“I’ve had my house destroyed, my car wrecked, and now my boat sunk. What’s left?!”
So, following on from my reviews of the first, second and third movies, we come to the end of this retrospective look at the Lethal Weapon film franchise, and it really does look like the end – both Lethal Weapon’s original writer, Shane Black, and series director Richard Donner (who hasn’t done a movie in 6 years) have wrestled for control over a fifth one, with Gibson being the deciding factor, and choosing to side with Donner out of loyalty, despite the fact that Black’s script may have been arguably superior (it involved a nearly-retired Riggs pulling Murtaugh out of...[Read the complete movie review]
Lethal Weapon 4 was shot over a decade after the first movie, and – as you might expect – it looks considerably more impressive. Making its Blu-ray debut as part of the Region Free US Lethal Weapon Collection, the fourth film manages to top even the impressive Lethal Weapon 3 presentation, boasting a superb 1080p/VC-1 High Definition rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen.
Detail hits the highest level in the series, with textures and fine object observation rendered beautifully without even the slightest hint of DNR over-use or other excessive digital manipulation. The grain level is steady and fine, softness is non-existent, and almost every shot in the film hits pure perfection. The colour scheme is rich and rewarding, vividly rendered across the broad palette, and offering up some excellent black levels that give us almost consistently-flawless night sequences (the cargo ship assault notwithstanding, although the final fight more than makes up for this). It’s a brilliant video presentation, easily demo quality, and only just shy of that elusive perfect-10. Again, whilst the second two movies may not be as well-received as Lethal Weapon 1 and 2, their video presentations are almost impossible to criticise.
Picture score : 9
Similarly, Lethal Weapon 4’s audio accompaniment is the best of the lot, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track for the fourth film creating an almost consistently overwhelming sound-field which you can get totally absorbed in. Dialogue is never obscured – coming clearly and coherently throughout, but seldom getting a chance to dominate anything whilst the rest of the action-packed movie is perpetually going into overload. Whether it’s the action scenes – which come hard and fast – or the stomping soundtrack (which is far better than the score that accompanied the third entry) this is the loudest of the movies and it’s not afraid of showing it. From the explosive opening premise – which involves a bellowing flamethrower, automatic weapon fire, and a Wilhelm-scream-equipped petrol station explosion – to the boat assault; from the street chase to the car chase and ridiculously smash-tastic crash at the end; from the warehouse finale to the brutal confrontation at the docks, there’s no end of thunderous action to keep your sound system engaged. Bullet’s whizz around, ship horns howl out and traffic shoots past – this is not a track to sleep to. With no end of LFE input to only enhance the impact, this is a reference quality sound-blast through and through.
Sound score : 9
Each movie in the US Lethal Weapon Collection offers up all of the same extras that came with the respective Director’s Cut DVD releases some time ago (apart from, of course, the Director’s Cut versions of the films themselves), and we also get a fifth disc in the set that offers up 4 newly-commissioned Documentaries (well, at least, newly-commissioned in 2010 and therefore also on the equivalent UK release).
Commentary by Director Richard Donner
Well it seems that Donner’s audio accompaniments just get better and better with these movies – and, to be honest, they needed to. Perhaps he was finally warming to the task, this time bringing in a couple of producers for a three-way discussion on the making of the fourth movie, even though he still dominates the bunch. His comments are welcome, informative and often incisive, discussing the rush to produce a final cut and what it was like to have the family back together.
Pure Lethal! New Angles, New Scenes and Explosive Outtakes is the half-hour documentary which accompanied the Director’s Cut releases a while back. Hosted by Danny Glover, it’s a great overview of the series, with plenty of behind the scenes snippets, informative background information, cast and crew interview snippets and – perhaps most importantly for fans – deleted scenes. The alternate opening and ending to Lethal Weapon is the most interesting element, showing off a far more volatile, violent Riggs who threatens some punks in a bar and closing out the movie with a finishing touch that would have ended the series there and then, with Riggs and Murtaugh parting ways amicably. It’s worth watching just for these.
The disc is rounded off by the movie’s original 2-minute Theatrical Trailer, presented in SD.
The fifth disc in the Lethal Weapon Collection comes complete with four relatively newly-minted half-hour 1080i High Definition Documentaries commissioned in 2010 and thus already available on the UK release a couple of years back.
Psycho Pension: The Genesis of Lethal Weapon starts off the selection, a warm retrospective on the start of the whole franchise – from Shane Black’s fledgling script to the casting and how the leads had such great chemistry, to the 80s studio mentality and the fresh ideas of the action-comedy style. With a great little three-way conversation between Gibson, Glover and Donner at the centre of the piece, as well as interview segments with Shane Black and some of the producers – including Joel Silver – this is a wonderful little piece that offers up some welcome background into the production and how this was the start of something special.
A Family Affair: Bringing Lethal Weapon to Life continues in the same vein, offering yet further insight into the production of the first movie, with many of the same production crew on hand, as well as the cinematographer, designers and the stunt coordination, to look at how their ideas soon shifted from daring action-comedy-thriller to blockbuster franchise in a heartbeat.
Pulling the Trigger: Expanding the World of Lethal Weapon shifts focus to the sequels, looking at how the first movie’s sizeable success guaranteed and almost instant sequel, and how they tied it into the original movie, whilst also making some changes to Shane Black’s script, not just to avoid the death of Riggs, but also to take in some more relevant current affairs – including the South African backdrop. Expanding the story, bringing back the cast and making the action bigger yet still just as potent was all part of the agenda, and this makes for a brilliant look at how they made it happen.
Maximum Impact: The Legacy of Lethal Weapon closes out this excellent series of Documentaries with a look at how popular the franchise has become, its standout success third and fourth times out, and the filmmakers’ determination to round out the series without resorting to CG – real stunts being a staple of the franchise. Renee Russo’s and Jet Li’s contributions are noted for the third and fourth movies, respectively, and the Documentary closes with a look at the legacy of the Lethal Weapon franchise, and the impact that it had on the future of blockbuster action movies.
Extras score : 9
Finishing off my retrospective look at the Lethal Weapon Collection (although not quite concluding my look at some important films in Gibson’s career) we take a look at the fourth film in the series, and, realistically, the last. Whilst fans of the films may not have loved this closing chapter as much as the first and second movies, it somewhat made up for the entertaining mess that was Lethal Weapon 3, introducing the highly skilled Jet Li to wider Western audiences whilst reasserting Riggs’s lethality; tying up all the loose ends in a nice, big, happy-family finale. It’s a fitting end to a superb four film series that simply defines the buddy-buddy action-comedy-thriller genre.
With the Lethal Weapon Collection finally making its US Blu-ray debut a whole 2 years after it was released in the UK, this Region Free package sports nothing new in comparison to its across-the-pond counterpart. As part of the collection Lethal Weapon 4 boasts reference quality video and audio, as well as not only all of the previously-released extras (and the Pure Lethal Documentary), but also a fifth disc complete with newly-recorded material. If you haven’t yet picked up the Lethal Weapon Collection, then take this as a subtle reminded: after all, no true movie fan’s collection is complete without these great movies.
Overall score : 9
1,465 word review written by Cas Harlow.
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