They might have grown older since Mel Gibson and Danny Glover first took on the roles of Riggs and Murtaugh in Richard Donner’s "Lethal Weapon" in 1987, but they have lost none of their humor or edge. The film was an instant success with its overdrawn characterization of two buddy LA police officers who, despite all common sense, leap into the fire of the action and literally seem to attract costly explosions and car chases. The film has spawned three sequels, turning "Lethal Weapon" in a profitable vehicle for Gibson and Glover, as well as their recurring sidekick, Joe Pesci. Now, Warner Home Video have released
"Lethal Weapon 4", the latest installment in the series, on DVD. Supported by young blood in the form of Hollywood shooting star Chris Rock, the film draws on the successful formula once again, spicing it up with the problems Riggs and Murtaugh face as they have to recognize that, like the rest of the human race, they are growing older. Could it be an indication that the franchise is getting old and tired? I wouldn’t think so, because once again the template works perfectly well, and "Lethal Weapon 4" turned out to be a classy, racy action thriller with breathtaking stunts, explosions, and a lot of good laughs.
Starting out with a signature shootout sequence in the best "Lethal Weapon" manner, the film immediately establishes a feel of intimacy and familiarity. Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) face a gunman in a full-body armor who is walking the nighttime streets of Los Angeles with an automatic gun, firing away at everything and everyone around him at random. The two cops take the maniac out with one of Riggs’ infamous tricks, leaving Murtaugh stripped to the bones.
Because their actions have once again cost the department a fortune and no insurance is willing to cover for them any longer, Riggs and Murtaugh are promoted to Detectives, a promotion that is supposed to keep the two off the urban streets and out of their usually expensive escapades. Both are not exactly unhappy about this step, especially since even Riggs has slowly developed a social life and a family streak, expecting the delivery of his first baby with his girlfriend Lorna (Rene Russo). But, as so often happens in the lives of these two cops, trouble comes looking for them. They are accidentally involved in a shootout with Chinese Mafiosi. In no time, the two detectives are on the trail of the Chinese mobster Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li), who is trying to buy his family’s freedom from corrupt Chinese prisons, intending to bring them to the US illegally to support him in his growing empire.
"Lethal Weapon 4" is as well performed as you would expect from actors slipping into familiar roles for the fourth time. The parts fit like gloves, and the smoothness with which they are rollicking through this film is a pleasure to witness. Joe Pesci plays a much smaller role in this part. I truly enjoyed his character Leo Getz over the years, and although I truly like Chris Rock’s performance, I feel his part just doesn’t have the dimension to fill Joe Pesci’s shoes. Hong Kong superstar Jet Li, on the other hand, is completely wasted on the role of Wah Sing Ku, the iron-faced and concrete-fisted Chinese mobster. With hardly any lines, Jet Li, an incredibly charismatic and talented actor, is sadly degraded to a poorly-fleshed-out supporting role. It is just very hard to see Jet Li in the part of a bad guy. Through his long time career, this man represents decency in all its forms, and seeing him reduced to a stereotype sideshow just doesn’t do justice to his abilities and credibility. I find it rather disappointing that Hollywood doesn’t give such accomplished and respected actors the parts they deserve, simply because they have been working in foreign films and have yet to make their impression on the American market. On the other side, though, Jet Li is responsible for some very well-choreographed martial arts scenes and a memorable finale of the film.
"Lethal Weapon 4" is a brand new film that makes its video debut on this disc and of course you expect it to look great. This release from Warner Home Video will not disappoint you. Presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, the image on this anamorphic disc is sharp and absolutely brilliant. Warner Home Video, one of the driving forces behind DVD, have once again created a stunning release that leaves little to be desired. The image doesn’t exhibit any signs of pixelation or other compression artifacts. The film’s colors are extremely faithfully reproduced with vibrant hues, natural fleshtones and deep, solid shadows. The nighttime scenes are beautifully photographed and the disc reproduces these scenes with plenty of details, making "Lethal Weapon 4" a good showcase disc for DVD.
The disc contains a rock solid 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtrack. It is a very aggressive and dynamic soundtrack that makes really good use of the format’s split surrounds. Add the good bass extension of the soundtrack to the mix and you have an action movie that will shake your home theater. The disc contains an English and a French language track, as well as optional English closed captions and French subtitles. Presented as a "Premiere Collection" release I guess this is Warner’s new name for their Special Edition releases the disc also contains a large number of extras. A behind-the scenes documentary called "Pure Lethal" will give you insight into the making of the film, while a collection of deleted scenes from the first 3 parts of the series, will bring back fond memories of all those films. The disc also contains an interview gallery with cast and crew members, and 4 theatrical trailers. To round this special edition up, you will find an interesting running length commentary track with director Richard Donner on this disc as well.
Although I thought that once in a while Riggs’ and Murtaugh’s ongoing debates during the film’s shootouts appeared somewhat superficial, I greatly enjoyed the film overall. It is a powerhouse of an action film and there is nothing like teaming up Mel Gibson’s intense portrayal of the slightly crazed Riggs with the settled and pivotal work of Danny Glover. The two are a team, and they work like a charm on screen. The film showcases the series’ trademark explosions, chases, witty dialogues, and nerdy sidekicks. If you liked the previous parts in the series, there can be no doubt that you will have to own this disc. If you’re just looking for some explosive and humorous entertainment, well, "Lethal Weapon 4" is sure to bring you to your knees.