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Saturday, 3 June 2017

Retro Review: Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Lethal Weapon 4 
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li 
Genre: Buddy Cop Action Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: approximately $285 million

Plot: With personal crises and age weighing on them, LAPD officers Riggs and Murtaugh must contend with a deadly Chinese crimelord trying to get his brother out of prison 

'By The Fourth Film, It's Gotten Too Old For Its Own Schtick'

There is something about the fourth instalment of Lethal Weapon that feels somewhat of an oddity from the previous three films, or to be more exact the first film from 1987. Yes, things have changed a great deal over time, but with that, this movie is far from the quality that was in the first one.

From a casting point of view, there was no need to add additional protagonist characters, but that has been the case with each instalment: Joe Pesci in the second film, Rene Russo in the third film and here with Chris Rock in the fourth movie. & yet, it clearly shows how Hollywood is more concerned about making money by churning out (inferior) sequels.

This time round, the villains are Chinese triads and the film wastes no time rehashing and reusing some of the ideas of the last movies. Not much of it is that original, interesting, or good. Lethal Weapon 4 feels more rushed, as opposed to being a polished sequel. Watching it in full, the franchise at this point lost a lot of steam and momentum. By this point, it was on its last legs with Rene Russo, Chris Rock & Joe Pesci phoning in their turns. The film feels way too generic and not so different that makes it stand out from the rest in the series; then again, the follow-up movies to the first Lethal Weapon have seen its quality diminish with each release. Lethal Weapon was classic: just sheer brilliance it will never be toppled, whereas, with the other films, not much has changed and nor for the better, either.

With movie sequels, the quality dips and diminishes with each release and Lethal Weapon 4 is no exception: thus forth, you can only take it as far as the franchise truly warrants it and for me, it kind of peaked with the second film, somewhat. Even though, I wasn't a huge fan of it and Patsy Kensit's character in Lethal Weapon 2.

Insofar as the action goes, there is plenty of that going around in this film but also a lot of it, as well as Murtaugh and Riggs's antics, feels regurgitated too often. Who could have thought that Mel Gibson who was Riggs was the lethal weapon way back in 1987 that almost 10 years later, that Riggs is not so much lethal, but not as bad ass, anymore? The situations in this film are at times, not so great to sit through. Their chemistry, which was a major factor in the first film's success, is long gone and it just doesn't feel the same, anymore. The witty exchanges and quips that were fresh and entertaining back then don't have the same resonance in Lethal Weapon 4. It has a concoction of different ideas, elements and story lines; yet the Asian gang immigrant plot feels contrived and the way this is played out in the film is not very original or imaginative.

The main issue with Lethal Weapon 4 is that despite the different plot and antagonist characters, including the one played by Jet Li, not much about it is that different, exciting or unique and it's the same old song and dance number as it was before in the other movies. Also, the fight between Li and Gibson as Riggs and Glover as Murtaugh could have been a little better. Rene Russo returns as Riggs's love interest/pregnant wife, whereas Chris Rock appears to be roped in to draw in the younger demographic and in particular African-American and Black audiences. Pesci's character, Leo is as irritating as he still is. By cramming in so many different ideas and too many characters, in an attempt to revamp the series and freshen it up, in turn, the producers and writers have actually made Lethal Weapon 4 less fun and not as good, in contrast to the previous films. This is more of a filler movie, rather than an out and out proper action film.

Besides the accusations of racism, homophobia and misogyny in this film, I was also a tad disappointed that that darkish undertone that was present in the original movie is all but evaporated into thin air as Lethal Weapon 4 transcends from the action-thriller like tone of the first movie to an almost light-hearted comedy fare, when this series is more known for being a buddy cop action film with light-hearted elements in it.

Rehashed, lazy, less action-orientated and even less fun, the 4th Lethal Weapon turns out to be the series most unnecessary outing & thus it outstayed its welcome. 


Final Verdict:

The action is merely enough to sit through for this film I guess, and that isn't saying much.

But by this point, the franchise through this movie has become incredibly thin and gotten too old for this schtick, it's tiring. Overstuffed with too many characters, lacking in intensity and wit of the original, not enough development in the story and the events that take place & not enough originality in the tank, Lethal Weapon 4 is a film that makes me think long and hard that they should have stopped at 3 and called it quits from there onwards.

Although one thing I did like was that Mel Gibson wasn't sporting that mullet that he had in the previous movies, as good as he looked back then (and let's not start on that awful ponytail in Lethal Weapon 3).

At best, Lethal Weapon 4 is passable and entertaining in places, and yet also in many ways, it feels very underwhelming in many respects & it is by far the weakest entry. Long live the original Lethal Weapon.

That and I am too old for any more sequels.


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