Overall | Lethal Weapon (1987) | Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) | Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) | Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Lethal Weapon Legacy

Lethal Weapon Legacy

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Released 6-Nov-2000

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Overall Package

    The Lethal Weapon Legacy boxed set is a collection of the four films in the Lethal Weapon saga, presented in Transparent Amaray cases within a nice cardboard slip case. In contrast to the Scream Screen Saga boxed set, there are no extra supplementals provided with this boxed set, merely the already-available pressings of the four films. This is a slight disappointment, since all four films could really use a recompressed dual-layer transfer, with the extras available on Lethal Weapon 4 spread more evenly over the saga. However, those who have yet to buy any of the Lethal Weapon films will find the value-for-money factor irresistible, because the price point of $99.95 means that the Lethal Weapon Legacy boxed set represents better value for money, with a saving of $47.85 compared to the cost of buying all four films separately.

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
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Overall | Lethal Weapon (1987) | Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) | Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) | Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Lethal Weapon (1987)

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Released 10-Jan-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 105:05
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Richard Donner
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Mel Gibson
Danny Glover
Gary Busey
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
Annoying Product Placement Yes, very mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Lethal Weapon is the film that broke Mel Gibson on the American actors' circuit. It is also easily the best of the Lethal Weapon series for a number of good reasons. First, it is vaguely realistic in that the characters aren't mistaking themselves for comedians at every turn. In fact, if the truth be told, this is the only Lethal Weapon film where the syrup content doesn't outweigh the spice content. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the characterizations, especially of Martin Riggs. Another plus is the complete and utter absence of Joe Pesci. Now, don't get me wrong - I love Pesci's acting in films such as Casino or Goodfellas, but he also needed to be told that he just doesn't have what it takes to be a comedian. Okay, so there's still the sort of humour (if you can call it that) which tends to make you wish the next person who used it would spontaneously combust, but to nowhere near the same extent to even the most passable sequel. Anyway, as for the plot, here it is: Sergeant Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is a Los Angeles homicide detective who once served in Vietnam. He's the type of guy who likes to take things slowly and not get himself into too much trouble. Imagine his despair at being assigned Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), a man who has nothing to lose and no reason to live, as a partner. Riggs, of course, is also a Vietnam veteran, but he has the advantage of having been given some really extra special training. Together, they manage to create enough mayhem to make a man like Paul Verhoeven proud. It's such a pity that through bad script choices and underuse of potential dramatic elements the sequels quickly became way too much of a good thing.

    Anyway, I'll continue with my description of the plot. Together, Riggs and Murtaugh investigate the somewhat mysterious death of a young prostitute named Amanda. As luck and a good script would have it, this particular prostitute is the daughter of Michael Hunsaker (Tom Atkins), a man who saved Murtaugh's life in Vietnam on one occasion. As a further matter of fact, this same man is rather heavily involved in a drug-running ring with other Vietnam vets being led by a man credited only as The General (the character's full name is General Peter McAllister, and he is played rather woodenly by Mitchell Ryan). His lieutenant, who is only known throughout the film as Mister Joshua (Gary Busey), is like a vicious sort of Anti-Riggs. The climactic fight sequences in the last twenty minutes of the film are especially enhanced by his presence. However, nothing in the film compares to the sequence in which The General, after having lost his driver to a bullet and having been hit by a bus, finds himself trapped in a wreck with several about-to-detonate grenades. Thrills and spills might not quite come in abundance with this film, but when they do come, they're very intense. Did I also mention that this instalment has the best story line?

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Before we go any further, I'd like to mention that I have recently given my personal equipment a radical overhaul. I now have a new 80cm television with some wonderful features, a new TV stand, a new amplifier, and a new subwoofer. Personally, I cannot think of a better film to be the first I review using this equipment than Lethal Weapon (well, I can, but most of them are currently Region 1 only). Having used both the old television and new television to view this film, I can say that whilst the video transfer is not reference quality, it's a lot better than what I would expect from a film that has been neglected in favour of more saleable (not to mention more vapid) sequels.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 enhancement.

