Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mitchell Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darlene Love, Jackie Swanson, Traci Wolfe, Damon Hines, Ebonie Smith, Steve Kahan, Mary Ellen Trainor, Ed O'Ross, Lycia Naff, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Jason Ronard, Blackie Dammett, Al Leong, Jack Thibeau, Grand Bush
Written by: Shane Black
Directed by: Richard Donner
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 110
Date: 03/06/1987

Lethal Weapon (1987)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Not Too Old for This

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Action movies were big business in the 1980s, but few of them rose to the level of Lethal Weapon, which, as goes the old adage, actually focused on interesting characters that had a strong chemistry. Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is an old fussbudget, newly fifty years old, with a large family, and concerned about staying alive for his retirement.

He is freshly paired with Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), a former Special Forces soldier who has recently lost his wife, lives alone in a trailer, and acts crazy and suicidal; he recklessly risks his life to stop bad guys or get out of a tough situation. (He also loves the Three Stooges.) Together they begin investigating the possible murder of a young woman, whose death was made to look like a suicide. But, of course, there's more to the story. There's a kidnapping, car crashes, and a torture sequence that, weirdly, seems to come back as a theme in much of Gibson's future work.

Screenwriter Shane Black earned a record amount of money for his solid screenplay, and director Richard Donner keeps it going at a fine pace, stopping for moments of humor -- there are many quotable lines -- or moments of character building before jumping back into the crisp action sequences. As with most Shane Black movies, parts of it take place at Christmastime. Lethal Weapon was a massive hit, and Roger Ebert even chose it as one of the ten best films of the year. Three sequels followed, as well as a TV series.

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