Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

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Released 10-May-1999

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer-4
Featurette-Pure Lethal
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Unseen Footage-Lethal Weapon 1-3
Outtakes-Lethal Weapon 1-3
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-B-Roll Footage
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 122:12 (Case: 127)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Sided Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Richard Donner
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Mel Gibson
Danny Glover
Joe Pesci
Rene Russo
Chris Rock
Jet Li
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Michael Kamen
Eric Clapton


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Dutch
Arabic
Italian
Portuguese
Spanish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, just a tiny bit
Action In or After Credits Yes, during credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Sequels are a disease that kill the reputation of the original, and the Lethal Weapon series is no exception to this artistic phenomenon. Lethal Weapon 2 was an okay film that continued most of the fun of the original, and Lethal Weapon 3 was a fun ride once it actually got going, which it sure as hell took its time to do. I heartily concur with Michael's assessment that they should have stopped after the third episode because Lethal Weapon 4 is a film with a poor script that should never have made it past the rewrite stage. The action might be more adventurous, the main villain may be an improvement over that of Lethal Weapon 3, the explosions might be bigger, but this is the first instance where a Lethal Weapon script has been really, really bad. Okay, Lethal Weapon 3 was not exactly a compelling and powerful story, and the execution left a little to be desired for the first half of the film, but Lethal Weapon 4 is just absolute crud.

    The film starts with Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) responding to an emergency in which some armoured lunatic is using an assault rifle and a flame-thrower to terrorize a sector of the inner city. Their merits as combat veterans rotating back into a life as policemen that made Lethal Weapon so interesting are gone, and the attempts at humour have reached a level that makes me very sick. Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) returns with his usual interjections of okays, but now the script adds another word to his vocabulary in the shape of "whatever". I presume this challenge was offered to Pesci when he got sick of the threats to have his tongue surgically excised for tormenting action fans with his constant okaying. Roger's daughter Rianne (Traci Wolfe) is carrying the baby of one young detective named Lee Butters (Chris Rock), and is married to him somehow without Roger knowing about it. Incidentally, Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), the character that somehow managed to save the previous sequel from the depths of sheer boredom, is reduced to a prop by this plot. She is listed in the fourth position in the credits, but she only seems to get about fifty minutes of screen time. What happened to the fierce detective who could take on five thugs at once with just her bare hands? Screenwriter Channing Gibson (no relation) should have been shot for penning this effort.

    Even if you only have a very mild interest in the Lethal Weapon series (as I do), I am sure you will join me in a wild chorus of agonizing disappointment with this instalment. The usual banter between the action scenes which made the other three films so much more enjoyable has been reduced to an annoyance in this episode because of the fact that Joe Pesci and Chris Rock are actually allowed to speak to one another. At least Joe Pesci has demonstrated that he has an ability to act, but this character will go down in memory as one of the most irritating in the history of cinema. We are even treated to material of such a low grade that it could honestly be construed as homophobic (the interaction between Murtaugh and Butters) and racist (Riggs' use of Murtaugh as a decoy in the opening sequence). Okay, so you have to be a little creative to see those parts of the script in that way, but the point is that the series has gone from a believable story involving the day-to-day antics of an emotionally ill character portrayed in a compelling way to one that will offend some sensitive minds. The only believable line spoken during this film is one by a Chinese triad member by the name of Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li) about the way in which Riggs behaves during his visit to a Chinese restaurant: "in Hong Kong, you'd be dead". By this time, this film is certainly dead to me in terms of story development. All the restored violence in the world (the theatrical release was only rated M) cannot save a film with a poor plot.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Once again, the worst movie in the franchise has been afforded the best-quality transfer onto our beloved shiny discs. This is faint praise, however, because it is only superior to the transfer of the original Lethal Weapon by a narrow margin. I don't know what possessed Warner Brothers to go with dual-sided formatting rather than dual-layer formatting, but only allocating approximately five gigabytes to an action film that runs for just over two hours is a dangerous stunt indeed, and one that I feel only Columbia Tristar can really pull off.

    The transfer is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, complete with 16x9 Enhancement. The transfer is generally very sharp, with plenty of detail on offer throughout most of the film, although backgrounds had a tendency to become soft and ill-defined during slower sequences. Shadow detail is also very good, with plenty of subtle detail on offer in all dimly-lit sections of the film, which is especially important given that the film's climax takes place in a barely-lit factory during the middle of the night. Low-level noise is not a real problem in this transfer, and neither is film grain.

    The colour saturation is not-so-slightly problematic in this transfer, especially during the first fifteen minutes of the film. Lethal Weapon 4 is by far the most heavily saturated episode in the series, making it somewhat at odds with the grimy, seedy look that was used during the other three episodes to set the proper atmosphere. During the opening sequence, the colours are oversaturated to the point of bleeding and becoming quite unpleasant to look at. This settled down for the rest of the film, but it still remains problematic and unsettling throughout, partly because it simply looks so far away from what one should expect from the series.

    MPEG artefacts are not a serious problem in this feature, which is surprising when you consider how demanding both the pace and settings of this film are. It is a wonder that there didn't seem to be any motion compensation artefacts during the fight sequences. Film-to-video artefacts were the biggest problem in this transfer, with many occurrences from all of the usual culprits, ranging from minor to somewhat distracting. Film artefacts were almost non-existent, as one would reasonably expect from a film of this recent vintage. There was one momentary series of vertical lines through the picture at 23:49 that may or may not be an MPEG artefact, but I am erring on the side of caution and labelling them as either film artefacts or marks that were somehow left on the picture during the telecine process. They are extremely distracting and the worst artefact of the transfer, and I am sure that Columbia Tristar would reject a pressing of one of their films that contained something which looks this bad.