    Given the film's age, this transfer is remarkably free of artefacts. The occasional speck of dirt shows up on the negatives here and there, and there's that lovely speck of water on the lens of the camera to give away the age of the film, but otherwise, this is an excellent transfer. Apart from a line on the film at 64:05, film artefacts went unnoticed. The most telltale sign of the film's age lies in the lighting setup, where flares from the sun show up regularly, and Mel Gibson's hairdo (of course). If haircuts and technology were truly timeless, then one would be forgiven for thinking that they were looking at a film of very recent vintage. Shadow detail is remarkable for a film of this age, as is the sharpness and the lack of low level noise. Most of the details that were lost in darkness on the VCR version of the film have been rescued from the depths on this DVD. This makes Warner Brothers' failures with other Lethal Weapon films, and other films from the mid-to-late eighties, all the more frustrating. Film-to-video artefacts were mild, coming from the usual suspects. The occasional car grille showed a little aliasing here and there, as one would reasonably expect. It was rather hard for me to tell if the occasional losses of definition in background details were bona fide artefacts or just hangovers from the 1987 photography (it's more likely to be the latter). However, when all is said and done, this film has come out exceptionally well from the digital treatment. The only sequence in which the quality of the photography is not optimal is the climactic hand-to-hand fight between Riggs and Mr. Joshua, and this is only because clarity was a secondary consideration when it was originally photographed.

(Addendum March 27, 2000: One moderate MPEG artefact occurs during the conversation between Martin and Roger after the dinner with the Murtaughs, at 47:28. It consists of some pixellation on the screen that may or may not be a digital dropout. This only occurs for half a second at most, and is not enough to deduct points over in spite of its noticeability.)

    Like a lot of Warner Brothers titles, the subtitles only bear a passing relation to the actual dialogue. While they are helpful during moments when the dialogue isn't quite meant to be understood, they are otherwise a pain. The subtitles are offered in a choice of English, French, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Romanian, Bulgarian, English for the Hearing Impaired, and Italian for the Hearing Impaired. Would it really be asking too much, Warners, for subtitles that are fully concurrent with the screenplay?

Audio

    Again, the audio quality defies the age of the film. Warner Brothers must have been taking very good care of this film for the day when it would be re-released in digital form. A rare display of foresight, as it were. Three languages are offered, all in Dolby Digital 5.1: English, French, and Italian. Since I don't speak the other languages at all, I merely listened to the English track. Dialogue seemed to be reasonably clear at all points, although there was a lot of muttered speech in some post-violent sequences which could not be made out without the assistance of subtitles. The film doesn't suffer any for this, but it is a rather annoying throwback to the Mad Max series that I personally could have done without. Thankfully, these instances are rare within this film, and do not detract from the overall quality of the dialogue.

    Audio sync doesn't appear to be a problem on my trusty Grundig, although it appears that a lot of allowances were made in the principal photography of the film for any such difficulties. A lot of the speech occurs when the principal characters are off-screen, obscured by props, or in the midst of rapid movements. The only times when this doesn't occur was during the introduction of the characters, and the classic dinner sequence. However, a problem avoided during principal photography is perfectly fine as it won't stick out like aliasing during the non 16x9 enhanced version of The Thing. The surround channels were mainly used to support the music and special effects. The subwoofer worked hard to support the gunshots, explosions, impacts, and music. In other words, it got a reasonable amount of exercise from start to finish.

    The score music by Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton is very good for contemporary music applied to film. It is difficult to imagine the Lethal Weapon series without it, although it still fails the ultimate test of film music - making the listener unable to believe that either the music or the film existed before one another. In any case, I've certainly heard much worse soundtrack music in my lifetime, so I'll leave this lot be.

Extras

    As we have come to expect when Warner Brothers release a film of such fine vintage, there are no extras. Not even a menu that is actually themed around the film. Given that Warner Brothers have also followed Columbia's lead (or is that the other way around) and increased the price of their DVDs by five dollars, this is just not on. The scene selection menu is also really pathetic, with only access to nine of the film's actual chapters available. Warner Brothers, there is one thing I want you to get clear, regardless of all the other complaints I have: this limitation of scene selection menus is just not on.

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;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     It's a tough ask, this one. Normally, this many extras would sway me to state that the Region 1 version is the one to go for, but the usage of dual-sided formatting there, combined with their NTSC formatting, does not appeal to me. Unless you are a fan to the point of obsession, I think sticking with the Region 4 version will be just fine.

Summary

    Lethal Weapon is a good piece of action film that has stood the test of time (and of bad sequels) quite well. Although the presentation leaves a little to be desired, it is certainly worthy of purchase.

