March 9, 2020
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Grade: 52/100

Director: Richard Donner
Stars: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey

What it's about. Family man and middle-aged cop Danny Glover is compelled to take on a new partner: suicidal and risk-taking Mel Gibson. They are assigned to investigate the death of a young model (Jackie Swanson).

The model's father, Tom Akins, tells Glover that a heroin cartel is behind her death. Gibson and Glover take down the cartel, headed by arrogant businessman Mitchell Ryan and his tough guy right-hand man, Gary Busey.

How others will see it. Lethal Weapon was a crowd pleaser and a considerable commercial success. The global gross of 120M led to three sequels, all starring Gibson and Glover. Critical reaction was mixed (the sole Oscar nod was in the Best Sound category), but viewers continue to enjoy the film. At, the movie has a big 225K user votes, and the user rating of 7.6 (out of 10) is high, and consistent across all demographics.

User reviews are predominantly positive. "One of the greatest cop movies of all time!", "Best cop film of the 1980s", etc. Viewers know that the action is exaggerated, and the story is formula. But they don't care. In fact, it is what they came to see.

How I felt about it. It doesn't take long for Lethal Weapon to annoy me. During the opening credits, "Jingle Bell Rock" is played. It does feature the original singer, Bobby Helms, but it is a later and lesser remake of the classic 1957 version.

Lethal Weapon has to rank among the most implausible films that I have seen. Mostly, it is one preposterous scene after another, until the running time is consumed. The nonsense begins with a topless model blissfully beaming before jumping to her death from a high rise balcony. The suicidal cop ponders suicide with a handgun for several minutes. Later, his buddy cop partner encourages him to shoot himself.

Despite a known suicidal risk, Gibson's character time and again is placed in a situation where he could jeopardize both himself and others, such as stopping a rooftop jumper. He jumps with the jumper ... into an inflated air bag, ignored by the two suicidal men until after they jump. The scene with Michael Hunsaker spilling all to Danny Glover seems copied after a "Perry Mason" courtroom confession, except for the helicopter that comes out of nowhere to shoot down Hunsaker but not Glover.

This is one of those movies where the bad guys capture the cop heroes, and the cop's hottie daughter (Traci Wolfe), but don't kill the cops or rape the daughter, because that would go against audience wishes. Do you really think that Busey wouldn't off Gibson himself, instead of leaving the room and the task to his pencil-necked assistant? Is it really Glover's plan to get his daughter back from a slew of cold-blooded killers by brandishing a hand grenade?

More than once in this film, cops shoot at a bad guy even when innocents (including the hottie teen daughter) are in the line of fire. A body won't stop a bullet. It will pass through the soft tissue, exit, and enter the person behind him.

This is the sort of movie where the bad guys wait until the buddy cops are on Dixie's lawn before blowing up her house. Why was Dixie killed at all? Wouldn't she simply lie to the cops again? Busey would attach bombs to the house in daylight with children watching him? And all the cops let Gibson and Busey fight it out instead of arresting Busey? Why? Busey might kill Gibson. And they can't question Busey if Gibson kills him instead, which is what eventually happens.

In addition to all the improbably action sequences, the film reeks of buddy cop formula. The new partner is unstable, the two of them (instead of the entire city police department) is after the biggest and baddest heroin smugglers of all time. The two cops, by themselves, take down the entire operation in about two days.

Gibson is supposed to be a Vietnam special forces veteran. If he was 22 in 1969, he would be 40 in 1987. But his character is young enough to be a crush for Glover's teen daughter.