Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
  • Time: 127 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime | Thriller
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li


Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, each now feeling too old to be doing what they’re doing, try to stop the Chinese Triads from doing their illegal business in the U.S. Uncle Benny, Chinatown’s mob boss, has imported Chinese slaves to pay for an artist to create counterfeit Chinese currency which the Triads (led by Jet Li) will use to buy the Four Fathers (heads of the Triads) back from the Chinese military. Chris Rock joins the team as a new cop and Rianne’s husband. Lorna is pregnant and considers marriage with Riggs, and Leo Getz is back, now as a private investigator.

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  • Has it really been 11 years since Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), stable family man biding time until his retirement, was partnered with Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), the Three Stooges-loving, mercurial widower with a death wish? Where does the time go? More importantly, where does coherence go? With each successive sequel, the franchise becomes more and more plotless; it’s the cinematic version of Alzheimers. In Lethal Weapon 4, the film pinballs from one scene to the next without ever striking linearity.

    Ostensibly, Murtaugh and Riggs are out to investigate the illegal import of Chinese families which leads to the discovery of a counterfeit ring in Chinatown. The ring is overseen by a deadly mob warlord played with demoniacal serenity by Hong Kong superstar Jet Li. Li is given ample opportunity to display the whole breadth of his physical talents. He is so seductively ice-cool that I entertained hopes of his character joining forces with Riggs and Murtaugh and continuing with the franchise. No such luck. He remains a villain, albeit a memorable one, for the remainder of the film.

    Also new to the franchise is Chris Rock as Detective Lee Butters, a young gun out to impress an annoyed Murtaugh. What Murtaugh doesn’t realize, and what everyone else knows, is that Butters is secretly married to Murtaugh’s daughter who is due to give birth. Also pregnant is Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), Riggs’ internal affairs sweetheart. Thankfully, we’re spared a double delivery (a la Father of the Bride Part II) but not formulaic hijinks come birthing time. Rounding out the gang is Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), the motormouth hedgehog who was saved by Riggs and Murtaugh in the first sequel.

    Director Richard Donner, who’s helmed the entire series, delivers several action sequences that are admittedly eye-opening (and ear-assaulting) but nearly paint-by-the-numbers in their predictability. You know the procedure by now: there’s a second-tier villain. Murtaugh and Riggs are shot at. They shoot back. They banter, they bicker, they ponder fatherhood, old age (Riggs is getting as old as Murtaugh was when the series first began) and familial commitments amidst the gunfire. Things explode. Murtaugh’s car, boat and home are damaged. Same old, same old. Even one sequence — which climaxes in a bravura face off between Gibson, Glover and Li is secondhand — is a blatant lift off any John Woo film.

    Yet, there’s no denying that there is still life left to the Lethal Weapon franchise. Despite its wear and tear, Lethal Weapon 4 is enjoyable. Rock is a welcome addition to the mix. He and Pesci make an unlikely duo but they perform hilarious riffs on stereotypes and cellphones. Russo, despite her character’s condition, gets to brawl with the boys. She’s a great dame, a true guy’s gal. Glover, ever dependable, keeps the routine fresh.

    And Mel Gibson. What other actor working today has his mix of boyish charm, tender machismo and zany unpredictability? He’s also one of the few romantic leads whose masculinity doesn’t defer to the presence of a strong woman. Remember the fires that flamed between him and Sigourney Weaver? The Year of Living Dangerously indeed. In Lethal Weapon 4, he looks over at Russo at one point while they’re sitting in a car. Just a look. But it’s the Mel Gibson look. That’s something that can’t be produced in an assembly line.

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