Into a drug plot are drawn
A father, a nut, and a con.
These unlikely three
Prove a sequel can be
Even funnier than the first one.
MPAA rating: R
Earlier this year, I enjoyed a little marathon of the Lethal Weapon movies, at least the first three and part of the fourth. (I probably didn’t miss much with 4.) Unfortunately, too much time has passed for me to feel like I can write about most of them, but that time has proven something to me that I suspected at the time too: the second film is the best. How do I know that? Because it’s the one I still remembered months later, and a more recent viewing confirmed how funny and enjoyable an actioner it is.
The first film was a solid buddy-cop tale that established the odd couple chemistry of Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), but it was rather depressing with Riggs’ suicidal tendencies and a less-than-memorable climax. (Mud-wrestling, wasn’t it?) Without the need to introduce the leads and their relationship, Lethal Weapon 2 picks up right from the start with Riggs and Murtaugh in a thrilling car chase that exemplifies the humor of their quirky partnership, summed up by Riggs as “We’re back, we’re bad, you’re black, I’m mad.” This time, the two cops are pitted against ruthless, racist South African drug dealers, which worked well for the time since the film was released during the height of apartheid when South Africa was viewed in villainous terms anyway.
While Riggs and Murtaugh could have carried the film on their own, the writers (Shane Black and Warren Murphy) add in a third unlikely partner in Joe Pesci’s neurotic book-cooker Leo Getz, whom the duo are ordered to protect as a witness. The odd couple are even more entertaining as an odd trio, and Leo brings another great slant of humor to the proceedings with his constant, semi-annoying catchphrase of “Okay, okay, okay, okay!” Luckily, Riggs and Murtaugh are no less entertaining too, with Riggs still his devil-may-care self and Murtaugh playing the weary straight man to these two eccentrics. It’s telling too that the next two sequels kept Pesci around for no other reason than to uphold the buddy triangle from this movie.
The villains are still menacing and merciless, particularly in relation to Riggs’ past, but the film never forgets to have fun with its buddy cop conventions. It’s full of memorable scenes, from earnest ones like Riggs’ discussion of his late wife to action ones like the nail gun ambush to hilarious ones like Murtaugh’s unfortunate encounter with a toilet and his priceless visit to the South African consulate.
As much as I prefer it without the violence and profanity, Lethal Weapon 2 is undeniably entertaining, and I stand by the idea that a film’s virtues can be measured by how well it’s remembered months or years later. That’s why only Lethal Weapon 2 makes my list and why it’s the member of the franchise to which I’ll most readily return.
Best line: (Dr. Stephanie Woods, after Riggs hurts himself to win a bet) “Why do you do this to yourself, Riggs?” (Riggs) “Well, who else am I supposed to do it to? None of them’ll let me. Besides, I need the money.”
© 2016 S.G. Liput
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