    The video quality is excellent, especially in comparison to the VHS version that hasn't been seen on store shelves for the better part of a decade. A houseguest I had over recently happily confirmed this fact by comparing a freeze-frame of Mel Gibson's buttocks with how she remembered the VHS version.

    The audio quality is also excellent by virtue of comparison, especially with the Dolby Digital remix. The use of a subwoofer alone puts a floor on the sound effects that makes the film just that little bit more exciting.

    Now, one would think, given how much money the Lethal Weapon franchise has made Warner Brothers, that they would be gracious enough to provide us with one measly extra. An audio commentary by Mel Gibson would have been especially welcome given how pivotal in his career this role was.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Sunday, January 30, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDGrundig GDV-100, using Composite output
DisplayPanasonic 80cm. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersPanasonic S-J1500D x2, Sharp CP-303A x2, Sony SS-CN120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer

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The DVD Bits - John Z
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Overall | Lethal Weapon (1987) | Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) | Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) | Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

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Released 10-May-1999

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer-1.78:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Featurette-Stunts and Action (3:49)
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 109:45
RSDL / Flipper No/No 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
Joss Ackland
Derrick O'Connor
Patsy Kensit
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
Arabic
Dutch
French
Italian
Portuguese
Spanish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    As is always the case when a film becomes a success beyond all expectations, and in spite of not having a great deal of technical finesse to begin with, the Lethal Weapon franchise was afforded a sequel. Of course, the original episode attracted a lot of controversy for its mayhemic violence, in spite of the fact that this really only makes up a quarter of the film, so the makers decided that everyone should get to see twice as much destruction this time around. The film begins with Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), as well as other detectives from their unit, in pursuit of some expensive cars that are being driven in quite a reckless manner. Riggs and Murtaugh had told Captain Ed Murphy (Steve Kahan) that this was simply going to be your average drug-bust, but they didn't count on their suspects chatting over the CB network in a language that no one in the department had heard before, or helicopters coming to pick up some of their suspects in the middle of the street. Nor did they count on finding half a million dollars worth of South African Krugerands in the boot of one of the overturned cars.

    The next night, the head of the syndicate for which the smugglers work comes to the decision that the head of the taskforce that just ate a big hole in their revenue, who just happens to be Murtaugh, should be "warned off". As a result, Captain Ed decides that his two wildest detectives could use a break from their regular assignments, so he assigns them to "babysit" a star witness until "all the red tape is processed". As luck, or at least bad lack for the audience, would have it, the star witness turns out to be Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), and audiences in 1989 weren't quite sure whether the bad guys or the good guys would shoot him first. After a bungled assassination attempt that results in Martin punching Leo in the face while half-submerged in the hotel's pool, Leo reveals that he is in the Witness Protection Program because he laundered half a billion dollars in drug money.

    Since our heroes have nothing better to do, they decide to go and check the drug dealers' headquarters out, which results in a hilarious encounter with the failed hitman and a surfboard. Naturally, our heroes come back to the house on stilts, leading their squad in a raid upon the premises, and it turns out that the drug dealers Leo remembers laundering money for and the Krugerand smugglers are the same people. Led by Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland) and Pieter Vorstedt (Derrick O'Connor), the drug dealers turn out to be South African diplomats who hide behind their diplomatic credentials while making untold amounts of money from trading between drugs, dollars, and Krugerands. As the detectives are unable to arrest the smugglers due to the Diplomatic Relations Act, they leave the site empty-handed and about to draw more of Captain Ed's ire. As luck would have it, however, Riggs salvages a little good out of the situation by meeting Rika Van Den Haas (Patsy Kensit), Arjen's secretary. After that, the smugglers and our duo of mismatched detectives declare all-out war on each other, with results that are highly predictable since we have two more sequels to deal with.

    Although the series has definitely been showing signs of strain in the past two episodes, Lethal Weapon 2 is still rather fresh because it stays reasonably close to the tone of the original. Some have criticized the changes in Mel Gibson's character as being inconsistent with the original episode, but I can tell you with quite a certainty that it is actually very consistent with how a man who had nothing to lose changes when he suddenly finds a comrade he actually likes to work with and a family that is accepting and tolerant of him. The humour that has been infused into this episode is mostly an enhancement to the story, although I'm sure I'm not the only one who really wanted to join the South African smugglers as they beat the crap out of Leo. In any case, if you enjoyed the original episode, then this sequel will make a nice adjunct.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    The transfer is sharp enough to be presentable, but the backgrounds and other such details that aren't the primary focus of the shot tend to look blurred and indistinct. The shadow detail is average, with a minimal amount of detail viewable in the darker parts of the shots. Although I have not seen this film in the theatre, I would hazard a guess that the amount of detail visible in the darkness was better when it was displayed in theatres. There is no low-level noise to spoil the image.

