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Lethal Weapon - Directors Cut

Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 112 mins . M15+ . PAL


Why do action films always seem to be set at Christmastime? The first of the Lethal Weapon series is certainly no exception, as we're made well aware of from the opening bars of the song that leads us into nearly two hours of almost relentless carnage and mayhem.

Whilst a doped-up hooker takes a swan dive from the balcony of a rather tall building, making quite the impression on a car directly below, we're introduced to Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover). He's just turned fifty, he has a loving family, a rather large and comfy home, a boat in the driveway and he's a cop. Meanwhile, on a beach somewhere we meet Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson, in the role that landed him his gig in Hamlet no less!) He's young, has hideous hair, a tiny mobile home, likes playing with guns, drinks beer for brekkie and has a penchant for shooting televisions - but he loves his dog. He too is a cop.

Whilst the cautious Murtaugh is curious as to why he's been contacted by an old buddy from 'Nam, Michael Hunsaker, we get to see Riggs in action. He walks into the path of a sniper in a local school (but he wins), he tells hoods to shoot him in a drug bust (but he wins), he jumps off a building with a would-be suicide (but he wins) - yes, he's a live one, and here folks are our character profiles in a nutshell, cautious and chaotic.

Understandably, Riggs has quite the reputation back at HQ. Whilst many think he's simply acting nuts to draw a psycho pension, others fear that he's really on or over the edge and suicidal, something that is a lot more easy to believe when we learn of the loss of his wife of eleven years in a car accident. Of course it's inevitable that he and Murtaugh are going to meet - and soon after they are made partners, and naturally they gradually bond.

"You're one psycho son of a bitch. But you're good."

Now, back to the hooker and this Hunsaker fellow. It turns out that the former was the latter's daughter, and the aggrieved father wants Roger to do him a favour - after all, he took a bayonet for him back in 'Nam and owes him one. As Murtaugh and Riggs delve deeper into the case, they discover that she was in fact murdered, and eventually uncover a tangled web involving heroin dealers, porn videos and a slew of rather nasty baddies, including a certain Mr Joshua (the ever-evil Gary Busey), the lackey for an ex-US Army general who has turned bad.

Everything you could want from an action flick ensues - shootouts by the score, kidnaps, pissing contests at the firing range, explosions (they even blow up the Partridge Family's house - sob!), car chases, deception, torture, fisticuffs, bad guys dropping like flies - and wood-panelled station wagons, of course. As well as a welcome semblance of a plot there's also the staple myriad of continuity errors and flubs, and more silly gags than you'd find in a cheap Christmas cracker factory - in all, excellent stuff!

This 'director's cut' features around an extra seven minutes of assorted mayhem, from some of the scenes mentioned above which fans of the film will instantly recognise as new, to extra character development and the odd bonus bits of action. Originally released to cinemas with little fanfare and not particularly high expectations, the original cut proved a hit massive enough to spawn three sequels (but more on two of them later), and for good reason has become renowned as one of the classics of the action genre.


With the original local release of Lethal Weapon being somewhat less than stellar visually, it's refreshing to see how well it has been brought to us with this release. The 1987 film comes up as sharp as a tack, albeit occasionally a little TOO sharp with some minor instances of aliasing at times. There are speckles popping up here and there throughout, although they arenít incredibly intrusive, whilst the rather muted tones of the film are generally rendered brilliantly, with shadow detail being perfectly acceptable.

Like its predecessor, this incarnation remains in the slightly more open aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (rather than being akin to its cinematic 1.85:1), it's a trifle annoying, but realistically there's not much difference between the two anyway. The layer change would best be described as semi-clunky, it's certainly not easy to miss, but not incredibly intrusive.


One of the keys to bringing an action film home is awesome sound - and this certainly delivers. The 5.1 mix does its job brilliantly, with the surrounds and subwoofwoof anything but inert for the innumerable gunshots, explosions and sundry BIG noises. It's all balanced well with the dialogue, and all but a couple of mumbled lines being perfectly discernable amongst the glorious din. There are also no noticeable synching issues.

The music soundtrack comes courtesy of Michael Kamen and that 'Slowhand' guy Eric Clapton, with added involvement from David Sanborn. A mixture of piano, squealing guitars, twangy bass and the inevitable '80s sax sounds, whilst not the type of soundtrack to get particularly excited about it does suit the mood of the film - and gets all orchestral and dramatic when needed. It is accompanied by the occasional song, from Jingle Bell Rock through to an utterly dire example of all that was wrong with late '80s music in the form of the closing credits ditty. It's so bad in fact that it isn't even credited!


Some reasonably well animated menus offer up the chance to check out - well, bugger all really. All that's here is a cast list, which is entirely non-interactive and essentially pointless. All in all this is incredibly disappointing.


If you already own the original DVD release of Lethal Weapon, then as the great Johnny Rotten once asked, "a-ha-ha - ever get the feeling you've been cheated?". With the picture and sound here showing a marked improvement and extra footage seamlessly included the question of whether it's worth buying again is one that only you can answer. Perhaps if some extras - any extras - had been sourced for this release it would be a more attractive proposition?

So, what more can I say film-wise? I donít think I know a single person who hasn't seen, and enjoyed, Lethal Weapon. With a certain gentleman named Joel Silver involved you just know it's going to be really big and rather dumb, and of course these are two of the most important ingredients for the perfect action flick. If you donít already own it here's your chance to include an absolute action classic in your collection.

You're never too old for this shit.

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      And I quote...
    "With Joel Silver involved you just know it's going to be really big and rather dumb, and of course these are two of the most important ingredients for the perfect action flick..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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