Before Mel Gibson was disgraced and Danny Glover really did get too old for this shit (i.e. 1987), they established the modern buddy-cop action flick template with this franchise-spawning critical and commercial hit. The lethal weapon of the title is mulleted Martin Riggs (Gibson), a ‘nam vet cop whose inability to cope with his wife’s death has left him with a love of violent confrontation and constant thoughts of suicide. His new partner Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is a 50-year-old family man who doesn’t share Riggs’ death wish in the slightest. Together they come up against a brutal bunch of smack-smuggling ex-CIA agents and assorted mercenaries.
Cue: explosions, kidnapping, murder, martial arts, much gunplay, gratuitous torture and macho male camaraderie. The predictability factor seems irrelevant when set against the location work, dynamic direction and carefully choreographed action sequences. Even the dialogue has its fair share of sharpness – as, for example, when Murtaugh greets a hooker he’s intending to question: “All dressed up with no one to blow?”
Like most cop movies, Lethal Weapon is conservative enough, but it’s not reactionary, doesn’t take itself too seriously and never descends to the (im)moral self-righteousness of a Michael Winner movie. Gibson in particular is superb throughout, attacking his role with such gung-ho gusto that it’s hard not to root for his character. Whatever its flaws, this is a thumping good yarn, immensely entertaining, genuinely exciting and refreshingly free of underlying propaganda.