Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Lethal Weapon 4

Directed by Richard Donner and screenplay by Channing Gibson from a story by Alfred Gough, Jonathan Lemkin, and Miles Millar, Lethal Weapon 4 is the story of Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh leading an investigation into a Chinese smuggling ring involving slave laborers and other things involving triad gangs. The fourth and final film of the series has Riggs and Murtaugh not only deal with personal changes in their life but also aging as it’s finally catching up with Riggs as Mel Gibson and Danny Glover reprise their roles as Riggs and Murtaugh, respectively, while being joined by series regulars Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Damon Hines, Ebonie Smith, Mary Ellen Trainor, and Steve Kahan. Also starring Chris Rock, Kim Chan, Eddy Ko, Calvin Jung, and Jet Li. Lethal Weapon 4 is a good though very messy film from Richard Donner.

The fourth film has Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh not only get promoted as captains due to a technicality over the years of chaos and destruction the two caused as they lead an investigation into a Chinese criminal syndicate involving slave labor and smuggling. During their investigation into the world of Chinese triad gangs, Riggs and Murtaugh also endure some changes in their personal life as the former learns he is going to be a father while the latter is going to be a grandfather. While Murtaugh tries to find out who is the father of his new grandchild that only Riggs, Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), and Murtaugh’s family know, Riggs ponders about being a father as well as marrying Lorna as he wonders if it will dishonor the union he previously had with his first wife a long time ago. Yet, the two are joined by Detective Lee Butters (Chris Rock) in the case with help from friend Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) who has become a private detective in uncovering this Chinese smuggling ring as they deal with a ruthless triad negotiator in Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li).

The film’s screenplay retains many elements of the first three films that were very lively and fun yet it lacks substance where it wants to be funny as well as be an action film. There’s no balance to the script which really hurts the story while some of the humor at times can get meandering such a scene where Butters and Getz complain about cell phones that goes on for too long. It’s among the issues that the film has as well as gags about some of the extra money that Murtaugh has been carrying which Riggs has been asking about. Still, there’s aspects of the script that is compelling such as Riggs’ anxiety about having a family as well as the fact that he is getting older which makes him insecure about his duties as a cop. With Murtaugh there for him, Riggs copes with these changes as he also helps Murtaugh cope with becoming a grandfather. There’s also a subplot where Murtaugh finds a Chinese family whom he takes in as he feels like he’s making a difference. All of which leads to this showdown between the LAPD and this Chinese triad organization.

Richard Donner’s direction is quite frenetic in terms of its action sequences as it opens with this rainy scene where Riggs and Murtaugh try to subdue a pyromaniac. It all plays into the sense of elaborate approach to action with doses of humor as it’s clear that Donner wants to kick the film off with a bang. While Donner wants to maintain that balance between humor, action, and suspense in his compositions and set pieces, he doesn’t succeed entirely due to the messiness of the script. Though many of the shots he creates doesn’t do anything new, some of it does feel uninspired where Donner wants to put more humor where it tends to drag the film at times. Still, there’s elements of the film that are engaging such as Murtaugh bonding with a Chinese man whose family he took in as well as Riggs dealing with the expectations of fatherhood and being there for Lorna who occasionally helps out in the investigation. Yet, Riggs and Murtaugh have to do whatever to protect those they care about in a very sprawling climax involving gunfights and kung fu as it shows that if they’re going to do something stupid. They’ll do it together and do it with style. Overall, Donner creates an enjoyable though overly familiar film about two guys leading the way to face off a Chinese criminal organization.

Cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak does excellent work with the look of the nighttime exterior scenes such as the opening sequence while taking the advantage to use stylish lighting schemes for some of its interiors. Editors Frank J. Uroste, Dallas Puett, Kevin Stitt, and Eric Strand do nice work with the editing as it‘s straightforward in terms of its fast-paced cutting approach to action while slowing things down for the suspenseful moments of the film. Production designer J. Michael Riva, with art directors David F. Klassen and Richard F. Mays and set decorator Lauri Gaffin, does fantastic work with the renovated looks of Riggs‘ trailer home and Murtaugh‘s home as well as the Chinese restaurants in Chinatown.

