What’s the deal with Mel Gibson now? We’ve not been paying attention but for a while he was like the biggest actor in Hollywood, then he seemed to become some sort of religious nutter before settling on becoming some sort of racist according to allegations that we barely paid any attention to. It’s a shame though because in Lethal Weapon, Mel Gibson is in incredible form.
He plays Detective Martin Riggs, a burned out alcoholic whose natural talent for police work (well, killing people) is being wasted after spiralling into depression when his wife died in a car accident. He is partnered with the too old for this shit, Detective Roger Murtaugh, played by Danny Glover in his most memorable role also. Even if Glover was only 41 when he played the fifty year old Murtagh and somehow manages to look much older than that.
After a brief period of getting to know each other, it soon becomes apparent that Riggs is one of those maverick cops who does things his own way, where as Murtaugh is fifty years old and just looking to coast safely towards retirement.
However, as they like to say in buddy cop movies, shit starts to get real when the daughter of one of Murtaugh’s army buddies is murdered, leading the detectives to a much larger drug distribution network and when they get too close Murtaugh’s daughter is kidnapped and Riggs advises that it is time to “get bloody.”
The film is an Eighties legend. A buddy cop movie that ticks all the boxes. You’ve got the odd couple detectives who go through all the peaks and troughs that you’d expect for this kind of movie. Then you’ve got the fact that between them they literally murder everyone. It’s no wonder that US cops are a tad problematic these days. They all grew up watching films like this and Beverley Hills Cop where basically no-one gets arrested and everyone gets shot.
Quite why all these ’80s cops movies ended up as bullet-fests we don’t know, but we like it. Sometimes you just want the bad guys to get shot. Especially the smug pricks in this film.
With a great cast including Gary Busey as the intense and terrifying Mr. Joshua (the enforcer that the bad guys use to do all the killing) and Al Leong as a torturer and all-round scariest dude ever, there’s plenty of weight to the performances in Lethal Weapon but Mel Gibson definitely steals the show with a performance that goes from suicidal depression to the sort of intensity that only James Woods can better.
Indeed, all the best scenes belong to Gibson and while South Park have done a great job of parodying him since, there’s no denying this is a great performance. Even if he struggles to hide his Australian accent. Certainly his arrests, and a memorable scene at the shooting range, are massive highlights.
Even the film’s shortcomings (a ridiculously edited fight scene at the end, obviously overdubbed conversations and the world’s most excited sax player on the film’s score) don’t detract from what is a fantastic action flick. It may not be the best action film ever but it does have a good claim for being the best buddy cop film of all time.