Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) – Richard Donner

The gang is back together one last time for a less than stellar send off, but still a mostly satisfying conclusion to the Lethal Weapon series.

With age creeping up on both Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) they are thrown into a case that is going to push them to their limits. The Chinese Triads are in town, running a slave trade, and counterfeiting ring, and the boys, along with Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) and detective Butters (Chris Rock) find themselves mixed up in it.

Of all the films, this is probably the most disjointed of all, apparently the script was constantly changing even during shoots. It’s also the film where you can pick out the stunt performers more than in any other film in the series, which can be a little jarring.

And speaking of jarring, the casting of Rock seems to be a bit of a mistake as he seems more intent on being loud, and doing part of his act than imbuing his character with any reality. Which is too bad. He’s just way too over the top in the role, and the film already has that with Leo.

On the flipside, Jet Li made his American film debut with this film as the movie’s villain, Wah Sing Ku, and he is something to watch – so fast that Dick Donner, the director, had to ask him to slow down his moves for the camera! – and you know Riggs and Murtaugh are going to have to go up against him.

There’s some fun set pieces, and though the story and action beats can feel a little disjointed, catching up with both cops’ families is one of the highlights of the series. Roger’s daughter, Rianne (Tracy Wolfe) is pregnant and about to make Murtaugh a grandfather, while Riggs and Lorna (Rene Russo) dance around the idea of getting married while going through a pregnancy of their own.

And that’s what really saves the film, you want to catch up with these characters, you want to see all the familiar faces, and you want to see Riggs and Roger having a good time together, bantering and arguing even as they face deadly odds.

It’s not the strongest entry in the series, though there are some nice moments to end the franchise on, the final moments especially, but it is a fairly solid entry, and it’s always great to see Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh on the big screen together.

Yes, some of the dialogue is homophobic, and racist, but within the context of the characters, that’s who they are. That doesn’t make it right, it just means that these characters are just as flawed as you and me. And that, perhaps, is why the Lethal Weapon franchise is one of my favourite action series – you like the characters, and their families, and you are invested in what happens to them.

Great movies.

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