Film, Go To

GO-TO: Lethal Weapon (1987) dir. Richard Donner

Screens 12/25 @ Brattle


The magic of Lethal Weapon— what Richard Donner captured between Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, between crime thrills and comedic antics, the electric chemistry between the characters and the city– has graced all the flash and beauty of the film industry since. Tied with a Christmastime bow, Lethal Weapon became the buddy cop cornerstone in how it captured odd couple comedy tied with chase sequences and Los Angeles criminality, with a warm heartbeat and a glorious sense of humor. 

Studio action thrillers often bore me easily, the ones that are clumsily strung upon CGI antics and throwaway attempts at comedic dialogue, with nothing genuine underneath. So many of these films appear to me as faltered attempts at capturing what Lethal Weapon did, but lacking the essential chemistry and narrative pull that makes Lethal Weapon so undeniably fantastic. Yes, Lethal Weapon is a flashy, thrilling good time, but it is also filled with really important substance. The bond between Sergeant Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and Sergeant Riggs (Mel Gibson) becomes more than silly back-and-forth fodder, and morphs into a heartwarming (but not at all sappy) tale of friendship, two men who are total opposites in every way, saving each other in more ways than one. I struggle to not sound clichéd when I talk about their platonic love story! The family Riggs is able to find in Murtaugh’s, following the death of his wife, is what makes their cases and adventures so constantly compelling, throughout each new narrative. 

Though hammy at times, Sergeant Riggs’ origin story is what drives the narrative, and that of every sequential film in the series. After the untimely death of his wife, Riggs becomes suicidal and unpredictable, and moves from the narcotics division to the homicide division after a shooting incident. He is partnered with Murtaugh, an older detective, aching for retirement and exhausted and displeased with Riggs. But over the course of the adventures the two have throughout the film, the connection formed despite their endless bickering is so important to both their lives. Beyond their unlikely yet incredible friendship, the delectable comedic timings between the two make Lethal Weapon such a timelessly funny romp. Lethal Weapon doesn’t need famous comedians or constant one-liners to be amusing, because the Murtaugh/Riggs pairing plays humorous enough, from intense chases to police station shenanigans and dramatic shootouts. 

The wrapping of budding friendship after adversity with found family and a scattered sense of belonging is what drives the Lethal Weapon narrative. This beautiful match is buoyed by Gibson and Glover’s fantastic performances and chemistry, bringing Riggs and Murtaugh to such brilliant, hilarious life. If I had my way, Lethal Weapon would be the quintessential Christmastime action film, no longer overshadowed by the love for Die Hard. Still, Lethal Weapon is a classic. It’s all about friendship, family wherever you find it, and plenty of thrilling action sequences. What more could you want for Christmas?

Lethal Weapon
dir. Richard Donner
110 min.

Screens Monday, 12/25, 4:30pm & 9:15pm @ Brattle Theatre
Double feature w/
Part of the repertory series Warner Brothers in the ’80s: Enter the Blockbuster

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