Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Lethal Weapon 3

Grade : A- Year : 1992 Director : Richard Donner Running Time : 1hr 58min Genre : , ,
Movie review score

Does anyone remember that “Lethal Weapon 3” did a post-credits scene before it was cool? I never saw the film in theatres, but by the time it hit video back in ’93, my mother was in full-on Mel Gibson adoration mode, and we watched it a lot. One day, we let the film run through the credits, and to our surprise, the film had a little tease at the end that tied into the final scene of the movie, when Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), with Murtaugh committed to 10 more years on the force, head out to the job, ready to go to another bomb in a building like the one they opened the film with. The tease is the punchline to that joke.

For a while, this was my favorite of the “Lethal Weapon” movies, but I look back now, and feel like my reasoning was by virtue of it being the first film in the series I had watched. It wasn’t just that, though, and I’m not gonna lie, it had a lot to do with the character of Lorna Cole, played by Rene Russo. She’s a Sargent working in Internal Affairs who is introduced to the series, and is the love interest of Riggs in this film, and Gibson and Russo have a natural chemistry with one another. (They worked with each other again on both the fourth “Weapon” film, as well as “Ransom.”) Lorna comes into view of Riggs and Roger when they inadvertently stumble on to a gun running ring orchestrated by a former cop, Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson), who is taking confiscated weapons and ammunition, including that which can go through bulletproof vests, and putting them back on the streets. The script, by Jeffrey Boam (who had also written the second film) and Robert Mark Kamen, follows a lot of the same blueprint of “Lethal Weapon 2,” but leaves far more heavily on the humor than its predecessors do. When Roger has a bomb under his toilet in “2,” it’s a funny situation played effortlessly for serious effect. Here, Riggs and Rog go look at a bomb in a building, but it’s played for laughs. Ultimately, this is where it really turned over into an action-comedy franchise (and that label has done well for the new series Fox debuted this season based on the franchise), and while it makes for fun entertainment, it really does skew how we look at the series in the long run.

Rene Russo is the big addition to the film, which follows Rog’s last week before he is set to retire, and she elevates it greater than it really has any business being. In comparison to the previous two films, there really isn’t a comparison, as those two are legitimately great, by any standards. This would be just as entertaining if it wasn’t a third film in a series, but adding Russo to a cast of characters that includes Gibson, Glover and Joe Pesci (back as annoying con man Leo Getz) makes something about this film work better than it would otherwise. The villain of Jack Travis is easily forgettable after Gary Busey’s Joshua in the first film, and the South Africans in the second film, and the story about Rog retiring doesn’t really work, since you kind of figure he’ll change his mind at the end. Still, Richard Donner understands the chemistry of the main characters, and how they work best, and along with cinematographer Jan De Bont, comes up with some great action sequences that put them in thrilling danger that makes up for the predictable, and tired, nature of the story. The way the characters work off of one another and the action is what matters in this film, and Donner and co. deliver the goods like old pros.

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