This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “Lethal Weapon.”
The Movie: “Lethal Weapon”
Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey
Director: Richard Donner
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A veteran policeman, Murtaugh, is partnered with a younger, suicidal officer, Riggs. They both have one thing in common: hating working in pairs. Now they must learn to work with one another to stop a gang of drug smugglers.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83 percent
Froemming: After kicking off 2018 wildly off-course with Michael Jackson’s fever dreams in “Moonwalker,” I decided to go into where we truly shine here at the JOE-DOWN: ‘80s action buddy-cop films. And what better than one that has Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Gary (REDACTED) Busey with a lot of awkward blues riffs peppered in for some effect? Yes, I picked “Lethal Weapon,” a film that launched Gibson to dazzling heights, which lead to a downward spiral of drunken rages that included anti-semitic theories and calling a cop “sugar (REDACTED)” to being redeemed again with “Daddy’s Home 2.”
You know what? He deserves “Daddy’s Home 2.”
But as I realize I am getting too old for this (REDACTED), Brown, why don’t you offer your first thoughts.
Brown: Not a surprise, but Froemming is the Murtaugh to my Riggs.
Sadly, the only “Lethal Weapon” movie I had seen was “Lethal Weapon 3,” where Joe Pesci dyed his hair blonde.
It was a dark time in America.
So this one, I was pretty excited for. Then I realized that it was the second one that had Murtaugh’s classic “… it’s just been revoked” one-liner and I was bummed out again.
And that was just part of the roller-coaster ride that was “Lethal Weapon.”
So Froemming, why don’t you run us through the start, where we see three nude people in six minutes.
Froemming: We start off with a woman clearly high and in some fancy hotel, where she does bumps of cocaine and walks the ledge of her room, playing chicken with gravity like all good cokeheads do.
And, let’s be honest, this scene was lacking the rocking guitar solo “Free Bird” from being Jenny’s attempted suicide scene in “Forrest Gump,” a thing I am tickled we both put in our notes!
Brown: Is “Forrest Gump” a future JOE-DOWN movie? We’ll discuss that in private.
Plus, I think our mystery woman, who has bare breasts in the first shot of this movie for reasons was snorting cut-up pills. There’s pills next to the pile she does her business, but I may very well be wrong.
Froemming: Quick question: If “Die Hard” is considered a Christmas movie, does that mean “Lethal Weapon” is too?
Brown: I don’t think so. They make a bigger deal about Murtaugh’s birthday than they do about Christmas.
Froemming: Welcome to Obama’s America.
Brown: Speaking of Murtaugh, it’s his birthday when we’re introduced to him. You know how we know this? Because his family BARGES into the bathroom while he’s taking a bath to give him his birthday cake.
… Could, could you not wait? You know what I want on my dad’s birthday? Cake.
Know what I don’t want? A glimpse of his naked body underwater.
AND, shortly after this, we meet Riggs, who is buck-ass naked walking around his trailer.
Six minutes. Six minutes in and I have seen/imagined a bunch of nudity with weird transitional jazz sax music.
I had to make sure Netflix hadn’t added adult entertainment to its library.
Froemming: Having rewatched “The Room” last week in Fargo in an actual movie theater, that movie’s three gratuitous sex scenes in the first 20 minutes kinda diminished seeing Gibson’s butt, a druggie’s boobs and Danny Glover in a bathtub as shocking to me. But I was angry that Murtaugh couldn’t enjoy his birthday bath in peace and quiet. Adding insult to injury, his daughter points out his gray beard makes him look old.
Now, Riggs is living a life of squalor and alcoholism, but that’s OK because Mel Gibson is charming. We get this intense moment where he attempts suicide with his special bullet, but thanks to the script, doesn’t pull the trigger because we needed a movie longer than 15 minutes.
So what happens? We get the odd-couple, buddy-cop dynamic that, frankly, this movie actually perfected in my opinion.
Brown: I’ll sum up my thought right here: The dynamic of Glover and Gibson is by far the best part of a movie that is, quite frankly, really dumb.
I mean, I spent time in my notes jotting down how many times in the movie Murtaugh says “I’m too old for this” (answer: three times. At 21 minutes, at 36 minutes and 106 minutes).
