Warner Bros. // 1989 // 118 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // June 8th, 2000
The boys are back.
Two years after the first Lethal Weapon comes a bigger, more-bang-for-the-buck sequel. It's still the same guys with a new "buddy" added to the mix, this time in a politically dated yet interesting tale of dealing with evil South African apartheid enthusiasts. Well, they're also drug dealers and murderers so they obviously have to be stopped, but the political dimension of this entry in the franchise can't be discounted. Like the first film, this one is an action movie where the police step outside the boundaries of law enforcement to stop some truly evil people, and we cheer them all the way. A very good, but not great addition to the Lethal franchise, but still worth a look, especially with this new DVD release containing bonus footage, a better picture, twin DD and DTS 5.1 soundtracks, and an extra or two.
Lethal Weapon was a really special movie; one of the best buddy movies around, with plenty of action, a fair amount of humor, and lots of chemistry. This time the emphasis is more on the action and humor, though there is still enough emotional baggage to deal with.
We left off with Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) finally becoming real friends and Riggs beginning to recover from the loss of his wife. Still edgy, but downright sane compared to the suicidal Riggs of the first picture. Of course the characters had to grow and progress, but thankfully not too much.
Per Action Movie 101, we must begin the film with an action set piece. This one is actually pretty special as it indeed has something to do with the story, rather than being a cheap few minutes to get the adrenaline pumping. After plenty of car crashes, the pair discover a trunk full of gold coins of South African mintage. Supposedly taken off the case, the two are right back on when their assignment of guarding a federal witness turns out to have a lead on the very South Africans they are looking for. Typically the bad guys try to intimidate the good guys and thereby give even more clues to track them down with, leading to a sticky twist in the story: the bad guys appear to all be part of the South African consulate and therefore enjoy diplomatic immunity from any prosecution. Further intimidation on both sides escalates into a war against the police, and of course Riggs and Murtaugh are just the men to fight the war outside the boundaries of the badge. Expect lots of gunfire, crashes, and explosions along the way, just like we guys like it.
The major new element is the addition of Joe Pesci (My Cousin Vinny, GoodFellas, Casino) as Leo Getz (Whatever you need, Leo Getz...get it?), an accountant without scruples who launders money and steals from the people he is laundering for. Despite this shady background, he manages to ingratiate himself in with our heroes and provides a lot of comic relief in this and the other two sequels. He is at his best in this, his first appearance; I still laugh at his diatribe against buying fast food through the drive thru window.
I strongly recommend you see the first movie before watching this one. The film definitely has it in mind that you already know the main characters and what has happened to them, so they can progress the friendship and the partners without rehashing what has gone before. The time taken up by that character development is now used for more action set pieces and quirky humor. Still, there is some emotion as I said, as Riggs finds out just who is responsible for his present fate, and even drives another nail into his battered psyche. Still, the boys will be ready for Lethal Weapon 3 as you knew they would, and I'll be reviewing that entry right away.
Okay, the movie is formulaic, an almost straight out action movie. Just grab hold of your seat and go along for the ride, and you'll get some thrills and laughs along the way. On that level the film works great and I still enjoy seeing it. No, it doesn't have the impact and memorability of the first one, but that's pretty typical of sequels, and the movie is fine as it is.
This is the director's cut of the film, where about four minutes of extra scenes are spliced back into the film. None are earth shattering, but does add a bit of humor and gives Joe Pesci another scene. The added footage in this one doesn't make as big of a difference than it did in the first film, but it's nice just to have it anyway. I should mention now that the menus on all three of these Lethal Weapon re-releases are first rate; on a par with the deluxe treatment MGM gives its Bond discs.
This film too was a very early release on DVD by Warner, and was not very good in its first incarnation. The non-anamorphic transfer (despite being advertised as anamorphic) was a straight rehash of the laserdisc and it showed. Finally things are put right with this new anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. Again the use of a dual layered disc allows more room for the picture to fit, and it is a big improvement. Ironically, it isn't quite as good as the new transfer for the older first movie, but it is still very good. Colors are well saturated, there are few artifacts or digital problems, and the source print had little to no defects such as nicks and only a little grain. The area where this transfer doesn't quite match up is in the area of shadow detail and the film is a little dark. I still think the movie looks great, but I did notice that the picture is a little soft and shadow detail not quite as good.
The DTS 5.1 soundtrack is excellent, with a great mix in the front soundstage and aggressive use of surrounds. Dialogue is always clearly understood, and the score by Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton really comes alive. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track suffered from a bit of crackling in dialogue, and didn't have quite the presence in the musical score, but otherwise was identical to the DTS. Fidelity and accuracy was great, but especially in the DTS track. Expect the subwoofer to light up the night with some wall shaking action, but then again you knew that.
Except for the additional footage, this is very light on extras. Cast and crew info for Gibson, Glover, Pesci, and producer Joel Silver, the theatrical trailer, and a 4-minute featurette on a few of the stunts is what we get. Too bad Warner couldn't also offer a booklet of production notes since they use the snapper case. (*Hint*)
I don't have any complaints with the film; it is what it is, and often I like a movie like this where I eat too much popcorn and just enjoy the show. The acting is fine, the villains sufficiently creepy, and the chemistry is still there.
I think the idea here is for everyone to own all four of the Lethal franchise, as each offers slightly different extras, all have added scenes, and Lethal Weapon 4 has most of the extras. Speaking for myself, I got Lethal 4 free as a promotion when I bought my last player, and am now glad to own the other three. Fans of the series will want all of them.
Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are indeed back, and I am happy to have seen a good production of this film on DVD, and look forward to checking out the third entry. Warner gets an acquittal as well for a re-release of a film that needed a better DVD presentation, and got it.
Review content copyright © 2000 Norman Short; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Cast and Crew Info