Lethal Weapon (Lethal Weapon Collection) Blu-ray Review
Although Lethal Weapon has been available Blu-ray in the US as a standalone disc since 2006, the video presentation was particularly disappointing. The UK’s Region Free Lethal Weapon Collection release – back in 2010 – vastly improved on this, turning in an impressive remastered rendition, and that’s exactly what we get here on this US Region Free Lethal Weapon Collection release: the same remastered 1080p/VC-1 High Definition transfer – in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen (the only film of the series that wasn’t 2.4:1-framed) – that those who picked up the UK release will already be familiar with. Of course, it’s not spectacular, and nobody should have expected it to be, but it stays true to director Richard Donner’s occasionally grainy, occasionally soft style, without any unpleasant edge enhancement and DNR over-application to ruin your day.
Detail is generally very satisfying in all but the darkest scenes, with rich textures, decent edges and some reasonably good fine object detail. The digital defects of 2006 are long gone, with no overt issues plaguing this entry. The colour scheme is strong and well-rendered, seldom betraying the movie’s quarter-Century age, and black levels are deep and solid. All-in-all, this is a welcome upgrade, a nicely remastered job for a classic that certainly deserved the love and attention. Maybe it’s not demo quality, but it’s arguably as close as we’re ever going to get to how Lethal Weapon was meant to be seen.
As with the remastered video, Warner have done a stand-up job on upgrading the audio from the 2006 standalone release, offering up the same remastered DTS-HD Master Audio track that adorned the UK Blu-ray release of the Lethal Weapon Collection back in 2010. Dialogue is presented clearly and coherently throughout, largely dominating the frontal array wherever appropriate, and never obstructed by anything offered up by the rest of the mix. Effects are myriad, from the smaller atmospheric street sounds and precinct bustle, to the larger explosions and frequent gunfights. Helicopters thunder overhead, panning across the surrounds; bullets whizz from left to right; cars crash right through into your living room, and, with some welcome enhancement from the LFE channel, the end result is a very satisfying accompaniment. Sure, the track still suffers from being slightly dated – not just in design but also in the 80s score – but it’s nonetheless rendered impressively here, and probably sounds not only better than it ever has before, but likely just about as good as it’s ever going to sound.
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
Donner’s grizzly accompaniment on the first movie is a fairly mixed-bag, sometimes lacking focus, but sometimes utterly enthralling. There’s a bit of everything in here – technical detail, witty anecdotes, revealing insight, and honest self-criticism – but there are a few too many long pauses, where Donner just appears to be watching his own movie, and only avid fans will be prepared to sit through the entire track just to pick up the titbits.
Here we get a whopping fourteen Deleted Scenes, totalling over half an hour of extra material. All of the footage that was incorporated back into the Director’s Cut is present here – and in HD too (making you further wonder why they could not have included both cuts via seamless branching) – but it’s worth baring in mind that the Director’s Cut only ran at 7 minutes’ longer than the Theatrical Cut, so there’s plenty of other material here as well. Of course the true gem is the Schoolyard Sniper scene, which – even if none of the rest of the scenes were restored – should have made it back into the movie for this release. It’s a great moment, and it’s almost worth pausing the movie at the relevant spot, skipping over to this scene and watching it, and then resuming the movie, just to get a better experience. The rest of the scenes are fairly take-them-or-leave-them, and it’s a shame that they didn’t pluck out the Alternate Opening and Alternate Ending from the Pure Lethal Documentary to further enhance this selection.
The disc is rounded off by a 3-minute Music Video by Honeymoon Suite, and the movie’s Original 2-minute Theatrical Trailer, both 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.
Continuing my retrospective on the films of the once-great, now-controversial Mel Gibson – following on from Ransom – we take a look at his biggest franchise: the Lethal Weapon Collection, starting with the first, and best, chapter in the series. With a superb script from legendary screenwriter Shane Black, Superman director Richard Donner bringing his big guns to the table, and electric performances from leads Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, this proved to be the start of something truly special; a game-changing buddy-buddy action-thriller with a sharply witty edge. Perfect ingredients and perfect delivery have left this movie a true all-time classic, still capable of engaging new generations, whilst providing endless repeat value for its dedicated fans. Action, adventure, comedy, thrills, suspense, and drama – it doesn’t get much better than this.
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. Lethal Weapon, however, receives something of a serious upgrade over its US standalone Blu-ray release back in 2006, sporting not only excellent remastered video and audio, but also a fifth disc in the set complete with all-new (2010-recorded) extras. If you haven’t yet picked it up, then take this as a subtle reminded: after all, no true movie fan’s collection is complete without these great movies.
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