Costume designer Ha Nguyen does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the clothes that Ku wears that is more traditional Chinese gear to display his ferocity. Visual effects supervisor Michael L. Fink does wonderful work with the minimal visual effects which involves much of the film‘s action sequences including the opening scene. Sound designer John Pospisll, along with sound editors Mark A. Mangini and George Simpson, does superb work with the layers of sound from the waves of explosions and fisticuffs as well as the layers of gunfire and things that occur in the different locations of the film. The film’s music by Eric Clapton, Michael Kamen, and David Sanborn is pretty good for its mixture of blues, orchestral, and jazz to play into some humor and suspense along with some blues-based cuts by Clapton while the film‘s soundtrack features songs from War and Van Halen with vocals by Gary Cherone.

The casting by Marion Dougherty is brilliant as it features notable small roles from Conan Lee as a triad leader that Ku wants to free, Eddy Ko as a man named Hong that Murtaugh meets as he takes him and his family to his home, Kim Chan in a hilarious performance as a triad boss named Uncle Benny, Calvin Jung as a detective who knows a lot about the Chinese world and their tactics, Ebonie Smith and Damon Hine in their respective roles as Murtaugh’s younger children Carrie and Nick, Traci Wolfe as Murtaugh’s eldest daughter Rianne who is pregnant, and Mary Ellen Trainor as Dr. Stephanie Woods whom Riggs decides to harass in a humorous manner after she refuses to help him. Steve Kahan is terrific as Captain Murphy who would promote Riggs and Murtaugh to captains in the hope they can do less damage and lead the investigation due to insurance reasons. Darlene Love is excellent as Murtaugh’s wife who would help Lorna and Rianne with their pregnancies as well as deal with the Chinese family that is staying with them as she raises question about all the money she and her husband have been giving away.

Rene Russo is superb as Lorna Cole as Riggs’ girlfriend as she ponders if he will marry her as she begins to embrace the idea of motherhood while helping Riggs and Murtaugh with bits on the case. Jet Li is fantastic as the ruthless Triad negotiator Wu who is a true master of kung fu as he proves to be a very challenging opponent for everyone involved. Chris Rock is pretty good as Detective Lee Butters who aids Riggs and Murtaugh in the case as he provides some funny moments while making Murtaugh uncomfortable in how affectionate he is towards him suggesting that Butters is gay. Joe Pesci is wonderful as Leo Getz as a longtime friend turned private detective who also help out in finding clues while being put into some very dangerous and funny situations. Finally, there’s Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in amazing performances in their respective roles as Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh as two men who not only cope with old age but also personal changes in their lives as they try to take down a Chinese criminal organization in the only way they can which is through mayhem.

Lethal Weapon 4 is an entertaining yet flawed film from Richard Donner that features excellent performances from Mel Gibson and Danny Glovers. Along with a strong supporting cast that features Jet Li in his American film debut, it’s a film that has things that made audiences love those character though the story is lacking in times in terms of creating a tighter story as it ends up being more of a comedy than an action film. In the end, Lethal Weapon 4 is a worthwhile yet messy film from Richard Donner.

Richard Donner Films: (X-15) - (Salt and Pepper) - (Twinky) - (The Omen) - (Superman) - (Inside Moves) - (The Toy) - (The Goonies) - (Ladyhawke) - Lethal Weapon - (Scrooged) - Lethal Weapon 2 - (Radio Flyer) - Lethal Weapon 3 - (Maverick) - (Assassins) - (Conspiracy Theory) - (Timeline) - (16 Blocks) - (Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut)

© thevoid99 2014


Dell said...

To be honest, this is my favorite of the franchise. One huge reason is that in addition to the usual great chemistry between the main players, Jet Li was breathtaking.

thevoid99 said...

It may be the weakest of the four but I still think it's fun. Plus, how can you not love Jet Li kicking ass?