Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer Movie Series: Lethal Weapon 4

This is part of a summer series I'm writing. It's the season when blockbusters reign supreme at the box office, but most of them I have no interest in actually seeing. So, I'm going back and watching some great titles on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Back in the Summer of 1998, there was one movie I cared about seeing: Lethal Weapon 4. I remember getting off work at the mall where I worked, driving across the parking lot to the movie theater, and catching a late show on opening night. I guess because I was young, about to graduate high school, and having so much fun, I look back on the late 90s very fondly. And in the 90s, big budget, over-the-top action flicks reigned supreme. As a teen-age male, I ate them up. My favorite was the Lethal Weapon series. They were funny, had likable characters, and some great action scenes, but without being brutally violent.
As the decade that was the 90s came to a close, films like Lethal Weapon 4 were a dying breed. Action movies are still around, and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, but now they are all about CGI and superheroes or old 1980s properties. Lethal Weapon 4 was a great way to close out the decade and end an era of action blockbusters. In fact, the movie almost seems like an afterthought. It’s a good, fun one, but an afterthought none the less.
By 1998 the series had essentially gone from action movies with some comedy thrown in to comedies with some action. The characters were the main point of the movie, and plot had become secondary. The fourth one involves some nasty Chinese smugglers and human trafficking. The villains are as bad as expected, but the movie belongs to Riggs and Murdoch. There are some great action pieces throughout the film, and it’s never boring.
As I watch it now, though, no longer coming from the perspective of an eighteen year old, but rather a thirty year old with a fully shaped world view, I see some “propaganda” thrown in the film. It’s not surprising, since Richard Donner, the film’s director, is a well-known liberal.  In this one an anti-gun message is clearly woven throughout, complete with some anti-NRA posters clearly displayed in the film’s fictional police station. Maybe that is true to Los Angeles, but in Oklahoma most officers I know are in the NRA. But, the political message, while there, doesn’t overshadow the film’s fun. If you can just take it for what it is, more ignorant liberal drivel, ignore it, and enjoy the movie, it’s no big deal.
As with the other films in the series there is quite a bit of profanity, but maybe not as much as the earlier ones. The violence is ever present, but not as brutal many modern day films.
The best action scene, in my opinion, is the car chase and trailer fight on the L.A. freeway. It’s fun to watch this and remember how the late 90s were. In this movie, cellphones are huge, and they gripe several times about how expensive it is to make a call on one. The cars (I’m looking the Pontiac Grand-Am’s way on this one) bring back memories as well. Overall, this is a fun way to close out the series, and remember when Hollywood could make a movie without using CGI.  I’m guessing soon someone will get the brilliant idea to reboot the Lethal Weapon franchise and ruin it. At least we’ll always have the originals to go back and enjoy.

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