Lethal Weapon 4
Rating -

Action (US); 1998; Rated R; 127 Minutes

Mel Gibson: Martin Riggs
Danny Glover: Roger Murtagh
Joe Pesci: Leo Getz
Rene Russo: Lorna Cole
Chris Rock: Lee Butters
Jet Li: Wah Sing Ku

Produced by Dan Cracchiolo, Richard Donner, Spencer Franklin, J. Mills Goodloe, Jennifer Gwartz, Steve Perry, Ilyse A. Reutlinger, Joel Silver and Jim Van Wyck; Directed by Richard Donner; Screenwritten by Jonathan Lemkin, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Channing Gibson

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"Leo: I'm Leo Getz, private investigator.
Riggs: Private investigator, huh? I was wondering if you could investigate my privates."
- Dialogue from "Lethat Weapon 4"

The minute those lines are played is the minute that all the fun stops. Film franchises aren't normally decent ones because of formulaic scripts, but the "Lethal Weapon" one has remained strong over the years despite the typical series flaws. Who really cares about uninspired scripts when the chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover heats up? Reflect for a moment on all the previous "Lethal Weapon" films, and seriously wonder if that stuff really matters.

In a franchise like "Lethal Weapon," the characters and action scenes are so nostalgically brilliant that it succeeds even though it is formulaic. Great franchises do that, because, if you think about it, 99 percent of them are all similar in content.

As usual in these situations, I went to 'Lethal Weapon 4" with high hopes, even though I knew how things would turn out in the end. Seeing Gibson and Glover on screen together was all that mattered.

But the minute those words came out of Gibson's mouth was the moment that my appreciation for the series decreased about 10 percent. Why? Not only are these lines extremely corny, but also downright unnecessary and perverted, even for a Mel Gibson character. Was this some sort of last-minute add-in to give some pizzazz to the aging script? I presume so.

I wouldn't necessarily degrade a movie just because of one piece of dialogue, but believe me, it wasn't the last thing. One thing that the infamous franchise suffers from is its overwhelming number of characters, and in the fourth installment, even more are introduced. Now these new guys (Chris Rock and Jet Li) aren't that bad, but when put up against the other familiar faces (Gibson, Glover, Pesci and Russo), they're unnecessary. Not only that, they're dwarfed in comparison to the chemistry and actions scenes provided through the main stars. It's okay to have new characters, but in the case here, it may have been wiser to drop one or two from the original lineup.

And the winner for the dubious award of wasted character space is: Joe Pesci, surprisingly. Oh yes, that foul-mouthed, annoying little moppet is at it again, only this time, his lines are even more corny and more annoying, to the point where, for once, you actually can bet sick of him.

I could sit all day and discuss the problems I experienced here, but since I gave the movie two-and-a-half stars, that means there's still something good here.

Three reasons: (1) The action scenes are just spectacular, as is (2) the comedy relief provided by Chris Rock. Heck, (3) some of the story turns are kind of good as well.

That's the extent of it, really. Oh sure, there's all kinds of quirks and tidbits that are worth smiling at, but nothing like the original movies, really.

The new "Lethal Weapon," as were the first three, is directed by Richard Donner, who also, in the past, gave us classics like "The Goonies" and "The Omen." To say the least, he's a fabulous director, and perhaps his problem here lies elsewhere.

Reports state that the most recent "Lethal Weapon" film was rushed for release, and perhaps that's the exact cause of flaw. Several things could have been done differently, and several things could have been done better. But let's face it, it could have been worse.

It's the Gibson and Glover and chemistry that keeps it alive. Make ten more "Lethal Weapon" movies, and they'll be good, just as long as both of these guys are there.

But thanks to the pointless turns of the newest entry to the series, are both Gibson and Glover getting to old for this "sh**?"

1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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