as Leo Getz. This character would be the first definition of annoyance in the dictionary only after paying Merriam-Webster off. His first appearance in 2 is tolerable, but here, his presence is not needed. He is only here for a plot connection that could be given to any other character and to capitalize on Pecsi’s momentum as his star rises. Of the three Pesci outings covered for this series, this is the one I would be glad to forget. His scenes only deter the action and serve as a stop-gap.
The action in the film is not as hard-hitting as in the first two films. Of the films, this one might have the weakest action in it, but it still has moments. The finale of a gas trail on fire in a housing construction site is phenomenal. The two car chases are wonderful chaos even if the Los Angeles geography makes no sense to them. Maybe it was a disservice to watch 2 before this one because that is where the action lives with explosions all over the place. Here, the action is set aside for the most part for the more comedic approach. It still has the great setpieces with Donner’s wonderful direction but does falter in a memorable moment. Then again, it’s hard to compete when a person exploded jumping off a diving board in 2.
Lethal Weapon 3 is the textbook cliche buddy cop movie, but still a delight to see the duo back in action. There is still heart and love for the characters while getting a bit broader than before. Though Pesci’s character can border on “please leave” territory, 3 still has something there that makes it worth a watch.
Revue Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Next time, in space, no one can hear you scream for a third time with Alien3.