Lethal Weapon-Director's Cut (1987)

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Released 25-Sep-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Listing-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 112:17
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (59:07) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Richard Donner
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Mel Gibson
Danny Glover
Gary Busey
Darlene Love
Traci Wolfe
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 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Spanish
Portuguese
German
Romanian
Bulgarian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, it's a 1980s film, after all
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The concept of a buddy movie has been with us for a long time, probably since the advent of talkies, and there's certainly quite a number that have fallen by the wayside in the years since they were released. So what, exactly, puts Lethal Weapon ahead of the pack? Well, at the time it paired an ageing family-man cop with a young cop who had nothing to lose, and left the audience wondering who was going to kill them first: the thugs they were investigating or each other. There is also one theory in creative circles that an artist does his best work when he is in complete obscurity, with no audience (or financier) feedback to alter the translation of their creative ideas to whatever medium it is they are working on. Lethal Weapon certainly goes a long way to prove that theory, since few people in Hollywood had any idea who Mel Gibson was, and the total budget was not all that high, so there was a lot less pressure to succeed.

    The film begins with a young prostitute climbing up on the balcony of a hotel and jumping off, falling dozens of stories until she lands on a car, where she is found the next day by the police. This prostitute goes by the name of Amanda Hunsaker (Jackie Swanson), and her father, Michael (Tom Atkins), has been trying to contact a friend in the police force for a while beforehand. This friend in the force just happens to be Detective Sergeant Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), who has just turned fifty and wants to get through the rest of his career as quietly as possible. Given that he has a lovely wife who goes by the name of Trish (Darlene Love) and can't cook worth a damn, not to mention three children including the teenaged Rianne (Traci Wolfe), you can't really blame him. Fate, however, has other ideas when he discovers his new partner is a suicidal ex-Special Forces soldier by the name of Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), although it would be all too easy to mistake him for a "crook", as Carrie Murtaugh (Ebonie Smith) does.

    When they go to investigate Amanda Hunsaker's death, they find another prostitute by the name of Dixie (Lycia Naff), but she isn't much help to them since her house blows up, with her in it, right in front of them. After a chat with Michael Hunsaker, they soon discover that they have stumbled onto an old smuggling ring dating back to the Vietnam war, led by General Peter McAllister (Mitchell Ryan) and a blonde known only as Mister Joshua (Gary Busey). Of course, they would prefer that the secret of their business operations remain under wraps, and proceed to kill everyone who might talk to the police about it, showing up just as Michael is about to spill the beans. When these drug smugglers kidnap Rianne, Roger and Martin make up their own minds to wage war upon them, and I'm sure everyone knows how it turns out since there are three more episodes in this franchise. The question on everyone's lips, of course, is why they would want to buy yet another version of this action classic, with this being the second DVD-Video of the film.

    The first answer, and the ever so slightly less important one in my view, is the presence of seven more minutes, not accounting for the PAL speedup of this disc, of footage that was originally left on the cutting room floor in order to tighten the pace. Anyone who has seen the snippets of this footage that are included as extras on the Lethal Weapon 4 disc will agree that they add something to the film, and it is about time this more complete version of the film was available. If you are into having more footage or a more complete narrative, then this is the best version available at the moment, and it will probably remain that way for some time to come. Those who would prefer a better-looking picture will also be happy with the difference in technical terms between the two discs, as I am about to explain.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The second reason why this disc is definitely the preferred version of Lethal Weapon can be described in two words: RSDL formatting.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, a slight opening of the mattes from the intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. Right off the bat, the transfer is much sharper than the original theatrical cut that was released onto the Australian DVD-Video market sometime last year, with the average bitrate hovering above seven megabits per second rather than a measly three or four. The shadow detail is slightly improved by the looser compression, although it is still only average compared to more recent vintage films. There is no low-level noise.

    The colours of this transfer reflect the film, in that they are muted and drab, lending the appropriate atmosphere to the proceedings in exactly the same way that the latter two sequels don't. There were no problems with bleeding, misregistration, or composite artefacts.

