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  Lethal Weapon 4 The Mirth Of Fourth
Year: 1998
Director: Richard Donner
Stars: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li, Steve Kahan, Kim Chan, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Eddy Ko, Jack Kehler, Calvin Jung, Damon Hines, Ebonie Smith, Mary Ellen Trainor, Steven Lam, Michael Chow, Tony Keyes, Richard Riehle
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cop partners Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) have been called out to combat a maniac dressed in bulletproof and fireproof clothes who is alternately firing off a machine gun and using a powerful flamethrower in downtown Los Angeles. Riggs is convinced that if they creep up on this criminal - in their patrol car - they will be able to run him over, but it does not work out that way as he does indeed notice them and starts targeting their vehicle. As the two cops cower behind their bullet-ridden and singed vehicle, they have news for one another: Lorna (Rene Russo), Riggs' girlfriend, is pregnant, and Murtaugh's eldest daughter is pregnant too…

And that's not even what this third Lethal Weapon sequel was about, it was a mere subplot to warm the cockles of the audience's heart, with flamethrower guy forgotten within nanoseconds of his arrest. The reason the whole affair seemed so patchwork in construction was because it was rushed into release for a big Warners' blockbuster in the lucrative summer period, and that they were writing the script as they went along: seriously, they might as well have been improvising scenes for all the consistency it held. Nevertheless, thanks to the franchise being popular it was a hit, if not quite as big a hit as the other entries, which may be why the next decade held no Lethal Weapon 5.

Well, that and other reasons, like Gibson wanting to spread his wings as director, then getting into a scandal or two which suggested he had better lay off the sauce if he wanted to retain his position as a box office star. Glover, meanwhile, rose above all that with an increasing selection of character roles which lent his gravitas and nose for a good gag to a number of properties large and small. It was remarkable that this franchise lasted four instalments with a solid personnel line-up and very little variation, so much so that it was maybe not a huge surprise that it was turned into a television series a couple of decades later, as the violence and swearing aside, it was like a running TV show.

Complete with running jokes, sitcom-like variations between elaborate set-ups and gloopy sentimentality, and characters who became like part of the family to regular viewers (these got a lot of repeat viewings on home video, and still do). It did end differently from how it began, less gritty, less brutal, more emphasis on humour, and you can understand why some fans preferred the original, but it had been the defining buddy movie series of the late eighties-nineties, and thanks to regularly appearing on television where they are an easy watch, it is still very popular. But no thanks to part 4, which may have seen director Richard Donner holding it together, yet its abundant humorous sequences came across as hacky shtick rather than ribtickling examples of coruscating wit and repartee.

There was also a strange conflict, where Donner smuggled in his right-on messages as was his wont, but the way the story, such as it was, played out was against all that. The plot had Chinese Triads people trafficking and counterfeiting, which made this look like an early instance of Hollywood pandering to the Asian market where there were massive profits to be made should you hit big; though they had recruited a Hong Kong megastar with Jet Li for their villain, he was a mere gimmick present to drum up interest for his much-desired Western career, something that didn't last too long and never quite took. This was not an anti-immigrant tale, however, as Murtaugh takes pity on a refugee family and conceals them in his house (!), despite Gibson's loosely anti-Chinese quips throughout. Chris Rock was also here as a younger detective Murtaugh thinks is in love with him for no other reason than it was residue from an unused subplot, though Rock is actually playing his secret son-in-law. See how messily contrived this was? The action remained of a high standard, but the rest was all over the place. Music by Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton and David Sanborn.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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