    The colour saturation of this film and its transfer follows the standard set by the previous film, with a muted a dull look that emphasizes the atmosphere of the story. There are no signs of misregistration, oversaturation, or undersaturation. Colour bleeding was a very slight problem when Riggs wore his red shirt, but this is the only specific problem with colour in the transfer.

    MPEG artefacts were a problem for this transfer, although it would have been nice if an extra layer had been used to preserve the sharpness of the background in a few shots. Film-to-video artefacts, especially aliasing, are a major problem for this transfer, with numerous linear objects shimmering dreadfully on numerous occasions. At 41:12, the top of a car door can be seen shimmering in spite of the fact that there is no apparent camera movement during this shot, and the shot of Riggs' caravan at 48:42 also contains a similar amount of aliasing in spite of a stationary camera. Telecine wobble is a minor problem, but I only became dimly aware of it when trying to focus on certain details started to give me a headache. Film artefacts consisted of numerous minor white marks on the image, as well as some black spots and a hair or two, but these were acceptable within the limits of an eleven-year-old film.

Audio

    There are three soundtracks available on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as dubs in French and Italian, both of which are also encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1, although they have more of a tendency to sound just like a 2.1 surround-encoded soundtrack. I listened to the default English soundtrack, and had a brief listen to the dubs to see if there was any notable difference in surround activity. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand for the most part, although some words are occasionally hard to make out, and some limits are posed by the obviously put-on South African accents. There were no discernible problems with audio sync, at least not subjectively.

    The score music in this film is credited to Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, and David Sanborn. The last of these three was added to this film for reasons I can only guess at, as the score music in this film sounds more or less the same as that of the previous film. In spite of this, the score music is still effective in this episode, lending more or less the right atmosphere to most of the proceedings. The lack of any pseudo-contemporary numbers such as in the nightclub scenes of the original film makes the score a little more immune to becoming dated.

    The surround channels are used frequently and aggressively to support the action sequences and the music, although it often seems like both channels are being used at once as you'd expect from a Pro-Logic mix. There are occasional moments when the sound field becomes biased towards the front channels, but like the lack of truly directional surround effects, this can be blamed upon the soundtrack that the film was released in theatres with, rather than the transfer itself. In spite of this, the soundtrack is moderately immersive and draws the viewer into the film quite nicely. The subwoofer had a wonderful time supporting the lower frequencies of the soundtrack, with music, gunshots, and explosions all blasting out of the LFE channel at regular intervals. The subwoofer did little to call any specific attention to itself.

Extras

Menu

    The menu is in the usual static style of early generation Warner Brothers DVDs, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

Featurette - Stunts And Action

    This featurette is presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 1.0 sound. It is well worth watching in spite of its short length, giving an interesting look at how two of the stunt sequences, including the Flying Surfboard sequence, were shot.

Cast And Crew Biographies

    Biographies for Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, and Joe Pesci are provided under the usual Warner Brothers cast menu, while biographies for director Richard Donner and producer Joel Silver are provided under their own heading in the Special Features menu. These biographies contain no revealing information, and are of average length.

R4 vs R1

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

    Again, a director's cut of Lethal Weapon 2 has become available in Region 1 with a DTS soundtrack.

    The Region 4 and Region 1 standard versions of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 director's cut edition of this disc misses out on;     According to Widescreen Review, the DTS soundtrack available on the Region 1 version of this disc only adds more bass definition to the film, and is nothing to get excited about. In spite of being RSDL formatted, the Region 1 disc also suffers from pixelization and heavy grain, making the Region 4 version the better choice due to a slightly cleaner picture.

Summary

    Lethal Weapon 2 is a worthy follow-up to the original, with only minor indications of the faults that would severely tarnish the later episodes.

    The video quality is good, but suffers a noticeable problem with aliasing and shadow detail.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are limited.

