Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Lethal Weapon 3 – I’m Chaos, and He’s Mayhem… We’re a Double Act.

Written by Jeffrey Boam, Robert Mark Kamen, and Shane Black
Directed by Richard Donner

For the third incarnation of the popular Lethal Weapon series, things had to be shaken up a bit. Having the two partners just stumble onto a huge case and blow it wide open with crazy antics was a lot of fun, but had the potential to become tired.

As the film opens, Detectives Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs (portrayed by Danny Glover and Mel Gibson respectively) are called to the scene where someone has reported the presence of a bomb in a building. Riggs wants to check it out, but Murtaugh only has seven days until retirement and doesn’t want to jeopardize that. Of course, Riggs wins out and the two locate the bomb under a vehicle in the parking garage. When Riggs decides he can disarm it, he’s sadly mistaken and although the building is clear, his mistake ends up bringing the entire thing down.

The result is the two are busted down to being patrolmen walking a beat. They have some fun with a jaywalker, then stumble onto an armored car heist. What they don’t realize at the time is that the perpetrators of the heist have much deeper connections. It leads to the discovery of gun-running of guns stolen from the police department, as well as a former cop now on the wrong side of the law.

The case has the two detectives reinstated and cooperating with Internal Affairs, much to Riggs’ consternation. He meets Detective Lorna Cole (portrayed by Renee Russo) of Internal Affairs and the two hit it off as they are more alike than they care to admit. Finally, Riggs seems to have met his match. There is a terrifically funny scene as the two get romantic while comparing wound scars.

Leo Getz (portrayed by Joe Pesci) is back. This time, he’s into real estate and trying to sell Roger’s house for him. When he tries to help them out by apprehending a crooked cop at a hockey game, he ends up getting shot. His wound isn’t too bad, but it hits home for Murtaugh when he kills a friend of his son’s during a gang-related shoot-out. The boy had a gun from those that were stolen from the police department.

The introduction of Renee Russo to the mix goes a long way to keeping the series fresh. The joke of Murtaugh wanting to play it safe and Riggs being a nut was beginning to wear thin, but her character brings a freshness to the story. Having Joe Pesci play a role but not dominate with the craziness of his presence was a good choice as well. He plays his character for a few laughs, provides some necessary comic relief, then disappears into the background.

Stuart Wilson as dirty ex-cop Jack Travis is a great villain. He’s someone who knows the ins and outs of police work and the police department as well as Riggs and Murtaugh. He presents as much of a danger as other villains they have encountered, but not due to his strength. With him, it’s his craftiness and deviousness. Wilson plays this perfectly, not letting the character become the cartoon Mr. Joshua (portrayed by Gary Busey) did in the first film or the one-dimensional villain that Derrick O’Connor did in the second. The distinction in the villain helps make the movie not feel like a re-tread of the same story.

Gibson and Glover are truly enjoying themselves here and it shows. Director Richard Donner let their friendship flow naturally and it doesn’t have a feeling of being forced. They feel and act like good friends, even if they are complete opposites. Riggs is now more than a partner – he’s been adopted by Murtaugh’s family and fits in with them. The two of them, as well as Roger’s family, are convinced of this arrangement.

The other good point is how the characters are advanced through the years. Murtaugh is coping with a son who is growing up and who has friends who are in gangs. Rather than keep the family as if they were the same age when the series first began, they are growing up and the changes are seen with each film. At the same time, the family life is there but does not dominate the story. The foundation of support for the two characters is shown and they interact when necessary.

The action is terrific. There are tense scenes of car chases and shoot-outs that work quite well. At the same time, there is definitely more comedy in Lethal Weapon 3 than there was in the earlier two. Part of it has to do with Riggs seeming just to be a nut now, rather than suicidal. The funny scenes work largely due to his delivery and Murtaugh as the straight man, such as when they first meet Lorna, Riggs knows she is IA and talks about things to Murtaugh that he knows will set her off, while Roger doesn’t have a clue.

My biggest problem with the DVD release of Lethal Weapon 3 is that once again, the minimal special features are slideshows – no “making of” or featurette. I do enjoy seeing those films, although I might be in the minority on this.

Looking for a mindless, fun action film? Look no further. A great cast comes together to give freshness to a series.


” Cast & Crew
” Starting with a Bang
” The Final Shoot-Out
” Theatrical Trailers

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