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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Comedy > Drama > Lethal Weapon (Warner HD-DVD/Theatrical Version)

Lethal Weapon (Theatrical Cut/HD-DVD)


Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: C     Film: B



After the groundbreaking pairings of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, Walter Hill’s 48 HRS (1982) with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy began a new cycle of mismatched police thrillers that are still being churned out.  Most of such films that followed were not so good, but the best of the imitators was Richard Donner’s 1987 hit Lethal Weapon, with the hit pairing of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover that spawned three sequels and put them on the map like never before.


In this case, they are both cops, but Gibson is a still-disturbed ex-Vietnam veteran who has some issues and is essentially the title character.  As Martin Riggs, he is called in for uniquely difficult situations ala Dirty Harry Callahan, the classic Clint Eastwood character who he shares a cinematic lineage with.  Lethal Weapon owes more than a bit to Don Siegel’s 1971 classic, which spawned four hit sequels.  Roger Murtaugh (Glover) also served in ‘Nam and is interested in maybe retiring, but as luck would have it, he gets paired with Riggs as a new partner and let’s just say “lack of compatibility” is an understatement.  It is as serious as it is comic.


No doubt the leads have great chemistry and unlike the more comic, broad and in the second film’s case, condescending sequels, this is the best of the four and not just because it is the original.  The film pulls no punches about Riggs’ pain, Vietnam, the disposition of police on the job or the dangerous people they have to handle.  It is too bad the series did not swing more towards the edginess of Hill’s 48 HRS, which only produced one sequel, but the film holds up rather well and remains one of the better films directed by Donner or produced by Joel Silver.  It has added to the imitations 48 HRS started, but most of them also pailed and still pail to them to date.  Cheers to what also remains some of Shane Black’s best writing ever.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is a big disappointment, coming from an older theatrical cut print that has all kinds of dirt, particles and artifacts on it, plus has color and definition issues.  Why the new print made for Donner’s director’s cut was not featured for this release makes no sense.  Cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt’s work on this film is much more distinctive than you see here.  The film was originally released in theaters as a Dolby A-type analog stereo surround film, but the director’s cut on standard definition DVD had a fairly good Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and even more impressive DTS 5.1 mix.  This Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix is about on par with the DTS, though I thought the DTS was a bit more distinctive, including the amusing score by the late Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton.  The only extras are additional scenes form that expanded cut and the original theatrical trailer.  What a shame.  The film deserves better than this.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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