And Gibson is clearly a manic-depressive. Note that I said Gibson and not Riggs.
It’s this bizarre elixir that works. Murtaugh’s old-school, six-shooter ways somehow meshes extremely well with Riggs’ loose cannon, Hulk Hogan rage due to his wife dying in a car accident.
Froemming: What was the age difference between them? Because they both served in Vietnam, so Riggs couldn’t have been that much younger than Murtaugh.
Which gets us to the plot. Murtaugh gets a call from an old war buddy the day before Jenny flew too close to the sun on a wicked cocaine high at the start of the movie. Turns out Jenny wasn’t Jenny, she was Amanda Hunsaker, daughter of Michael Hunsaker who saved Murtaugh’s butt in the war.
Yes, this is a very, very stupid film. But at least it is a fun film.
Murtaugh’s goes to the scene where our jumper lost her game of chicken with gravity, and then he goes to the office, where he finds out he is getting a mentally unstable partner in Riggs. Because in the ‘80s, being a suicidal cop with nothing to lose was OK.
Brown: Well, a mentally fragile man is what you need to help get a jumper off a cliff by jumping with him (although there was a stuntman bag they jumped on that our suicidal businessman never saw?). And Riggs did break up a heroin deal thanks to a bloody shootout.
Murtaugh, he’s too old for this (REDACTED). He just enjoys his wife’s terrible roast, his kids’ terrible rapping and his eldest daughter giving his partner the (REDACTED)-me eyes.
Froemming: What lacks for the paper-thin plot is made up with the interaction between these two. Murtaugh makes Riggs come over after said shootout (interestingly, not a lot of paperwork for Rigg’s flippant murder of suspects) to eat his wife’s terrible food. And we get this moment on Murtaugh’s boat between the two, where they are shooting the (REDACTED) and Murtaugh point blank asks Riggs if he is crazy. And Riggs just stares at him like a (REDACTED) psycho before going home to drink himself into a coma.
But the scene works somehow. We get these two feeling each other out, and we start seeing this camaraderie.
Brown: You’re Riggs. You just had an edible dinner with your partner. You cracked open a few beers and shot the (REDACTED).
And then as you leave, you turn to your partner and talk about how you were an elite assassin and start sounding like that homicidal Army kid from “The Punisher” Netflix series… I think you kind of ruined the moment, Riggs.
But I think we should move on and talk about our big bads of the movie. The hired gun of the operation is Gary Busey, with his giant porcelain toilet teeth and ability to hold his arm over an open flame without acknowledging pain.
Froemming: Wait, is this the first time Gary has appeared in the JOE-DOWN? We knocked him and Gibson off in one sitting!
Brown: I believe so. I know we had his son Jake in “Starship Troopers.” Miss you, Dizzy!
Froemming: Now, these baddies are smuggling heroin and are all ex-Special Forces. Which, you know, I buy.
What I don’t (REDACTED) buy is when Murtaugh visits his old war buddy while investigating Amanda’s death and we get this exposition dump about how this black-ops, CIA-funded shadow government was running the war in Vietnam and national policy and are now heroin dealers. I mean, is this where Alex Jones got all his ideas for InfoWars?
Brown: If Hillary Clinton were mentioned, you would have won in a game of Alt-Right Bingo.
Froemming: Well, see everytime Riggs and Murtaugh investigate a person of interest in this case, houses explode and people die. And while confronting Mr. Hunsaker and after his Alt-Right fever dream confession, Gary Busey flies up in a helicopter and straight up shoots the old man! This scene was the first of two where I wrote “that’s not how helicopters work.” This movie makes them seem like the most agile machines ever.
Brown: Well, in the mid-80s, helicopters may have been the most nimble machine ever.
A quick aside: When the person of interest’s house blows up, the only witnesses are a group of six-year-old black kids.
One kid asks, “Mama said policemen shoot black people. Is that true?” … Nope, not getting fired over this.
Second, the kid they pick, Alfred, has photographic memory of the perp’s tattoo, which is the same special forces tattoo Riggs has. Now how in the hell could you see those tattoos and say “Yep, exactly the same!” Riggs’ tattoo was all blurry and faded.
