- Lethal Weapon 4 -

Lethal Weapon 4… The Encore
 - By Bill Miller -

The popular "Lethal Weapon" comic-action series is back for more, with number four.  This trilogy-plus-one began in 1987 and has steamrolled its way into the '98 summer season.  Under the same Richard Donner direction as the first three, "Lethal Weapon 4" is right on target.

The cast once again features the well-seasoned, sergeant-sidekicks of Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover).  Adding new life to the series is Lee Butters (comedian Chris Rock), a young detective and the not-so-secret-son-in-law of Sgt. Murtaugh.  Mr. Butters and the sergeant's pregnant daughter, Reann, are about to make Murtaugh a Grandpa (who is purposely unaware of the wedlock or the father's identity).  Parenthood, also approaches for Riggs and girlfriend Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), the Internal Affairs agent introduced in "Lethal Weapon 3."  Then there is Leo "okay, okay, okay" Getz (Joe Pesci, LW2 & LW3) the money-launderer-turned-gumshoe who once again supplies comic relief.

The film is laced with camaraderie and is able to boast anti-slavery and family-first values, but PARENTS BEWARE!  Extreme violence and excessive language mandate an R rating.  Stabbing, strangulation, hand-to-hand combat, shootouts, and flame-throwing fires are all present in this properly named, Lethal picture.  Attracting and creating most of the violence is Chinese warlord Wah Sing Ku (Asian star Jet Li, making his American film debut).  This movie might sound like a really long test of the Emergency Broadcast System if all the foul language is "beeped" out.  The "f" word surfaces more than thirty times and is well supported by other offensive phrases and choice profanity.

"Lethal Weapon 4" does feature the same hilarious lunacy (primarily supplied by Gibson) that made the series so successful.  The reason Sgt. Murtaugh hasn't been told about his daughter's secret marriage is because he's adamant that she not marry a cop.  Butters has been giving Sgt. Murtaugh special attention, trying to earn his respect and approval.  However, Riggs has convinced his partner that Butters is seeking homosexual affection.  This humorous misconception provides plenty of laughs.  Adding to the festivities is an outrageous interrogation in a dentist's office involving laughing gas.  Throw in a tickling tirade between Rock and Pesci about cellular phones, and the film becomes a lethal comedy.

The plot is weak and underdeveloped, even by Lethal Weapon standards.  Asian mobsters involved in counterfeiting and slave smuggling… yada, yada, yada.  Who cares?  The plot merely serves as a venue to showcase the onscreen relationships fans have grown to love.  I kept getting the feeling that LW4 was just an excuse to bring this colorful cast together again.  I did enjoy it, and it will be successful -- but it doesn't quite measure up to the first three. 

The trilogy: five stars.  The encore… four.

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