Lethal Weapon 4 Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1998

The baby's due in a few days and you haven't asked her to marry you?
Lethal Weapon 4 Poster

It's been over eleven years since the first "Lethal Weapon" hit the theaters, and now the third sequel, "Lethal Weapon 4" reunites the lethal ensemble of Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Rene Russo, and Joe Pesci for more rough-and-tumble crime-fighting in Los Angeles. Rushed into production with an incomplete script (the first sign of trouble), this $140 million tentpole production (the second sign of trouble) manages to provide the requisite thrills that fans of the franchise have come to expect. However, like "Godzilla", they come at the expense of plot and character (the third sign of trouble).

Have something to eat. Policeman's discount.
Flied lice?
Flied lice! It's fried rice you prick!
Danny Glover and Mel Gibson

The plot-so-thin-that-you-can-see-through-it has the aging Riggs (Gibson) and Murtaugh (Glover) squaring off against a Chinese slave traders (which provides plenty of opportunities for some low-brow 'flied lice' jokes). While fishing with their long-time associate Leo Getz (Pesci), they are almost capsized by a freighter carrying Chinese citizens who have sold themselves into slavery in exchange for freedom in America. While on the trail of the Triads that control the local slave trade, Riggs and Murtaugh cross paths with the their leader, Wah Sing Ku (Hong Kong martial arts maestro Jet Li in his North American debut), who earns lethal weapon status with the ability to kill using his bare hands. In a frantic bid to inject some sentimentality into the proceedings, Riggs must come to terms that he is much older now and no longer the lethal weapon he used to be. He also faces the issues of fatherhood and marriage, with live-in mate Lorna Cole (Russo) about to give birth to their first child. Murtaugh is also confronted by the issue of parenthood, much to his dismay, in the form of wise-ass rookie detective Lee Butters (Chris Rock). Butters is secretly married to Murtaugh's daughter and the father of her soon-to-be-born child. And if that isn't enough contrived sentimentality for you, Murtaugh also takes the family of a little refugee named Ping into his home.

I thought I was out of shape, but... but... it's like...
You're gettin' too old for this shit.

Rene Russo and Mel GibsonWhat would Lethal Weapon 4 be without the mayhem?

Joe PesciJet Li

Not surprisingly, save for some decent action choreography and a thrilling freeway action set piece, "Lethal Weapon 4" is an unexceptional actioner. Though the story arcs of Riggs and Murtaugh provide a new angle by which to explore their characters, they come across more as an after-thought amid the eruptions of violence and pyrotechnics. Furthermore, with so many characters to keep track of (including TWO characters filling the role of comic relief), there is just not enough screen time to allow much more than a cursory examination of each character. This becomes readily apparent in some clunky dialogue that attempts to pack in as much exposition as possible, such as a stilted-exchange between Riggs and Cole at their beachfront home. In fact, the hastily-slapped-together plot serves only to tie the action set pieces together into a barely cohesive narrative, resulting in an emotionally-flat experience. Finally, the villain in this outing is also uninteresting, a one-dimensional character completely built around Jet Li's mastery of martial arts-- and Jet Li's limited acting repertoire that comprises of three facial expressions, MSG (mad, sad, and glad), doesn't help matters much (a showcase for his 'acting' style can also be seen in "Bodyguard from Beijing").

Chris Rock

You have the right to remain silent... so shut the fuck up! You have the right to an attorney... if you can't afford one, we'll get you the cheapest dumbest lawyer on the earth. And if you get Johnny Cochrane, I'll kill you!

Though "Lethal Weapon 4" does have its moments, including a laugh-out-loud exchange between Butters and Getz on the topic of cell phones, though they are few and far between. Action aficionados will probably enjoy the mix of violence, gunplay, and profanity, but for those who are actually seeking a satisfying experience at the local multiplex, you will probably leave disappointed. This "Lethal Weapon" is a dud.

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