Lethal Weapon (1987)

Whenever the discussion of Best Action Movie Ever comes up, Lethal Weapon is always in the conversation.  It took me forever to watch it, but I finally got around to it.  The film is a classic, but does it live up to its reputation?

Gibson plays a suicidal narcotics cop who gets transferred to homicide division after a string of psychotic incidents.  Glover is the family man detective, who reluctantly gets paired up with Gibson.  This is the film that launched both actors into Hollywood stardom.  As you can imagine, Gibson is great as a crazy dude.  There is a running gag in the film where Glover agrees to learn to trust Gibson if he can go a day without killing anybody or doing anything crazy.  And then they survive a shootout in the desert, battle helicopters and dozens of men with machine guns, jump off buildings, and save the day all within 48 hours.

In a film industry saturated with Hollywood blockbusters that throw explosion after explosion at us every two seconds, by today’s standards Lethal Weapon may not be considered “action-packed.”  Despite that, the film is thrilling from beginning to end, unlike all of those turds that Michael Bay directs.  The plot takes a little while to really get going, but it makes a remarkable amount of sense for an 80’s action movie.  Over the course of the film we come to love the buddy cops, and that’s what makes the film special.  Almost every great action film has a star(s) that you want to see succeed.  When that appreciation isn’t there, the movie fails.

Gibson has the best crazy eyes.

What really makes the action scenes work is the energy.  Director Richard Donner knows that you can’t have a bunch of guys standing around shooting each other, toss in some cars exploding and call it good.  Gibson flies around the screen, whirling around shooting his pistols, diving over tables, taking leaps from rooftops.  It’s the sheer freedom of movement that makes the action scenes so exhilarating.  While I was not particularly awed by any one sequence in particular, the energy level from the actors captured my attention from beginning to end.

Speaking of the end, the climax of this movie is absolutely bad-ass.  Gibson and the main antagonist (played by the delightfully insane Gary Busey) have a martial arts showdown on Glover’s front lawn as water from the broken fire hydrant rains down on them.  The best part is, the entire police force just stands there watching it happen.  That would never happen in a million years, but it makes the scene so much more awesome.  It’s just man vs. man, with only one person coming out the victor.  And of course, Busey being the snake that he is, pulls a gun after being defeated by Gibson, and the duo spin around and shoot the man at the same time in a slow-motion sequence.  Bad. Fucking. Ass.

So back to the original question: does the film live up to its reputation?  I would say so.  While I wouldn’t consider it to be the best action movie ever, it should certainly be a candidate.  But I can say that Lethal Weapon is the best buddy-cop movie ever.  Glover and Gibson are polar opposites, and for that reason they work perfectly together on-screen.  Lethal Weapon deserves its status as one of the iconic action movies of all time.

4.5/5 hollow-point bullets

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