Summer of Action: Lethal Weapon (1987)
August has been a month full of action films here at Above The Line with looks at movies such as Die Hard and Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. That trend continues today with one of the most iconic buddy cop films around. Lethal Weapon was released in 1987 and lands somewhere in the buddy cop/action/comedy realm. It was directed by Richard Donner and written by Shane Black. The film follows a pair of mismatched detectives who find themselves in the middle of a deadly investigation. The film stars Danny Glover as Roger Murtaugh and Mel Gibson as Martin Riggs. The movie went on to gross over $120 million against a mere $15 million budget and was the launchpad for a franchise that would include three sequels and a television show.
So, why does Lethal Weapon still show up among the best action movies?
1) This Unlikely Pairing
The heart of this whole franchise rests on the relationship between Riggs and Murtaugh, and that all begins in this first film. The two are vastly different with Murtaugh’s careful nature pitted against Riggs’ more aggressive negotiation tactics. Their differences continue with Murtaugh’s years of seasoned experience and family life highlighting just how lonely Riggs’ life has become. In this movie, Riggs is on the brink of insanity, and somehow his partnership with Murtaugh works. From the moment Murtaugh tackles him on their introduction, the audience knows this is going to be good. Their chemistry is fantastic, and scenes like their comparisons at the shooting range really make this story all the more fun.
2) An Interesting Case
I know this point is not necessarily an action-related point, but in some ways, it has a lot to do with it. This evolving case starts out with what seems to be a simple accident but turns into something far more deadly. With every little detail they piece together, it seems to involve more gunfire or casualties. The case propels the action forward, and honestly, it’s pretty intriguing to see them piece it all together. There’s a compelling story underneath it all, and I can always appreciate an interesting investigation that needs solving.
Of course, this investigation also involves a lot of gunfire and explosions, so there’s not really a dull moment.
3) A Daring Rescue
Arguably one of the best scenes of the movie is their first attempt to rescue Murtaugh’s daughter, Rianne. They already have one leg up on the bad guys by having them believe that Riggs is dead from a previous shootout. What ensues is an exciting sequence that utilizes Riggs’ unique set of skills from the war and opens up a chance for Murtaugh to help his daughter escape this situation. It is a shootout that is accented by a helicopter chasing down a car, so it’s pretty exciting stuff.
Of course, the plan doesn’t really work, but that is not the point.
4) The Final Showdown
The final showdown between Murtaugh, Riggs, and the bad guys is part of the reason this movie is a favorite in the action realm. We get Riggs running a lot down streets and across highways to chase down Mr. Joshua. We have Murtaugh contributing to McAllister’s fiery end. Then, if that were not enough, we get a final fight between Mr. Joshua and Riggs at Murtaugh’s house. This sequence is everything an 80’s action sequence should be- there’s water and smoke, an intense show of skills, and a close victory for Riggs.
Then there’s also that final shot of Riggs and Murtaugh drawing their guns at the same time. It’s a classic.
So, is Lethal Weapon on your list of favorite action films? What are some of your favorite moments?
Be sure to share them in the comments below, and be on the lookout next Friday as we explore one more action film favorite.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.