So, when Busey (called Joshua in this movie. But he’s Gary Busey) crashes Amanda’s funeral to kill her old man, I wrote in my notes that this probably wasn’t the first time Gary Busey crashed a funeral with a firearm.
Froemming: They crash the funeral because our main bad guy, General Peter McAllister, suspects Hunsaker spilled the beans to Murtaugh about his involvement (prior to the start of the film), which is why they killed his daughter and killed him with a wildly public assassination via helicopter.
I am starting to suspect that McAllister is not very good at being a crime boss, what with ALL THIS PUBLIC MURDER HAPPENING!
Another thing they add to their list of not-being-very-shadowy is when Riggs and Murtaugh are on the street and Joshua drives up on them and shoots Riggs with a shotgun. An act that has Riggs fly through the air in a dramatic fashion along with some very bad saxophone and blues guitar.
Brown: Blues guitar by ERIC CLAPTON himself! I thought that was a joke. But it’s legit Eric Clapton.
With this, our baddies think Riggs is dead. But in reality, Riggs wore a flak jacket and survived the shotgun blast.
But, Gary Busey knows where Murtaugh lives, which is a terrifying thought for anyone to have. By the time Riggs and Murtaugh get back to the house, Busey has taken Murtaugh’s eldest daughter as a hostage. Eventually, an exchange is set up in the desert. All I could think of is that someone’s going to get buried like “Casino.”
But Murtaugh won’t go alone. Riggs grabs a rifle and wanders the desert alone to find a secluded spot. And the image of Mel Gibson running into the desert like a psycho seems… right.
Froemming: If you told me you saw a gun fight in the desert with Mel Gibson and Gary Busey, I wouldn’t bat an eye.
Murtaugh is trying to get his daughter back while not being killed. As this little meetup proceeds, Riggs begins picking off the bad guys from his hidden area, which was pretty damn cool.
But, much like the Canto Bight scene in “Last Jedi,” everyone gets caught anyway and it comes off as a pointless scene.
Which brings us toward our (REDACTED) insane last third of the film, where I realized the gang from It’s Always Sunny’s “Lethal Weapon 5” was just a remake of this film.
Brown: Which begins with Riggs getting tortured via shock treatment. While a cool scene, all I could think of is “South Park” interpretation of Mel Gibson that is totally (REDACTED) crazy and WAY into torture.
And, Murtaugh is getting beat up pretty good by McAllister and co. because they want to know what Hunsaker told them about their heroin enterprise.
This all comes to a head when Riggs kills the electrocutioner, manages to free Murtaugh and his daughter and culminates in a night club gun fight because… reasons.
Honestly, this movie makes as much sense as this
Froemming: And for reasons that do not make any sense, Busey heads back to Murtaugh’s place….even though this is his chance to just disappear and let this loss go. Yeah, I had no idea why he would double-down here for no reason.
Anyway, the LAPD are there in full force and because Murtaugh says “Nah, it’s cool,” they just let Riggs and Busey have a bare-knuckle fight in Murtaugh’s front (REDACTED) yard, which I am sure probably brought down the property value.
Brown: Around this time, Busey does have my favorite line in the movie. Enjoy:
Confirmed: Gary Busey does not enjoy Christmas.
As for the final fight, my notes: This is the most pointless fight I’ve ever seen in a movie.
There’s even a point where Murtaugh encourages Riggs to break Busey’s neck. That’s… not something a cop should say. I feel like Busey could have gotten off on a technicality there up until he steals a cop’s gun and tries to shoot our duo.
Seriously, what the hell did we witness?
Froemming: Pure 1980s hubris.
So the day is saved, and this little action film would go on to spawn three unnecessary sequels and a TV series.
Let’s hop on my boat, crack a few cold ones and discuss recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Sure. It’s a dumb action flick, but the chemistry between the leads make it work. Also, Gibson has a wicked mullet in this.
Brown: I will recommend only to see the fun chemistry between Gibson and Glover. The rest of the movie is just so, so stupid.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: