My Summer of Lethal Weapon: an Introduction

by Will Mann

Warning: These posts contain spoilers for the Lethal Weapon movies. Of course, the newest one is 20 years old.

This May, I went to a screening of the first Lethal Weapon movie, which I had never seen before, at my local Alamo Drafthouse in Ashburn, VA. I went in a little skeptical: could this movie hold up 30 years after its release? I left my screening relieved and amazed, I absolutely loved the first Lethal Weapon.

Lethal Weapon, for those that don’t know, was the buddy cop movie that redefined the buddy cop movie. Starring a young Mel Gibson as the young, unpredictable Martin Riggs, and Danny Glover as the aging cop who is “getting to old for this shit,” Roger Murtaugh, the film helped solidify Gibson’s star-status and created new genre tropes for a genre that had already been well-worn by the time 1987 rolled around. Directed by the great Richard Donner (Superman, The Omen, The Goonies), the film was a massive success and the first in a series that eventually had 4 installments.

And knowing what I knew about this series, I was expecting something a little more humorous for the first installment. The fact that the introduction of this film is a beautiful young woman committing suicide off a tall skyscraper was a little bit off-putting considering the film I thought I’d be getting. But that’s not a bad thing! Honestly, as someone who had never seen these movies before, one of the things that most struck me was Riggs’ battle with depression after losing his wife. I think the moments in the film that work best actually involve Riggs’ mental state. Mel Gibson brings a real gravity to a seen where he’s seen aiming a gun at himself, and for a split second, despite all the sequels and everything, you think he might actually do it. That is probably what surprised me the most: that despite what I had received through cultural osmosis, Lethal Weapon was grittier than I was originally led to believe. In fact, there are elements of it that are straight-up dark! The torture scenes at the very end are hard to watch.

And then there’s what established these series: the two leads, and what they are able to bring to their two respective roles. The best scenes are Glover’s Murtaugh and Gibson’s Riggs learning about each other, building a rapport with one another. The film isn’t perfect (I could’ve used some more development with the villains, and the end fight between Riggs and Joshua WHILE THE REST OF THE DEPARTMENT JUST WATCHES seems a bit over-the-top) but overall, there isn’t a whole lot that I can easily point out as being flaws with this movie.

Because of this wonderful experience watching the first installment for the first time, I wanted to watch all the sequels, so here are my thoughts, usually recorded within a day or two of the initial viewing, as I completed my summer of Lethal Weapon!

Check out Will’s thoughts on Lethal Weapon 2, coming tomorrow!

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