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I have always been a huge fan of the Lethal Weapon franchise, but it wasn’t until this viewing that I realized how significant these films really are. As if in a cinematic timemachine, I found myself transported back to a world where filmmaking involved massive stunts and setpieces that occurred as seen in camera, not manipulated in Post-Production. This was a time when the buddy cop genre wasn’t a self-serving spoof, but rather, something that could be enjoyed on a level free of cynicism. We just don’t live in a world where movies like this catch on anymore, and for that reason, these are films are worth watching again and again.
Fortunately, Warner Bros. has recently released the Lethal Weapon Collection, a Blu-Ray set packed with everything a fan of the franchise could want. The set contains all four films, and while Parts III and IV might not live up to the incredibly high bar set by the first two, every film in the set is a worthy addition to any film collection. When you factor in the bonus disc of exclusive content, along with the multiple commentary tracks and deleted scenes, this becomes a must-own collection.
Mel Gibson and Danny Glover star in all four films as Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, two mismatched cops forced together in Part I and inseperable by Part IV. At the start of the franchise, Gibson’s portrayal of Riggs is one of the most fascinating aspects of the story. It seems cliche to describe him as a suicidal cop playing by his own rules, but he takes that concept and makes it endlessly compelling. As an audience member, you’re never quite sure what he’ll do next. It’s his willingness to push himself just past where you expect him to go that makes it so you can’t take your eyes off of him.
As the films progress, this aspect of his character fades away, and the relationship between Riggs and Murtaugh takes center stage. You believe these guys have a genuine affection for each other, and it’s this aspect of their relationship that I don’t feel would play as well today. There is genuine chemistry between them. While they are very funny together, the relationship itself is never played for laughs. This keeps the film grounded despite the mayhem exploding around them.
And there is lots of mayhem. The scale of these films is staggering when you consider that there was no CGI. There is something to be said for knowing that everything you see on screen is real. A good explosion or car chase can feel like a cheat if it isn’t earned, but none of the action in these films feel gratuitous. The stories are compelling and the action supports the story rather than breaking away from it. Part of the success of these sequences come from the effectiveness of the villains, including an impressive turn by Jet Li in Part IV
The bonus disc is broken into four documentaries, all running just under half an hour. They are all connected, featuring interviews from the same evening so I prefer to look at this as a feature length documentary, running just under two hours. The first segment is called Psycho Penion: The Genesis of Lethal Weapon and like you’d expect, focuses primarily on the first film and it’s impact on filmmaking. The second feature is called Family Affair: Bringing Lethal Weapon to life. This is an analysis of the various stunts, location shooting, etc. that went into making these films. Third up is Pulling the Trigger: Expanding the World of Lethal Weapon. This focuses on the additional characters as the franchise progresed, including Rene Russo and Joe Pesci. The final feature is called Maximum Impact: Legacy of Lethal Weapon. Almost entirely about the fourth film, I really enjoyed this feature as I feel the fourth is highly underrated.
For any fan of the franchise, this is a must-own set. The films look better than they ever have, the audio sounds incredible, and the features really flesh out the world of the film. In a day and age where a filmmaker can use computers to show anything imaginable, it’s nice to see a film with real-world limitations that still managed to show the audience something beyond their expectations.
The Lethal Weapon Collection is now available on Blu-ray! Get your copy now but clicking on the button below.