Now, what do you get when you have Mel Gibson and good ol’ Danny Glover as buddy cops, and Gary Busey as the villain. A damn good buddy cop film.
The first film in the popular vintage film series tells the origins of Roger Murtaugh (Glover) and Martin Riggs (Gibson) who become reluctant partners in order to take down a vicious gang of drug smugglers. It was directed by Richard Donner (who directed all 4 films), written by Shane Black (who directed poor movies such as Iron Man 3 and The Predator 30 years later), and produced by Joel Silver. Richard Donner also co-produced the film.
Both Danny Glover and Mel Gibson are stalwarts in their roles. Glover plays very charming, playing a veteran, by-the-book cop and loving family man. Gibson as Riggs is falling apart after his wife was murdered and has suicidal tendencies.
Mel Gibson is very authentic, playing this crazy lunatic former narc, who is both absolutely nuts and completely fearless, and his intense action style is all over the place. He sleeps naked, smokes in bed, and drinks beer for breakfast. It’s not something I want to see, but the way he pulls it off is so authentic. He gives so much emotional depth in one scene, that it is flawless.
Gary Busey plays the main villain, simply named “Mr Joshua”, who is an old rival of Riggs from their days in the Special Forces. He gives a very visceral performance, displaying a chilling demeanor.
Other good performances came from Mitchell Ryan as the villainous Peter McCallister, and the pretty Traci Wolfe as Roger’s daughter Rianne, in her first starring role.
Shane Black did a fine job on the character development for Martin and Riggs, taking them on the journey of becoming reluctant co-workers to best friends. Watching their different personalities contradict each other was well executed.
The movie also had a very well balanced tone, as it changed back and forth from being a gritty crime thriller to a fun buddy cop film. It also focuses on family and friendship, which is very important in my book.
I must also give credit to Stephen Goldblatt on the stunning cinematography, Stuart Baird for his editing, and the music by Eric Clapton and Michael Camen.
Most of the filming locations take place in Los Angeles, and we get some nice views of the city. There’s also a scenic scene which takes place in the desert outside the city, which we have some really cool aerial views.
There were some scenes I didn’t like, namely towards the end when Riggs and Murtagh are getting tortured by McCallister and his goons, and an attempted rape scenario. Some of the chase scenes are a bit shaky and the fight choreography isn’t nicely executed. I also didn’t like the mild pornographic scenes. They could have toned it down a bit.
In the end, the first Lethal Weapon is a timeless and classic buddy cop film with stunning performances, a well balanced tone, solid and simplistic writing, good cinematography, editing and the score. And once again, the nostalgia factor is all over the place.
Strong performances by Danny Glover and Mel Gibson.
Richard Donner’s direction.
Shane West’s writing.
Cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt
Editing by Stuart Baird.
Music by Eric Clapton and Michael Camen.
Good character development.
Stunning filming locations around Los Angeles, namely one in the desert.
Some upsetting scenes.
Shaky car chase scenes.
I am going to give the first Lethal Weapon movie a B+.