LAPD Officers Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs once again find themselves caught up in a dangerous case. Not only do they have to unravel the illegal activities of South African criminals but they're also charged with protecting a key witness, Leo Getz, crucial to the case. Can they keep him and themselves alive long enough to bring the bad guys to justice?
The 80s, truly the decade when action movies began their dominance of the multiplex. Lethal Weapon was a successful addition to the genre offering audiences one of the best examples of cinematic escapism as a pair of mismatched cops took on evil drug dealers. So it was not surprising when, two years later, Danny Glover and Mel Gibson returned to the screen for another adventure orchestrated once again by director Richard Donner and writer Shane Black.
Lethal Weapon 2 opens with our heroes Murtaugh and Riggs arguing whilst engaged in a breakneck car chase. The film has set its tone from the off and continues to deliver the formula that was so successful first time round. But of course everything has been turned up a few notches with more chases, more shoot outs and more explosions. However, the darker edges of Riggs' character have undeniably been toned down. In fact his suicidal tendencies are nowhere to be found, although there’s still time for a more melancholy moment when he discusses the death of his wife. But to be fair it would have been a bit of a downer to have one half of the duo battling his inner demons all over again. To satisfy fans there’s more of Riggs’ trademark erratic behaviour on offer, offset by Murtaugh’s comedic domestic troubles, and the friendly antagonism between the leads is still in evidence. In fact, as in the first film, it’s the light repartee between the pair that carries things along. Both Glover and Gibson are in fine form and it’s obvious they are enjoying themselves in what have probably become their definitive roles.
But where would our heroes be without some despicable bad guys to thwart? Step forward Joss Ackland as Arjen Rudd, the leader of a group of evil South Africans protected by diplomatic immunity. Ackland plays things at the level of a James Bond baddie, full of almost panto levels of menace with his sneering condescending drawl and air of superiority. His subordinates follow the same pattern and it suits the film perfectly adding to the undeniable pleasure gained from seeing our heroes chase them, shoot them, blow them up and generally cause them no small amount of physical discomfort in a series of skilfully crafted action scenes. Add to this Joe Pesci as the annoyingly entertaining money launderer Leo Getz, a bomb under a toilet moment which exemplifies the deft mix of comedy and action, and a topless Patsy Kensit. What’s not to love?
For those that found the original such an enjoyable experience it’s hard to imagine them not being entertained by this follow up. If you were being critical you could say it’s just more of the same, but when it delivers on such an entertaining level what’s wrong with that? In fact Lethal Weapon 2 is the equal of its predecessor, offering up a triumphant blend of odd couple banter and explosive action that has been often imitated but never bettered.