Classic Intel: Lethal Weapon 4 - DVD Review

'a massive amount of pyrotechnics, a load of silly stunts and a whip smart script'

Remember when Rene Russo was on cinema screens all the time? And when no-one knew quite how mad, Mad Mel was? And when Danny Glover didn't have to do this sort of stuff to get a decent pay check?

The time you're thinking of may well have been 1998, a year which saw Lethal Weapon 4 shooting on to cinema screens with a massive amount of pyrotechnics, a load of silly stunts and a whip smart script which featured much of the wisecracking now associated with series creator Shane Black, even if he is only listed with a 'characters' credit on this occasion.

The actual scriptwriter, Channing Gibson, keeps the tone that Lethal Weapon 3 had established; this is a loud and proud buddy comedy with a large helping of action and very little of the darkness present in both the second and, in particular, the first entry in the franchise. The very first scene, which has a great filming location and is evocatively lit at night by a massive flamethrower, sets the tone well and provides stupid action in conjunction with cleverly scripted jokes and Danny Glover in a pair of boxer shorts.

Setting a film up with a huge set piece would leave other productions floundering for material later on but director Richard Donner follows memorable moment with memorable moment. A chase through Chinatown has some of the script's best lines ('you have the right to remain silent, so shut the f**k up!'), whilst a fist battle at Murtaugh's (Glover) house shows off the skills of Donner's ace-in-the-hole, Jet Li.

Li, now a familiar face and name in Hollywood, was appearing in his first Western production and shows off skills reminiscent of contemporaries Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. To an audience with very little knowledge of him, Li was an effective villain, menacing, near-silent and highly skilled and he helps Lethal Weapon 4 to move along satisfactorily, never looking like the pushover-style villain present in so many 1990s action films.

In and amongst the great fights and hilarious dialogue, there's an awful jazz-inflected score which makes the film sound like a 1970s porno. In fact, the more technical aspects of Donner's film are its main downfall - on several occasions the editing is way off, most notably at the end of the house fight scene, where Wah Sing Ku (Li) kicking the pregnant Lorna (Russo) was obviously deemed too shocking to show and is edited out in a 'we hope they don't notice' kind of way.

For an action-comedy though, this does its job in a similarly effective way to the Shane Black written/directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and going back to see Gibson and Glover on top form is a joy.

Look further...

'When Li is center screen, the ooofs and arggghs of Gibson and Glover add about as much to the ambiance as the hoked-up grunts of professional wrestlers' - Entertainment Weekly (1998), C

No comments:

Post a Comment