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Richard Donner
Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li
Writing Credits:
Shane Black, Jonathan Lemkin, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Channing Gibson

The Gang's All Here.

Mel Gibson and Danny Glover return as buddy cops Riggs and Murtaugh, with Joe Pesci riding comedy shotgun as chatterbox Leo. Murtaugh is still the family man. Riggs is still the gonzo loose cannon and--what's this?--family man. His will he/won't he marriage to Cole (Rene Russo) is one of the new wrinkles in this powerhouse crowd-pleaser that also stars comedy favorite Chris Rock and international action star Jet Li. Wedding bells, ammo shells, explosive laughter--this one's fully loaded!

Box Office:
Budget $140 million.
Opening Weekend
$34.048 million on 3117 screens.
Domestic Gross
$129.734 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 127 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 12/15/1998

• Behind-the-Scenes Documentary "Pure Lethal"
• Deleted Scenes from the first 3 Lethal Weapons
• Cast and Crew Interview Gallery
• Feature-Length Audio Commentary by Richard Donner
• Production Notes
• Theatrical Trailers of all 4 Lethal Weapon films

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 1, 2003)

For most film series, the quality dips with each successive release. This happened with many sequels, such as the four Jaws flicks. The original remains a classic, and its first sequel managed to provide a couple of decent moments. After that, the franchise collapsed. Jaws 3 was poor, and Jaws the Revenge was a total joke from day one.

However, almost no long-running film franchises use the same talent for all the movies. The three Indiana Jones flicks did this, and if they ever get around to a fourth, it seems likely the big three – Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas – will remain on board. That’s why all three of those movies work. No, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail don’t approach the heights achieved by Raiders of the Lost Ark, but they’re fun and entertaining in their own right. The two sequels to Back to the Future also maintained a fairly high standard; not surprisingly, they used much of the same talent.

These two trends tempt me to create a rule for sequels. When you use different folks for the additional films, they’ll get worse with each new flick until they eventually become absolutely abysmal. If you retain the prime talent, however, the sequels will continue to seem entertaining and effective.

Personally, I think this is a good rule, but some exceptions occur. Most notably, the Bond franchise has its ups and downs, so it hasn’t shown the steady decline one might expect. In the other direction, the Lethal Weapon movies have all featured the same key players. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson starred in all four, and Richard Donner directed the lot.

So why did every successive Lethal seem crummier than the last? Maybe that’s because the first one wasn’t that great. Oh, 1987’s Lethal Weapon had its moments, but I can’t say I regard it as the classic it appears to have become.

Perhaps it attained such lofty status because it bests its sequels so easily. 1989’s Lethal Weapon 2 worked reasonably well but it still dipped from the first, and 1991’s Lethal Weapon 3 took a serious drop; it didn’t entertain me much at all.

Compared to the fourth – and hopefully final – iteration in the series, however, Lethal 3 looks like a winner. 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4 was made on a ridiculously accelerated schedule and it showed. The movie offers a rough hodge-podge of elements that never comes together, and the film provides nothing but a sad shadow of the original.

Over the first three flicks, the series built up a roster of running characters, but the main focus remains cops Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover). Early in the film, they receive promotions to captain, but they’re still involved in the muck of fighting crime. On a casual fishing trip with obnoxious motor-mouthed buddy Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), the trio encounters a problem with a ship that eventually goes boom. The Asian freighter smuggled in some illegal aliens, and Murtaugh decides to help them to safety.

From there, Murtaugh and Riggs pursue a crime ring that deals with Asian circles. They try to aide the illegal immigrants as the track the problems to their source. In addition, a lot of personal topics complicate matters, as some pregnancies and other issues appear.

When I first saw Lethal 4 in 1998, I’d never heard of Jet Li, and his appearance had a very positive impact on me. Actually, this flick remains the only time I’ve enjoyed his work; I’ve seen a few of his starring efforts and I found all of them to bite. The man can’t act – at least not in English – but he seemed perfectly cast within this small but powerful role. His fluid and quick style of martial arts added a real sense of flair to the movie. Granted, this seems less special now that so many flicks show that Hong Kong influence – it appeared much more original back in 1998 – but Li still adds a nice sense of action and pizzazz to the movie.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film totally falls flat. Lethal 4 shows the cast and crew on autopilot. All the basic elements appear, but they seem tired and weak. For example, Riggs still spouts all of his one-liners, but these show no signs of inspiration of humor. Instead, they just get irritating quickly.

Essentially, Lethal Weapon 4 is nothing more than a poor compilation of crummy jokes and flat action sequences. Li brings period signs of life to the film, but those occur too infrequently to make it palatable. Lethal 4 offers very little entertainment and seems largely like a waste of time.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

Lethal Weapon 4 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this double-sided DVD-14; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Much of the film looked excellent, but one nagging issue caused me to lower the grade to a “B”.

Sharpness appeared very strong. The movie consistently came across as distinct and accurate. I saw virtually no signs of softness or fuzziness, as the film always remained crisp and well defined. Jagged edges caused no concerns, but I saw a smidgen of shimmering due to a checked shirt worn by Gibson. Print flaws appeared virtually absent; I witnessed no instances of grain, speckles, grit or other concerns.

Colors looked nicely vivid and bright. The movie showed a somewhat cool palette at times, but the DVD replicated the tones with good vibrancy and accuracy. The hues were consistently strong, and even the occasional red light appeared clear and appropriately saturated. Black levels seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail looked accurately heavy without any excessive opacity.

