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Lethal Weapon 4

Rated R, 125 min. Directed by Richard Donner. Starring Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 17, 1998

To hell with Riggs and Murtaugh – I'm getting too old for this shit. Gibson and Glover are back as those lovable LAPD screw-ups in this, director Donner's homage to cinematic white noise. Not only is the franchise growing hoary, by now it's become downright laughable, leaving Lethal Weapon 4 feeling more like a bad Fox sitcom than anything else. By now you know the standard-issue story: Detective Martin Riggs (Gibson), the hair-trigger, practical-joke-loving wild man is paired with longtime partner Roger Murtaugh (Glover), the doting family man, as meanwhile the city collapses around them and the forces of evil raise their pointy little heads. What's new? Not much: Riggs' Internal Affairs girlfriend Lorna (Russo, somehow still managing to draw life from her vaguely one-note character) is pregnant, as is Murtaugh's daughter (by rookie detective Lee Butters (Rock, wildly firing off comic rounds like a blind sniper with his hair on fire). Much confusion and homophobic jokes on the home front ensue in that department, but the real crux of the alleged plot centers on a gang of Chinese baddies who are smuggling slave labor into the L.A. basin. Led by the steely-eyed Jet Li, they're cookie-cutter parodies of the Yellow Menace at best, and Tex Avery-esque buffoons at worst. Murtaugh, ever the big-hearted putz, offers his home to a Chinese family he rescues, while his partner scrambles about blowing things up (as usual) and miscounting to three every time the aging duo prepare to make their move. The film isn't as bad as it is incomprehensible, a staccato series of action-piece setups and knock-downs that skitters from scene to scene with all the twitchy hilarity of a fibrillating speed freak. Alright, it is that bad. In the 12 years since the first film's release, the series has become increasingly more annoying, and this is the point at which it finally reaches critical mass. Gibson's much-admired glutes can't save him now, and Glover looks perpetually wearied, not so much running after the bad guys as wheezing like a rusty locomotive. Of course, Joe Pesci is back as the Human Whine Leo Getz, but the less said about that particular crime against nature the better. Not since Joel Schumacher turned the once-promising Batman franchise into a personal masturbation fantasy has a once-proud series devolved so awfully. Donner, I think, needs to stop hanging around the ghost of Don Simpson. The whole mess plays like a surreal Brady Bunch or Family Affair episode on dodgy drugs. Interminable, annoying, and just plain boring, Lethal Weapon should've bowed out at sequel number two. No, three. No – ah, to hell with Riggs and Murtaugh – I'm getting too old for this shit.
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