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

Other Reviews
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Michael D (read my bio)
NZHT - Damon B
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Ian M (Biological imperfection run amok)
DVD Plaza - Anthony C (read my bio)
GetCarter - Adam D

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Overall | Lethal Weapon (1987) | Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) | Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) | Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

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Released 10-May-1999

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer-2
Production Notes
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 113:05
RSDL / Flipper No/No 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
Stuart Wilson
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
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Spanish
Portuguese
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits Yes, a quick joke at the end of the credits

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

Plot Synopsis

    Lethal Weapon 3 marks the first time in the Lethal Weapon series when the end result has been a disappointment compared to what could have been done with the story and its characters. Granted, the heroes are still mostly in fine form with their wisecracks and outlandishly bad behaviour, but this marks the first time in the series where the villains are reduced to little more than cardboard cut-outs. The main bad guy in this particular instalment is a major disappointment, and certainly doesn't stack up well against Gary Busey or Derrick O'Connor and their more-than-worthy portrayals of Riggs' opponents in the previous two episodes. After fighting with Mister Joshua and Pieter Vorstedt, you'd expect Riggs to clean up Jack Travis for a bit of light exercise.

    Nonetheless, the film begins with homicide detectives Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) arriving at a building that has been cleaned out by the emergency services because there is a bomb in the parking lot. Martin figures that it's either a threat or a scare, but one of the firemen present declares it to be the real thing and introduces a man who actually saw the explosive device in the back seat of a car. Martin, figuring the witness simply saw some kind of electronic device in the back seat and mistook it for a bomb, drags Roger into the parking lot with him to check it out. Roger is meant to retire in a matter of days, so he simply wants to lay low and let the time go quietly, but Martin won't have a bar of it. Naturally, the device on the back seat of the car turns out to be a real bomb, and Martin sets to work on defusing it. Unfortunately, his attempt doesn't work as planned, and our two heroes just barely make it out of the building before it goes up in a blazing pillar of fire, just in time for the bomb squad to show up. Well, at least they managed to save the cat they found in the parking lot.

    This, of course, is one of the first disappointments of Lethal Weapon 3 - an opening stunt sequence that has nothing at all to do with the rest of the film. After the bomb sequence, we find our two heroes busted down to lowly patrolmen, presumably to give a lead-in for the next sequence that moves the story along. Why this demotion is in the slightest bit necessary for the plot, I have no idea, but the end result is a uniformed Martin and Roger chasing a pair of armoured car robbers along a highway. When they succeed in apprehending one of them, Captain Ed Murphy (Steve Kahan) reinstates them as detectives, much to the ire of Internal Affairs and their newly-introduced representative, Lorna Cole (Rene Russo). Together, they wander down to the interrogation room and discover the suspect they arrested from the armoured car robbery, Billy Phelps (Mark Pellegrino), has been shot.

    When the detectives try to determine who shot Billy and why, we see the first use of a convenient, however mildly so, plot device in this series: it seems that Internal Affairs installed cameras in the interrogation rooms of every station without their knowledge, and the one in this interrogation room reveals that Billy was shot by former police Lieutenant Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson). In case I didn't make it clear the first time, this is the first time the Lethal Weapon series has had an antagonist that I honestly expected Martin Riggs to chew up and spit out. In any case, Travis' criminal enterprise is relatively simple: every now and again, he breaks into the police vaults to steal weapons that were scheduled for destruction. Combining these weapons with armour-piercing ammunition, he sells them to various street-level distributors for a tidy profit, which he then invests back in the construction of a village full of townhouses. It certainly gives you food for thought when you pass by the latest urban sprawls and wonder exactly where the budget for construction is coming from.

    Anyway, in spite of having a less-than-threatening bad guy and an even more annoying Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), who gets taken care of in a highly amusing manner after being shot by Travis, the banter between the heroes keeps this episode entertaining. One exchange after Nick Murtaugh's (Damon Hines) conversation with his friend, Darryl (Bobby Wynn) is interrupted by Roger is hilarious enough to save the entire film by itself. "Word, Martin..." "Word, Roger..." "What the hell are we talking about, anyway?" Word, indeed!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Many hold Lethal Weapon 3 to be the weakest film in the series, while others like Michael and I believe Lethal Weapon 4 to be the weaker of the two. If this transfer is to be held as a good indication, however, the third episode is the weakest of the bunch.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. The transfer is the sharpest of the Lethal Weapon series, with more definition and clarity than even the original episode, which was transferred at a significantly later date. The shadow detail is also excellent, with plenty of subtle gradations between light and dark on offer, as opposed to the large expanses of black that dominated the previous two films to a small extent. There was no low-level noise or film grain evident in the image at any given time.