    MPEG artefacts were not a problem for this transfer, which is the most clean and natural-looking transfer of Lethal Weapon to date in this regard. The nasty MPEG artefact that was found during Mel Gibson's post-dinner conversation with Danny Glover at approximately 53:18, when the extra footage in this cut is accounted for, was nowhere to be seen. There were a few moderate instances of aliasing scattered through the picture, as well as a dozen minor ones that were mostly confined to car chrome and other metallic objects. The only instance I found very seriously objectionable was at 69:53, when Tom Atkins goes to the window and the top of the horizontal frames shimmer quite noticeably. Aside from this, there were no seriously distracting examples of film-to-video artefacts in this transfer. Film artefacts were found with moderate frequency, but their severity was more than acceptable given the age of the film.

    There are English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles presented on this disc, and they are roughly ninety percent accurate to the spoken dialogue. An Italian for the Hearing Impaired option is also available, and although I wasn't specifically able to test its faithfulness to the dialogue, I was assured that apart from the usual amount that is lost in the translation from English to Italian, these subtitles are perfectly serviceable.

    This disc uses the RSDL format, and a great many of the improvements in the transfer quality can be associated with this fact. The layer change takes place during Chapter 20, just after Danny Glover yells "get out of here". The pause at 59:07 is only given away by the interruption to the sound of a motor driving the targets at the shooting range into place.



Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are a total of three soundtracks available on this disc, all of them encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 384 kilobits per second. The first and default soundtrack is the original English dialogue, with dubs in French and Italian also present. I listened primarily to the English dialogue, and compared a few scenes in Italian for the benefit of a friend.

    The dialogue in the English soundtrack is clear and easy to understand at almost all times, with one or two words occasionally being muttered a little too quietly, but this is easy to accept. The Italian soundtrack sounds a little louder than the English soundtrack, with the dialogue being noticeably higher in the mix. There were no subjectively discernable problems with audio sync at any time.

    The music in this film is credited to Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen, and it is a very appropriate effort, given the partly comedic theme of the film. The more downbeat and minor themes have a hint of irony in them, and the overall result is a score that is very keyed into, and supportive of, the film. I found that this music was nothing special overall, but others have told me it is masterful stuff, so you may well find it more enveloping than I did.

    The surround channels receive a moderate workout from this film, with music, gunshots, passing cars, and a helicopter getting most of the surround channel use. There was one instance where the music at 11:04 found its way into the surround channels, and created a nicely enveloping field that drew me into the film. The use of the surround channels for gunshots at 17:52 seemed a little unnatural, however, with the entire effect seeming to come from the rears, an effect that just didn't quite jibe with the visuals.  The best use of the sound field came when a car explodes at 99:00, with all five main speakers and the subwoofer erupting into life.

    Speaking of the subwoofer, it was used throughout the film to support gunshots, explosions, bodies landing on cars, and a host of other bass-heavy effects that added a nice floor to the film. Although it wasn't used as heavily as one might expect, it did support the action faithfully without calling any specific attention to itself.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Notes explaining why the restored footage has been put back in place would have been nice, but instead all we get is the same extras as were present on the original release.

Menu

    The menu features an excellently-looped piece of video from the film with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. Navigating this menu is a breeze.

Cast & Crew Listing

    A listing of the principal cast and principal crew. This hardly even counts as an extra in my view.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    Let's be a little more objective here and think carefully about how much benefit a DTS soundtrack would really be. Widescreen Review have stated that the only advantage of the DTS soundtrack on the Region 1 disc is more definition in the bass channel, with no real gains in the fidelity or activeness of the surrounds. If you really need to have a DTS soundtrack, then Region 1 is the way to go, but don't expect it to be that much of an improvement. Given that Region 1's picture also suffers from what Widescreen Review describe as minor pixelization, I'm inclined to go for the local disc, if only by a small margin.

Summary

    Lethal Weapon is yet another great film that has been diminished by a greedy production company dipping back into the well a few too many times. Here, the chemistry between the leads is perfect, while the villains are some of the best that have been captured on celluloid in the past thirty years.

    The video transfer is very good. This is the version of the disc that Warner Home Entertainment should have released in the first place.

    The audio transfer is excellent, although it is not quite perfect.

    The extras are as close to non-existent as makes no odds.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, September 06, 2001
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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