Friday, August 21, 2009

Lethal Weapon

As always, when I'm not writing or editing, I am surfing the web for remnants of my childhood. I stumbled upon the Lethal Weapon 4 trailer, which of course requires me to blog about the Lethal Weapon series.

The Lethal Weapon series was one of my biggest influences. 1 and 2 were huge to me. 3 was a bonus, and in the late 90's when 4 came out, it seemed like it was the last glimpse of all that old school 80's fun. It was really the last time I saw that kind of magic on the big screen. It was such a great combination of action, comedy, and drama. The end of Lethal Weapon 2 always makes me tear up.

Lethal Weapon was chock full of greatness. It all started with Shane Black's amazing screenplay for Lethal Weapon 1. The chemistry between Gibson and Glover, the snappy dialogue, the wisecracks, Donner's great action direction. Can't think of too many movies lately that make me feel the way the Lethal Weapon series made me feel. 4 was my least favorite, but it was still very much a Lethal Weapon movie with every bit of charm and charisma that I miss so much in movies today.

This trailer really captured that feel, that magic, and that fun. Plus I love Chris Rock and Jet Li.

I have to say though, at the time I was very much into John Woo and Hong Kong cinema, which had an overall different vibe than movies like Die Hard or Lethal Weapon. Specifically I was in love with the gun cross. If you were a fan of action and gun play, you were like me and you absolutely loved the gun cross, a staple used in so many John Woo movies.

So when Lethal Weapon 4 came out and I watched the scene posted below, I totally freaked out. It was absolutely amazing to see director Richard Donner put in a Hong Kong action move in a scene with two of my favorite action characters, Riggs and Murtaugh, against Jet Li as well. Honestly the best part of the movie for me. I still watch it in awe. It's like my worlds collided and I was quite happy with the impact.

The above clip also features that final fight between Jet, Riggs, and Murtaugh. Great scene, very well done. I always complained that Riggs was downplayed quite abit in his fighting ability in this. He's Special Forces, he used some great moves in the first movie against Gary Busey, so I was a little disappointed watching him throw wide swings and not being able to keep up with Li's character, but I digress.

After the fight scene, we see a great example of the kind of empathy and drama that Lethal Weapon gives you. Riggs drowning, Murtaugh searching for him, eventually saving his life. The score by the always amazing Michael Kamen always helps (I could and probably will do an entire blog on Michael Kamen alone). But the Lethal Weapon series in general is a great example of that unique complexity I love so much. So many people can easily throw this series in the buddy cop, mindless action category. The truth is amidst the action and shootouts, there were real characters here that we root for and care for. Riggs and Murtaugh had a connection, they had heart.

In a movie that could easily have been one action set piece after another, we actually find great humor, some solid dramatic feeling, and a unique charisma. It's action with heart and soul. And that's the kind of stories I want to tell. Those are the kinds of stories and movies I lean towards. Again I have to go back to my usual examples. Back To The Future is more than just a comedy. The Iron Giant is so much more than a cartoon. The Goonies is so much more than just a kids adventure. The Abyss is more than just some underwater scifi flick. These movies pay respect to the categories they are filed under, but when you watch them, when you experience them, there are deeper layers there to experience.

If you go back and really watch the Lethal Weapon series, you may be surprised to find some real heart warming drama in what you'd think was just an action movie. It's something more than what it seems.

And that's what I'm trying to make. Something much more than what it seems.

I remember when the poster for Lethal Weapon 2 came out. Even Warner Brothers Marketing knew to acknowledge that special magic that Lethal Weapon had. They even put it on the poster.

I want that kind of magic in my movies.

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