    The colour saturation in this transfer is warm and vibrant, which clashes quite severely with the dark and understated style that was a deliberate artistic choice in the previous two films. Indeed, friends of mine have referred to Lethal Weapon 3 as the episode where everything begins to look pretty at the expense of the story. Still, the colour saturation is consistent from start to finish, and there are no problems with undersaturation or bleeding.

    MPEG artefacts are not a serious problem for this transfer, save for the occasional moment such as at 37:33, where the background threatens to break out in a series of macro-blocks. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor telecine wobble in the opening credits, and an occasional display of aliasing in car grilles and the edges of windows. Film artefacts are mildly problematic in this transfer, but there is only one instance of a seriously distracting artefact at 31:44, which is positioned and shaped in just such a manner that it could be confused with a reel change marking. It isn't actually a reel change marking, but I have no real idea of what it is, as it looks more like a pink oval with a black outline, which would be consistent with the interpositive being slightly overheated at this time and location in the film.

Audio

    Again, it also stands to reason that a contender for the weakest film of the series should be afforded the best transfer. There are three soundtracks provided on this DVD, all of them 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 without bothering to compare the foreign dubs.

    The dialogue is mostly clear and easy to make out, although there are still one or two lines that are a little difficult to make out because of the actors' occasional mumbling, or some imperfect recording techniques. There were no perceptible problems with audio sync.

    The score music by Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, and David Sanborn is starting to become a little weary and repetitious, mainly because there seems to be little distinction between the musical cues used in tense situations or lighter moments. I am extremely certain that if you blindfolded a viewer and played the musical cues from all four Lethal Weapon films at them, they would not be able to discern which film each of the scenes where the score is present are actually from. This is not necessarily bad, as the score music is still quite enjoyable, it just needs a little more variety.

    The surround channels are used aggressively to support the music and action sequences, and they create a reasonably immersive sound field in doing so. The surround channels seemed to be more actively involved in this film, with more directional effects and volume present in those channels. There were also less instances of the soundtrack collapsing into straight stereo or mono, with only one or two sequences being biased towards the front of the soundstage. The subwoofer was used frequently to support explosions, gunshots, and other action sequence effects, and it seemed to truly have a fun time with this film without calling any specific attention to itself.

Extras

Menu

    The menu is in the usual static style common to early-generation Warner Brothers DVDs, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. It is also quite ugly to look at.

Theatrical Trailer 1

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this two-and-a-half minute trailer is in a similarly jovial style to most of the other Lethal Weapon trailers.

Theatrical Trailer 2

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this ninety-four second trailer contains some rather strange edits of the original soundtrack.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies for Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, producer Joel Silver, and director Richard Donner are provided. They are of moderate length, readability, and interest.

R4 vs R1

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

    Once again, a second version of this film has become available on Region 1 DVD with the film cut to the director's specifications and a DTS soundtrack.

    The Region 4 and Region 1 standard versions of this disc misses out on;

    Once again, Widescreen Review have indicated that the full-bitrate DTS soundtrack does not add anything to the film except for more definition in the lower registers of the soundtrack. Three minutes of additional footage is also not much to get excited about, as I can hardly see it adding nearly as much to the film as the six minutes of footage that was restored to the Criterion edition of Robocop. Additionally, in spite of RSDL formatting, the picture quality reportedly suffers from pixelization, MPEG artefacts, minor edge enhancement, and a "pasty" look in some scenes. Our local version of the disc would be the better choice due to the cleaner-looking picture.

Summary

    Lethal Weapon 3 is a slight letdown compared to the previous two episodes, but it is miles ahead of Lethal Weapon 4. It is presented on a good DVD.

    The video quality is very good, let down only by a little too much aliasing.

    The audio quality is also very good.

    The extras are limited.

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

Other Reviews
NZHT - Damon B
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Ian M (Biological imperfection run amok)
GetCarter - Adam D

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Lethal Weapon (1987) | Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) | Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) | Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

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

Other Reviews
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Michael D (read my bio)
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Ian M (Biological imperfection run amok)
NZHT - Damon B
DVD-Max - Chris G
GetCarter - Adam D

Comments (Add) NONE