Rating 3.5/5 -There’s quite a bit of stuff to unpack on this one, so let’s start with the obvious elephant in the room. Lethal Weapon is, as you know, is a classic. I’m in the “old enough to have seen it in the movies” range and Lethal Weapon came at a time when the hyper action movie was just being born. In fact, Lethal Weapon was one of the parents of hyper-action movies as you see them today. Ex-pick-your-special-force-brand turned super cop? Lethal Weapon did it first. Enough explosions to give Michael Bay a woody? Lethal Weapon did it in a new way. Pop culture references during a fight scene? Lethal Weapon pretty much made that one popular first too. It was new, it was fun and everyone was quoting Lethal Weapon dialogue almost as soon as they came out of seeing the movie. Lethal Weapon smacked us in the balls and didn’t let go until it became a parody of itself for four movies.
Fresh off the unexpected success of Mad Max, it’s follow up Road Warrior and the oddly more memorable Beyond Thunderdome, Mel Gibson played Martin Riggs, a cop who was almost John McClain before there was a John McClain, only with the ex-navy seal, ex-sniper, ex-super-soldier badass skill set. Remember this was the 80’s therefore many moons before the Christians hated Gibson for Passion of the Christ and everyone else hates him for. . .okay, you know the whole “sugar tits” and racist drunken rant story. But there was a reason why Gibson was the man and Lethal Weapon pretty much sealed that deal. What made him stand out was Riggs was a regular looking guy unlike Arnold, Stallone or Kirk.
Along with the the guy from Mad Max came one of the cops from Witness, Danny Glover as Roger Murtaugh. Murtaugh was the sensible cop trying to play it by the book and chewing out Riggs for doing crazy things. And hey, he killed a bad South African racist in the end of Lethal Weapon 2. This was done in probably the most awesome scene ever. Oh, and Murtaugh was perpetually “too old for this shit.” Yep, kids, that’s where the line came from.
Back then we movie goers were being exposed to all kinds of new. New science fiction with muscle bound killer robots. New ways to love/hate assholes with speeches about greed being good. And, of course, new types of action movies. Before Mel there was Clint keeping westerns alive and dispensing his own brand of justice on the criminals right wingers insist naive liberal were letting go with their complaining about due justice and fair play and all that nonsense. (Yeah, I couldn’t figure out why everyone was surprised by his chair thing either. It was foreshadowed in pretty much all his movies.)
Lethal Weapon spawned fan fiction, toys (yes, there were toys) and has been someone’s fodder for sketch comedy ever since. It’s most certainly been imitated a lot. Now it’s spawned a series and it’s next to impossible not to make comparisons. Because Lethal Weapon is an icon. It’s probably one of the few movies that where all four – yes, even the not as good at the rest forth one – are icons.
Suicide and Cautious
If you’re going to do Lethal Weapon you have to hit certain beats. Riggs is an ex-pick your special forces department who is a crack sniper and dedicated cop who currently spends his time contemplating eating his gun after the tragic death of his wife. He can’t do it himself so he puts himself in every dangerous situations because he hopes the criminals will do it for him. Of course they don’t and death, mayhem and explosions tend to follow.
In the movie Roger Murtaugh was this close to retirement. Once upon a time that usually meant he should be the guy that always gets killed to give the hero a reason to hunt the main villain. Not just the black guy, it’s was the way cop or detective movies and red shirt soon-to-retire partner was all equal opportunity back then. Murtaugh was trying to stay alive because he wanted to spend his final days with with his family – beautiful wife, teenage son and daughter. He’s teamed up with Riggs and pretty much hates the guy at first and circumstances (high octane action and plenty of bad guys to shoot) brings them together for a new kind of buddy cops movie. He’s also a crack shot and displays that a lot.
Cut to this pilot staring Damien Wayans as Murtaugh and Clayne Crawford (NCIS Los Angeles and Rectify) takes on the role of Martin Riggs. Every beat was hit, except in this version instead of retiring Murtaugh is recovering from being shot which explains his caution. In the movie the wife dying was more of a back story, here they show it in living color and man is it rough. She’s on her way to the hospital because she’s gone into labor. I told you it was rough. The set up is pretty much beat-for-beat the movie’s beginning. Murtaugh get’s assigned Riggs, doesn’t like him because suicidal and dangerous but comes to like him as they work a case together. Beats hit, things get squeezed into 45 minutes of introduction, characters are set and we’re off and running.
What’s Up with Mia
Oh yeah, and there’s Jordana Brewster. Last reports were she has not shot any scenes for the upcoming Fast & Furious 8 movie, and here she is taking over the roll of Rigg’s police psychiatrist. This does not mean she’s never going to shoot for Fast & Furious 8, nor does it mean she is. She’s in about two establishing scenes but obviously going to be a regular. Had to give her a mention because even if you didn’t know she was going to be in you can’t miss her and wonder what’s what.
How’d They Do?
I can’t say I had too many problems with this pilot. It was paced pretty well, gives you the characters you expect and the promise of a lot of action with every over the top gun shot and explosion. it had funny moments, and the dynamic between Roger and his wife is nice. Most importantly the chemistry between Riggs and Murtaugh is intact. Don’t get me wrong, once loved Mel Gibson and loved forever loved Danny Glover are tough acts to follow. The movies have the unique pleasure of absolutely not working without those two actors. Yes, even Lethal Weapon 4. However Damien Wayans is likable, Clayne Crawford does a go hard or go home bid as Riggs which works if not the level of go hard go home Gibson did in his turn. Bottom line the pilot is fun, it’s writing doesn’t suck and it’s worth a watch. Let’s see how the rest of the series goes.