Cops Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) have been partners professionally for some time now, but all that's about to change as Murtaugh is planning to retire from the Los Angeles Police Department to spend more time with his family. In fact, he has just over a week to go before he gives it all up for good, so is hoping for a quiet few days at work - hoping against hope, as Riggs has a nose for trouble, and tonight when they arrive at an incident that seems to be handled fine by the officers already on the scene, he insists on entering the evacuated building where a bomb has been found. He could have waited for the bomb squad to arrive, but oh no...
By the time the Lethal Weapon franchise reached its third instalment it was arriving on the circuit like an old friend, the audiences flocking to it knowing the characters and, as if it was a television series, following their adventures as if this were a bunch of weekly stories rather than efforts arriving years apart. Lethal Weapon 2 had been a substantial success, though the humour had been increased to a degree, yet third time around this was far clearer in its intentions to be an action comedy, with plenty of opportunities to restage the tone, if not the letter, of the previous effort's famous "Murtaugh on the toilet" scene and far less time given over to anything in a serious vein.
For instance, though Riggs' deceased wife had been a motivating factor in his mania before, here she wasn't even mentioned, presumably to make the mood less morbid and give some space to his new love interest, Internal Affairs' Lorna Cole, played by ex-model Rene Russo finding a second wind in her career as a selection of wives and girlfriends to established male stars. In this she did at least get to let her hair down and even go into fight sequences (or her stunt double did), when her character's ability to boot bad guys in the groin wins over Riggs (though she doesn't boot him in the groin, so it must be love). The sitcom-style activity here reflected an easing of intensity overall.
Notoriously, Lethal Weapon 3 suffered a troubled production history with rewrites a-plenty, often handed to the cast practically before the cameras were about to roll, not so great if you like a sense of stability and certainty when you're learning your lines and working out what you're supposed to be doing as far as interpretation went. Much of the credit for the end result's relative coherence should go to editors Robert Brown and Battle Davis, as it did feel as if there was enough footage left out to make an entirely new movie from what we got, the whole thing stuffed with incidents, main plots and subplots that somehow were able to click together, though the jigsaw nature of what you were watching was never far away. Inevitably, there were elements that suffered, including a lack of a memorable bad guy.
Stuart Wilson did his best as the crooked cop turned crooked real estate agent turned arms dealer (oh, one of those), but he really didn't receive enough screen time to impress, no matter the sops he was thrown were designed to give him something nasty to do to make him a worthy adversary; however, with almost everything else apart from the subplot about Murtaugh shooting dead a pal of his son delivered in a jokey, chummy approach, you wondered what this evildoer was up to in what, if you took out the swearing, could almost be a kids' action flick. Gibson and Glover enjoyed the same chemistry, and that had them sailing through a pretty bumpy ride that culminated in a pat showdown in a construction site that had the air of "will this do?" about it. But, you know, for all these caveats - and there were many - it was still a Lethal Weapon movie, and those have such a dedicated fanbase that professionalism won the day. Suffice to say, if you liked the others, you would like this. Music by Michael Kamen, David Sanborn and Eric Clapton (even the soundtrack is cluttered).