Lethal Weapon 4
Reviewed by Chris Edwards
Rating: 4 Beans
he original "Lethal Weapon" ended with a brawl, a bruising, bone-breaking punch-up that ranks up there with the best American movie fights. "Lethal Weapon 4" ends with...a group hug. A big, multi-generational, multi-ethnic, "Cosby Show"-style group hug, all smiles.
Not too many successful movie series milk the franchise for four installments, and when they do, the results are seldom pleasing. The "IV" after the title is usually reserved for low-budget slasher series or movies about ninjas, kickboxers, or kickboxing ninjas. "Lethal Weapon 4" joins that elite company, and it is definitely a case of one trip too many to the well.
The slow metamorposis of the "Lethal Weapon" concept from adult action to buddy comedy comes to completion with this latest outing. Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson, phoning it in), once a suicidal cop who could snap into irrational and glorious mayhem at any second is reduced to a lovable madcap with a penchant for mild mischief. And Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) once a solidly drawn and believable husband, father and cop, is whittled down to a clown figure, doing double takes and slow burns and getting involved in "Three's Company" style hijinx. And if, like me, you thought Joe Pesci's character was an anything but welcome addition to the proceedings in "Weapon"s 2 and 3, you'll be pained to learn he's back, assuring that you can't take the convoluted plot seriously.
Not that the plot matters much. In fact, "Lethal Weapon 4" may be the first movie pieced together from nothing but subplots. The storyline somehow involves triad crime in Chinatown, but it's quickly ditched in favor of cutesy routines and glib remarks-the cops crack wise far more than they crack heads. The action's not bad-a chase here, lots of explosions there, yet another car driven through yet another building, and a highway surfing stunt that must be among the cinema's goofiest set-pieces. Jet Li turns in some fairly impressive moves as a martial arts ace heavy, but any action scenes are diffused by acres of the kind of smug humor normally found only in movies with Burt Reynolds and Dom Deluise in them.
Call it three Beans and one in the chamber for being the one thing an action movie shouldn't be: cute. One thing in its favor-surely this is the first and only movie to show us a pregnant woman beating up a Chinese guy.
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