Warner Bros. // 1989 // 114 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // November 7th, 2006
"I'm not a cop tonight, Rog. This is personal." -- one of many one-liners uttered by Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson, Braveheart) in the Lethal Weapon quadrilogy.
They're bad, they're bad, one's black, one's mad. The dynamic duo of Riggs and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover, Witness) returned for the first of three sequels in the Lethal Weapon franchise, directed by Richard Donner (16 Blocks) and written by Jeffrey Boam (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Does Lethal Weapon 2 still hold up and how does it look on HD DVD?
Step back in time with me to 1989, where jokes about Sony buying a lot of established American brands were still fresh as the morning honeysuckles, and the South African government was still practicing a wacky thing called apartheid (which amounted to racism, for those of you too young to remember) and they were banned from a lot of economic activities, including the commerce of krugerrands. While chasing a couple of bad guys in a car chase, Riggs and Murtaugh find one of the cars is loaded with them.
On the evil flip side, there are some nasty South African diplomats in California, namely Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland, K-19: The Widowmaker) and his henchmen, including a rather hard-assed looking Pieter Vorstedt, who I always thought was played by David Warner, but in actuality is portrayed by Derrick O'Connor (Daredevil). As part of the LAPD's pursuit to capture the bad guys, Riggs runs into an attractive South African woman who works at the consulate, named Rika van den Haas (Patsy Kensit, Bitter Harvest). So with true love in his sights (and Murtaugh still not in retirement yet), it's time for the boys to saddle up for another round of adventure.
After the surprise success of the first Lethal Weapon film, the cast and crew probably were pleased to hear that they would be doing a sequel. But I don't know what happened between the first and second film (other than possibly screenwriter Shane Black (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) perhaps not being as involved or invested in the second film than the first), but all of a sudden, Riggs and Murtaugh found themselves as one of those serialized action duos that fight crimes larger than anyone expected. In a sense, the Lethal Weapon sequels became a "Captain America fights the Nazis" for our time, because well, John Rambo fighting off companies of Russian troops was too silly, so Riggs and Murtaugh fought things like apartheid, gun control, and the scourge of illegal Chinese immigration (or whatever it was the fourth one revolved around, I was too busy watching Jet Li). To the credit of the filmmakers, what they didn't exclude from this film was how Riggs became a little more viewer friendly this go round, as he had become more used to Murtaugh's family, so much so that he was cooking over there, his laundry was done for him, and he had a minor say in what some of the children were doing. In the meantime, more was learned about his character and his personal tragedies that were only briefly covered in the first film.
The relationship between Riggs and Murtaugh (not to mention Gibson and Glover's chemistry) was well-established, they knew each other's ins and outs. So why not throw another character in to see how the chemistry works and use it as a subplot in the film, right? So that's where Leo Getz (Joe Pesci, Goodfellas) comes in. Getz is an accountant who laundered some drug money, and now he's under witness protection. And in the film, Getz does play a larger part that may not be immediately known until later, but Pesci takes the role and fully embraces that he'll be a punching bag for the physical comedy that Gibson and Glover will dish out, but he does get the occasional chance to shine. His thoughts on fast-food drive through outlets became ingrained in the country's subconscious for a little while.
Performance wise, things are perfectly acceptable. As mentioned before, Gibson and Glover pick up where they left off, Pesci is the one to watch in the film, and on the other side of the crime scale, Ackland is your typical bad guy with a bad guy accent and bad guy glare. It's kind of sad that as Gibson's love interest Kensit didn't do more with her big studio role. And damn, man, how did I not know that wasn't David Warner as the hitman? I had a whole bunch of Master Control Program jokes I could have used, now they're all wasted. Oh well, at the end of the day, Lethal Weapon 2 is your fun run of the mill popcorn action film rental.
Surprisingly, the 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen (which is a slight modification from the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 for the film) looks pretty good, with a lot of detail from even the initial scenes, and as a good portion of the film's scenes occur at night, the blacks are pretty deep and the colors are without any bleeding. Upon further review however, there's a lack of depth in some images through the film that I couldn't help but notice. There are scenes (like the first one in Rudd's office where the aquarium is) where detail looks a little rough to the point of pixelization or distortion. The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is a little bit vanilla, as there's simply more score here than I originally remembered. But the many explosions (and there are many) don't pack enough low end punch to rock my socks off.
Not to complain about leaving out the kitschy stuff, but I distinctly remember a making-of on HBO that also served as a gag reel, with other 1987 Warner stalwarts like Chevy Chase and Pee Wee Herman appearing and discussing how frustrating it is when socks lose their elasticity. It's funnier than it reads, believe me. But it goes to a larger gripe; while fun, this disc, regardless of resolution, is barren.
If you're in the market for an '80s action film loaded with extras and sounds great on a home theater system, then this isn't the film for you. It looks good but sonically it's nothing spectacular. Can someone give this franchise some love for God's sake? This is only worth upgrading for the picture, and very little else.
Warner is given credit for time served with their current catalog, but on Lethal Weapon 2, they are clearly found guilty. Court is adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2006 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* "Stunts and Action" Featurette
* Additional Scenes
* Official Site
* Original DVD Verdict Review
* DVD Verdict Lethal Weapon Review
* DVD Verdict Lethal Weapon (HD DVD) Review
* DVD Verdict Lethal Weapon 3 Review
* DVD Verdict Lethal Weapon 3 (Director's Cut) Review
* DVD Verdict Lethal Weapon 4 Review