Lethal Weapon 4

Lethal Weapon 4 was, according to the credits, directed by Richard
Donner, but it might as well have been directed by a computer. Here is the
perfect summer blockbuster movie in which the formulae perfected in the first
three installments in the series are employed once again, the explosions and the
hair-breadth escapes are even more spectacular, the one-liners come even more
thick and fast and the story-telling is so perfunctory that it doesn’t even
bother pretending to be coherent or plausible. Just as Something About
is a succession of jokes, so Lethal Weapon 4 is a succession of
violent episodes. In neither case is the target audience of 13 to 17 year olds
going to complain about an absence of plot.

As is also becoming customary with summer blockbusters, the best bit has
already been seen in the preview, which is another excuse for the reluctant
moviegoer to avoid it. We see a guy with a bulletproof suit and flamethrower and
an automatic weapon—but with no apparent motivation—washing down a
deserted street in flame as if from a garden hose. Riggs (Mel Gibson) and
Murtagh (Danny Glover) appear on the scene and are instantly pinned down, their
weapons ineffective against the suit. Riggs instructs Murtagh to strip down to
his shorts and dance while flapping his arms like a chicken. While he is thus
distracting the bad guy’s attention, Riggs shoots the valve on the back of the
tank which launches the man like a rocket into a nearby gasoline truck and the
two together proceed skyward. Murtagh, relieved at the escape from danger asks
if his chicken dance did the trick. “Naw,” says Riggs. “I just wanted to see if
you would do it.”

It’s all in a day’s work, presumably, since there is no attempt to link this
episode with what passes for the main plot. This has something to do with a
Chinese martial artist and near-superman (Jet Li) involved in slave trading
(that gets Murtagh’s dander up!), counterfeiting, racketeering and murder but
whose first love appears to be emulating the kind of old-time movie villains who
used to tie maidens to railroad tracks instead of resorting to a reliable but
undeniably boring double-tap between the eyes with a Glock. So he and his gang,
having got the better of Riggs, Murtagh and both their growing families and tied
them up in Murtagh’s house, set fire to the house and leave them to their
apparent fate.

It is rather touching to me that, even though the gals are presented, in
accordance with the Hollywood rules, as being quite as tough and deadly fighters
as the guys, the masculine protective instinct is called into play by the fact
that Riggs’s girlfriend (René Russo) and Murtagh’s unmarried daughter are
pregnant at the time of their intended roasting. But the artificiality of the
situation and the certainty of their rescue (sorry to all morons for spoiling it
for you) hardly make for any real suspense at their peril or joy in their
deliverance. We must content ourselves with what satisfaction there is to be
gained from the fact that both prospective mothers are in the end made honest
women of, as they used to say in the days when maidens were tied to railroad

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