Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon (1987)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Cast & Crew Biographies, Fight Special

Currently, Warner Home Video is going through a phase in which a number of titles that had originally been released when DVD was first introduced are now re-released to the format. DVD as a platform has grown significantly in the past three years and to dust off these titles and to bring them back to people’s attention – especially those who had not bought into DVD by the time these films were first released – is certainly a good idea. However, Warner Home Video is taking the concept another step further by making sure these releases contain added value that was previously unavailable on the initial releases. In that vein, Warner has decided to release the Director’s Cut of all three "Lethal Weapon" movies, and to add an additional <$DTS,DTS> soundtrack to those discs. The result is a DVD release that may actually be appealing enough for many previous owners to replace the initial release of the film with the newly released version.

Watching "Lethal Weapon" is like taking a roller-coaster ride through a comedy show and an action-packed theme park. The film revolves around Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), two police officers who have been forced together as new partners by their office. Murtaugh is celebrating his 50th birthday when Riggs is dropped on him with his reputation as a reckless maniac since the loss of his wife. Murtaugh is determined to make sure Riggs is on his leash, while Riggs has much more important things to do. Very impulsively in nature he acts first and asks questions later, a philosophy that does not sit too well with Murtaugh – but he too will learn.
While the two are trying to settle their differences, they are trying to crack down on a drug ring. When one informant tells them about an upcoming delivery, Riggs and Murtaugh become the gangsters’ targets and they seem to have little chance to survive to see another day. But Riggs’ unconventional approach to solve the case makes all the difference – all the way to bare-knuckle fights with the bad guys if need be.

The Director’s Cut of "Lethal Weapon" has some 7-minutes of footage added to the film as opposed to the movie’s original theatrical cut. While it doesn’t dramatically change the plot, the characterizations are somewhat more evolved. That however is the quintessence of the movie. While the plot with the drug ring is interesting and keeps the characters motivated, pulling them through the plot, it is actually the interaction of Riggs and Murtaugh and their differences that makes out this film. Apart form the explosive chases, stunts, shoot-outs and stunts, it is the scenes where Gibson and Glover share the screen that are the most appealing. The dialogues are superbly written, creating believable characters that are sometimes plain out funny, sometimes thoughtful, and at other times simply entertaining to watch. These scenes have put a very unique stamp on the series that distinguishes it from most other genre movies. Gibson and Murtaugh made "Lethal Weapon" THE buddy movie of the 80s.

But the success has also to be attributed to Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, who are the perfect team for the movie, and have since returned to their respective parts of Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh on three more occasions. The two have a great chemistry going as they have personalities that could not be further apart from each other – although over the course of the series especially Riggs’ character has matured significantly. In this movie however, Riggs was wild, untamed and out-of-control, a loose gun, a maniac with a license to kill and no one could do that better than Mel Gibson with his iron stare and the run-down jeans outfit. After losing his wife, Riggs has lost his inner balance and is constantly challenging life. Unafraid to have a head-on collision with death, he is a thrill-seeker who is bringing life back into Murtaugh’s everyday routine. A life, the aging officer is not necessarily happy with – but it grows on him, too.

"Lethal Weapon" is presented in a <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> <$PS,widescreen> transfer on this release from Warner Home Video. <$PS,Letterboxed> to a 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio, the transfer is clean and without notable defects. Noise and grain are at a minimum in this transfer, giving the film a great clarity and crispness that is noticeably better than that of the previous DVD release of the film. Color delineation is flawless without bleeding, rendering hues and shades faithfully without degradation or over-saturation. The blacks in the transfer are solid but appear a bit grayish instead of solid black, while highlights are well-balanced. Skin tones are faithfully reproduced in the transfer and the presentation does not show signs of edge-enhancement that could lead to ringing artifacts. The compression is also without flaws. Devoid of compression artifacts like <$pixelation,pixelation>, the transfer gives the movie a great look, just as you would hoped for.

The disc contains three audio tracks. The first one if a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track in English that is complemented by an English DTS track and a French language <$DS,Dolby Surround> track. The audio on the disc is very aggressive, which comes hardly as a surprise, given the nature of the film. Making good and effective use of the surround channels, "Lethal Weapon" features an impressively engaging mix. The low end of the mix is strong and powerful, giving the action sequences the punch they need, yet never noticeably over-emphasizing the LFE channel. The sonic high end of the track gives the mix the clarity and sharpness it requires without distortion. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable despite the active mix. Although some of the dialogues sound noticeably ADR produced, the mix is perfect for this kind of film.

Michael Kamen has contributed a memorable score to "Lethal Weapon" that is presented in a good mix on this release. Although spread out to make use of the full 5.1 sound field, the mix sounds very tight, giving emphasis to the taut action on the screen.
While the DTS track on the disc is very well produced, the differences between the Dolby Digital and the DTS track are not as audible as one may hope. The clarity of both tracks is comparable but it is notable that the DTS track manages to reproduce the subtle nuances in the instrumentation of Kamen’s score slightly better than the Dolby Digital track.

In terms of extras, the disc does not offer a great lot. You can find the movie’s trailer, cast and crew biographies and a small section covering the movie’s final fight, called "A Fight To The Finish."

This is a great re-release of the movie that is interesting not only for those who had not had the chance to buy Warner’s earlier release of the film, but also for all those who prefer to watch the Director’s Cut of the movie – and I know many of you do. Does the disc justify the expense to replace your previous DVD? That is certainly a matter of personal opinion but given the fact that this DVD has a visibly better-defined image, and an additional DTS track, it may very well be worth your consideration. For everyone else, it is a must-buy, as "Lethal Weapon," like the "Die Hard" series has become synonymous for furious 80s-style action cinema.