    This disc is a flipper, with most of the extras on side B. Please don't bother to write me about how this technically doesn't make it a flipper because the end result is still the same - the disc is easy prey for the oil that secretes from your fingertips and palms, especially when someone not quite as careful as you or I gets their hands on it. While the formatting is not disruptive to the film, RSDL formatting would have been preferable since this would allow the film itself significantly more space to breathe.

Audio

    Unlike the video transfer, which is marginally the easiest to look at in spite of being overcompressed, the audio transfer is quite seriously disappointing when it is compared to the other episodes in this saga, for reasons I will get to in a moment.

    There are three soundtracks on this DVD, all of which are encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 384 kilobits per second: the original English dialogue, with dubs in French and Italian. I listened to the default English soundtrack, and sampled a couple of passages in the Italian dub for a laugh.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand once the problematic first fifteen minutes of the film were out of the way. During those fifteen minutes when the video transfer was also quite a problem, the dialogue was muffled and unclear, as well as drowned out by ambient sound effects. This is rather annoying and tends to leave the average viewer in a perpetual state of wonder as to what was being said during this crucial time in the film, in spite of the fact that the quality of the dialogue is not much to write home about. The level of the dialogue improved after the first fifteen minutes, but it is a real pity that the same cannot be said for the quality of the dialogue, especially given that Chris Rock is introduced into the film after this point. There were no subjective problems with audio sync during the English dialogue, but the small handful of lines that are rendered in Chinese made me wonder if they were dubbed.

    The score music in this film is credited to Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, and David Sanborn. Just as most of the magic from the other three films seems to be missing from the plot, it also seems to be missing from this score music. Repetition does not work, and this score music proves it, as there don't seem to be any distinct themes used here that made me sit up and notice their unique beauty. Indeed, for all I know to the contrary, all of the musical cues in this soundtrack could have simply been lifted from the previous episodes and simply served up again. Even a couple of scenes in the film seem to share the same musical cue, which is a very bad sign in my terms.

    The surround channels were very aggressively used to support the plethora of gunshot and explosion sounds, as well as the frequent musical cues and ambient effects. Although the surround channel usage is not that greatly improved compared to the remix of the original, the fidelity in the surround effects is greater simply because there was more of it to begin with. There are none of those instances in which the sound field collapses into mono or stereo, although there are times when the surround effects become quiet enough to miss. It is a terrible shame about the problems with the first fifteen minutes of the film, because this soundtrack is otherwise very highly enveloping and immersive. The subwoofer is very well-integrated into the overall soundtrack, putting a superb bottom end on the action, all without calling any specific attention to itself.

Extras

    There are a lot of extras on this disc, all of which are contained on side B except for the Cast & Crew Biographies, which are on both sides of the disc. All of the extras are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 without 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, unless otherwise noted.

Menu

    The main menu is plain, themed around the film, and much more functional than the last Warner Brothers main menu I looked at (Batman). All of the menus are 16x9 Enhanced, but like most Warner Brothers menus, navigation is somewhat difficult.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies are provided for Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li, Joel Silver, and Richard Donner. All of the biographies are somewhat brief, but interesting to read.

Featurette - Pure Lethal (30:36)

    This is narrated by Danny Glover, who seems to be having a very hard time sitting still whenever he is on-screen. It is a very interesting look at footage that was left out of the other three movies in the series, presented in what would appear to be the television ratio of 1.33:1, without 16x9 Enhancement, and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Cut/Extended Scenes: Lethal Weapon 1, 2, and 3 (8:51, 4:14, and 3:44 respectively)

    These are presented under a sub-menu that takes the viewer to three separate featurettes that feature scenes from each film that wound up on the cutting room floor. They are presented without narration or annotation of any sort, but they are quite interesting to watch if you enjoyed the films they are taken from. Each series of scenes is presented in the aspect ratio of the corresponding film (1.85:1 for Lethal Weapon, while the other two are in 2.35:1).

Cast & Crew Interviews

    These are presented in a sub-menu with a series of names, which in turn take the viewer to a short video with the questions displayed in between shots of the subject answering them. They are quite interesting to watch, and serve as an example of the right way to present this sort of extra.

Featurette - B-Roll Footage (10:17)

    This featurette consists of footage shot of other cameras filming the movie, in a similar vein to most other making-of featurettes. It is not narrated or annotated, and this limits the interest value.

Theatrical Trailers - Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2, Lethal Weapon 3, and Lethal Weapon 4

    Another sub-menu lists the American theatrical trailers for all four of the films in the Lethal Weapon saga. The trailers range in sophistication over time, with the trailer for the first film looking very dated indeed.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    In contrast to the other three Lethal Weapon films, there does not appear to be a Director's Cut of Lethal Weapon 4 available in Region 1.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    If you must have this film in spite of the sad excuse for a plot, or if you actually enjoy this crap, then Region 1 is the better version. Widescreen Review also state that the picture quality of the Region 1 version is blessed with "exceptionally rendered" colour fidelity, contrast, and shadow detail. In the end, it will come down to how much you are honestly willing to pay for this film - if you have approximately fifty-five dollars to spare, then Region 1 is the better choice. Otherwise, the two versions are almost identical.

Summary

    Lethal Weapon 4 is a poorly-scripted movie, presented on a reasonably good DVD, even if it is a flipper.

    Aside from some problems early on in the film, the video quality is very good.

    Aside from some problems early on in the film, the audio quality is also very good.

    The extras are comprehensive, lacking only a commentary track that makes it clear what a rush-job the script actually was, which was included on the Region 1 release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Monday, January 10, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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