Length: 110 min
Release Date: March 6, 1987
Directed By: Richard Donner
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
“Lethal Weapon” is a classic 1987 movie which stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as unlikely partners on the Los Angeles police force. Glover portrays Sergeant Roger Murtaugh, a veteran officer who just turned thirty and is thinking of retiring from the force. Gibson portrays Sergeant Martin Riggs, a young but talented officer who is dealing with his own personal demons. Martin’s wife was tragically killed in a car accident three years prior, and ever since that time he has been fighting his suicidal tendencies to go and join her. Roger quickly learns of his new partner’s struggles and makes some attempt to take him under his wing. Neither man enjoys the idea of working with someone else, and both have lost their passion for their work, making the situation even more unpleasant.
At the beginning of the movie, Roger begins an investigation into the death of a young prostitute, Amanda, who is the daughter of a banking executive, Michael Hunsaker. Roger and Michael have been close friends since their younger days, when both men served in the Vietnam War. Martin helps Roger with the investigation and they quickly uncover the fact that Amanda’s death was the result of foul play. In fact, it becomes increasingly obvious that Amanda was involved with a terrifying drug ring, the Shadow Company. Even worse, the Shadow Company has ties to a group of mercenaries that Roger and Michael dealt with during the Vietnam War. This deadly group sets their sights on Roger and Martin as they get closer to revealing and proving the truth. The tables are suddenly turned on the crime fighting duo as they find themselves going from hunters to being hunted.
“Lethal Weapon” is by far one of the most successful films in the buddy cop drama series. The relationship between Roger and Martin takes center stage even amidst a world of chaos and violence. Although there have been numerous films that followed in its steps, “Lethal Weapon” has never been matched in terms of plot, style, and great character relationship dynamics. Roger Murtaugh is archetypical of the wise, older officer who has become a bit jaded but still has plenty to offer the next generation. Martin Riggs is the ideal younger officer with his entire career ahead of him, who nonetheless has trouble getting things together.
Martin’s grief over the loss of his wife proves to be both an asset and a weak point as the movie progresses. He is so consumed with grief and guilt that he couldn’t do anything to save her that it almost entirely consumes his passion for his work. While he began his career with wide-eyed optimism and the desire to make a difference on the streets of Los Angeles, he is overcome by cynicism and apathy. Martin begins to learn from Roger as their professional relationship and friendship develops. The older officer realizes that he just may have more to offer the force and his partner than he thought, which causes him to question his decision to retire.
Meanwhile, the Shadow Company wreaks considerable havoc on the streets of Los Angeles. Michael informs his old friend that he wants the people who killed his daughter to pay with their lives, causing conflict between Roger’s duty to protect and serve and get vengeance for his friend’s daughter. As he digs deeper, the truth proves to be even more sinister than he could have ever imagined, and it will take all the courage and intellect the two can muster to overcome such an evil organization. The Shadow Company is led by a Vietnam War mercenary who was as feared on the battlefield as he is on the streets. Armed with deadly knowledge and a complete lack of conscience, the Shadow Company threatens to topple the stability of Los Angeles with one of the most underhanded and widespread drug smuggling rings the world has seen.
“Lethal Weapon” has it all, from relatable characters to a thrilling plot and incredibly dynamic writing. In spite of the somewhat cheesy 1980s effects laced throughout the film, director Richard Donner manages to weave together a truly timeless story that is as enjoyable and relevant now as it was thirty years ago. In fact, fans of “Lethal Weapon” love it all the more due to its subtle use of camp and melodrama. Whether you are a fan of crime thrillers or you simply want to add another classic film to your collection, “Lethal Weapon” is sure to please.