So why did I knock this apparently flawless transfer down to a “B”? Two words: edge enhancement. The image displayed a surprising amount of this factor, as the picture often showed very noticeable haloes. The edge enhancement wasn’t the worst I’ve seen, but I thought it offered a frequent and unnecessary distraction. Lethal Weapon 4 still provided a generally positive image, but the edge enhancement created too many concerns.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Lethal Weapon 4 offered a good but also mildly flawed experience. The soundfield itself seemed beyond reproach. All five channels provided a lot of information through most of the movie. Music showed good stereo presence and separation, while effects blasted from all around us much of the time. The movie launched with a literally explosive action sequence via the psycho shooter, and it kept up that level of activity from start to (almost) finish. The front channels showed solid breadth and movement, while the surrounds kicked in a wealth of unique information that blended cleanly with the forward spectrum. I expected a terrific soundfield from the film, and it didn’t disappoint.

However, audio quality seemed a little lackluster for a movie of this vintage. Dialogue always remained intelligible, but I thought the lines came across as somewhat flat and muffled on occasion. That wasn’t a major concern, but I felt speech lacked the natural qualities I expected. Loud effects showed good clarity and accuracy for the most part, though I heard a minor amount of high-end shrillness. Bass demonstrated good power and depth for explosions and other elements of that sort. However, mid-range audio seemed a little bland and dull; the track too strongly favored the high and low realms without enough emphasis on the middle.

Music showed similar concerns. Overall, the score sounded reasonably clean and distinct, but it seemed like an “all or nothing” mix; highs seemed clear and bass was vivid, but the middle range came across less effectively. Some of this may be nit-picking on my part, as Lethal Weapon 4 generally worked well as an auditory experience, but I felt it demonstrated too many small flaws to merit anything above a “B+”.

Lethal Weapon 4 packs a mix of good extras. First we find an audio commentary from director Richard Donner plus co-producers J. Mills Goodloe and Geoff Johns. They sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. Amusingly, at the start, Donner states that the others do all the talking, whereas in truth, he heavily dominates the program. Goodloe and Johns chime in occasionally, but Donner stars and provides an exceedingly chatty presence.

Better known as “The Dick Donner Show”, this commentary earned a lot of detractors over the years, primarily because Donner often veers off onto topics that don’t relate to Lethal Weapon 4. At the start, he discusses some of the film’s effects, and he also covers its rushed production schedule and development. After that, the focus becomes more scattered. For example, Donner might start to relate to something that deals with Lethal 4 but then movie into a story that connects to another part of his career. Since Lethal 4 stinks, I felt more than happy to hear about Donner’s more successful flicks. Overall, he provided a lot of fun and lively remarks, and he gave us a lot of good information about his past. The track dragged at times, but I generally found this to be a witty and engaging commentary.

Next we find a decent documentary called Pure Lethal. Hosted by Danny Glover, “Pure Lethal” actually isn’t a true documentary. Instead, the 30-minute and 25-second program essentially acts as a long blooper reel. It mainly includes outtakes, and Glover comments upon these. In addition, we get some comments from Donner, actors Mel Gibson and Joe Pesci, and producer Joel Silver. We learn a little about some of the films and see some outtakes, behind the scenes shots and improvs essentially deals just with the first three movies, as it includes little about Lethal Weapon 4. It also shows the original ending to the first film. While not a great program, “Pure Lethal” probably will seem fun for fans of the

After this we find an Interview Gallery with comments from eight participants: actors Mel Gibson (three minutes, 45 seconds), Danny Glover (3:05), Joe Pesci (2:45), Rene Russo (0:55), Chris Rock (1:10), and Jet Li (1:45), plus director Richard Donner (2:05), and producer Joel Silver (2:00). For the most part, these remarks seem bland and uninformative. Unlike the others, Pesci actually gives us some useful information about his work, and Li’s material appears charming since he comes across as so happy to be there. Otherwise, these interviews offer little of interest.

Some behind the scenes shots appear in the B-Roll Footage section. This 10-minute compilation consists of nothing other than candid material from the set, and that helps make it moderately stimulating. Nothing here becomes terribly revealing, though it’s intriguing to see how worried Russo becomes when she works with Li; she seems genuinely nervous that the martial artist will accidentally hurt her.

Up next we locate a collection of Cut/Extended Scenes. These include no shots from Lethal Weapon 4. Instead, we get unused material from Lethal Weapon (eight minutes, 45 seconds), Lethal Weapon 2 (4:10), and Lethal Weapon 3 (3:40). Some of the clips seem moderately interesting, but nothing terribly substantial appears here. (Note that a few segments appear in “Pure Lethal” but not here, which is odd.) doesn’t include all of them – leaves out snippets found in “Pure Lethal”

A few rudimentary extras finish the package. Cast and Crew provides short but decent biographies for actors Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, and Jet Li, screenwriter Channing Gibson, producer Joel Silver and director Richard Donner. Trailers includes promos for all four Lethal movies, while Reel Recommendations features ads for Forever Young, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, The Road Warrior, Tequila Sunrise, and The Color Purple.

Unfortunately, all the great supplements in the world won’t make Lethal Weapon 4 any more entertaining as a movie. It provides a slapdash and limp affair that goes absolutely nowhere and provides a terrible ending to the series. The DVD offers erratic picture quality that suffers from notable edge enhancement at times, and the audio also seems generally positive but occasionally flawed. Toss in a decent roster of extras and you have a reasonably good DVD, but given the crumminess of the movie itself and Lethal Weapon 4 falls on the “skip it” list.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1304 Stars Number of Votes: 23
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