Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ten Statements About....LETHAL WEAPON (1987)

You know what's more depressing than the holidays?  A
chistmas tree holdup....
"Do you wanna hear that sometimes I think about eatin' a bullet? Huh? Well, I do! I even got a special bullet for the occasion with a hollow point, look! Make sure it blows the back of my goddamned head out and do the job right! Every single day I wake up and I think of a reason not to do it! Every single day! You know why I don't do it? This is gonna make you laugh! You know why I don't do it? The job! Doin' the job! Now that's the reason!"

1) The thing that will always floor me about this film is how the script by Shane Black spends close to an hour focused entirely on Murtaugh and Riggs with minimal lip service to the actual plot. We get so deep into so many aspects of these two men's lives that we are thoroughly and absolutely invested in them and their partnership even before the second half puts them through Hell.

2) Of course, the film wouldn't work without the chemistry between Gibson and Glover, and the way these two men make the pairing work not only convinces us of the veracity of their characters, but makes definitive character choices that makes their growing trust in each other thoroughly believable.

3) ..and it's very fortunate that Gibson and Glover are capable of doing this, because the actual plot is...well, it's not exactly very good. The villains are for the lion's share ciphers, as if Black felt their presence intruded on what he really wanted to write about, namely the relationship between the two leads.

To think we used to believe he was only acting crazy...
4) Thankfully, one of the villains is Mr. Joshua, given vivid life by Gary Busey. He's pretty much the sidekick to Mitchell Ryan's General...but so distinctive is Joshua that he becomes the de facto main bad guy--and ends up getting into the climatic fight scene with Riggs.

5) While this film is usually noted for helping put Gibson over into the top tier of stardom, it should be acknowledged that for every moment he nails, there's a moment where he loses control of his accent or fails to sell some of the nuances Black's script demands of him.

6) I find it fascinating how much of the film's running time takes place during rain; even the final fight takes place while a broken fire hydrant is stimulating a torrential rain storm. It really does give the film a distinctive feel from other L.A. set action films, although I'm not sure if the rain is a jokey commentary on the film's Christmas setting (it being so warm that L.A. can't provide us with snow), or a reference to Riggs being some sort of inheritor of the hardboiled detective.

7) I've never been able to accept the whole 'kidnapping Rianne Murtaugh' aspect, and not just because Traci Wolf is a thoroughly awful actress...the kidnapping never shakes the impression that it's there to just occupy a slice of time to jumpstart the crime plot that Black and director Richard Donner has spent so much time ignoring.

To think we used to believe he was only acting crazy...
8) It also doesn't help that said crime plot is sort of rushed through over the course of the film's last forty minutes or so--and about seven minutes of so are devoted to that final confrontation with Joshua on Murtaugh's lawn. I suspect that if the script sprinkled a little more screentime to the General and his plot, the film would have flowed so much better.

9) I absolutely love the fact that the Murtaugh family actually looks and feels like a family. Even down to the fact that the two younger kids seems to share a resemblance to Glover and Darlene Love.

10) And speaking of things I love...I love the fact that the final fight between Riggs and Joshua is choreographed as what is for all extent and purposes a mixed martial arts fight...and Donner is perfectly happy to let both the beauty and the brutality of the fight play out. Hell, Donner even stages it so that the key development in Riggs' character arc fully expresses itself in how he resolves the fight.

Overall...a wonderfully cool film--although I love it more as a story about two police detectives learning to trust and respect each other and not as an action film. The Shane Black script is smart, smartly interpreted by smart actors. Plus, it counts as a Christmas movie, only with bullets.

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