Lethal Weapon 4

Directed By: Richard Donner

Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, and Jet Li

By the time Lethal Weapon 4 came rolling into theaters in 1998, the focus of the films had changed a bit.  The 90s had been good to Mel Gibson.  Because of the success of films like Braveheart, Gibson was unquestionably the main attraction of any film in which he starred at that time.  That's why Lethal Weapon 4 was the Mel Gibson Show featuring guest stars Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, and Jet Li.

Riggs (Gibson) and Murtaugh (Glover) both have secrets they're not supposed to tell each other. Murtaugh knows that Riggs is about to be a father.  Riggs's girlfriend Lorna (Rene Russo) is pregnant with his baby.  Riggs also knows that Murtaugh is about to be a grandfather.  Murtaugh's daughter Rianne (Traci Wolfe) married police officer Lee Butters (Chris Rock) in secret and is pregnant with his grandchild.  While on one of their usual life-threatening cases, they spill the beans to one another.  Nine months later, they’re on a case that might prevent them from ever welcoming the new members to the family.

While Riggs, Murtaugh, and Leo (Joe Pesci) are out fishing, they stumble upon a Chinese immigrant smuggling operation.  They come across a number of slave laborers and rescue them.  They also get into quite a big gunfight as the crooks sink Murtaugh's boat.  Despite this, Murtaugh is so touched by the plight of the immigrants that he gives a large Chinese family shelter by taking them into his home.  Meanwhile, the investigation leads to local crime boss Uncle Benny (Kim Chan).  It also leads down a much more dangerous path to the Triad gang and the deadly Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li).

Everything about Lethal Weapon 4 spells the end of an era for Riggs and Murtaugh.  The whole gang is back.  The humor and chemistry are still there.  The film is action-packed as usual with plenty of gunfights, explosions, and kickass stunts.  However, too much time has passed, and it certainly shows in the storyline. 

Riggs is now old and is settling down.  Murtaugh is older and has run into some money.  The two have even been promoted to captains on the police force.  Those certainly sound like happy endings to me.   The big problem with Lethal Weapon 4 is that it's too happy.  The Lethal Weapon films aren't meant to be so saccharine.  The first two films were edgy and innovative.  Now, we've got sappy and sweet.  It's definitely time for Riggs and Murtaugh to hang up their holsters.

Murtaugh is not the only one pulling the old man act anymore.  Riggs is following suit whining about how he's "too old for this shit" as well.  Based on what happens in the film, he's probably right.  Riggs is getting his old ass kicked all over Los Angeles.  It was cool to have Riggs as a man-child running into every fight he could when he was dishing out one ass-kicking after another.  Now that he's on the receiving end, it's a different story.  Gibson's character needs to grow up.  He's certainly got the wrinkles already.

Aside from Riggs and Murtaugh, there's not much else to the film.  The plot is fairly thin.  Sure, director Richard Donner tackles the social issue of immigration pretty well, but the story is anything but thrilling.  The plot is something akin to what you'd find in a B action movie, not a Lethal Weapon movie.  Beyond this, Jet Li's villain Wah Sing Ku is an extremely hollow character.  Sure, he's a badass who will beat down anyone in his way, but we have no reason to invest anything in his character.  He's just a vicious member of the Triads.  We don't know enough about him to care about him. Aside from that, Li's character is always whining about what would happen if we were in Hong Kong instead of Los Angeles.  You're in the US buddy.  Shut your trap.

Riggs and Murtaugh are definitely dinosaurs, and Lethal Weapon 4 does nothing but prove that.  It's really time for the original buddy cops to retire.  While I've got a lot of issues with this installment in the franchise, it's still good to see the gang all back together with a few new faces.  Lethal Weapon 4 gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.  Stick around for a montage covering the entire Lethal Weapon series while the credits are rolling.