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LETHAL WEAPON 4

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li
Director:  Richard Donner
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  127 Minutes
Release Date:  December 16, 1998

Film ***

The tag line reads “the gang's all here”, and they are.  All the characters we've come to know and love in the series are here for Lethal Weapon 4, along with a new face in Chris Rock, and the results are expectedly entertaining.

I say expectedly because, as any film series that goes on as long as this, the tendency is to move farther and farther from surprises and more along the lines of formula.  We know there's going to be a preliminary explosive sequence where our heroes Riggs and Murtaugh (Gibson and Glover) blow some stuff up, and the bang will be bigger than the last one.  We know Leo Getz (Pesci) is the comic relief.

Still, in this series, the characters were so well developed along the way, they almost feel like family in a way.  The two leads have always been appealing, and their characters equally so.  After all, these are actually pretty average guys.  We've spent time in their homes, seeing their personal problems, sharing their laughter, sorrow, joy, guilt, and everything else.  They're normal.  They just get thrust into extraordinary situations.

One gets the feel when watching the series of the effect Riggs and Murtaugh's friendship has had on one another.  Riggs has mellowed from the suicidal nutcase he once was.  Murtaugh has become less stiff and more daring.  Things like that make these guys real instead of some cardboard cutout action heroes.

In number 4, the boys face off against an Asian mob (led by the spectacular physical presence of Jet Li) who are importing illegal immigrants as slaves in order to...well, best not to give away the plot.  Suffice to say, there is much mayhem and laughter along the way, and a great subplot about the dual pregnancies of Murtaugh's daughter and Cole (Russo).

There's nothing much new or out of the ordinary, excepting the welcome addition of Chris Rock to the mix, but plenty of what you expect, and certainly a good time to be had.  If they decide to bring on number 5, I’ll definitely be there in line to welcome the gang back.

Video ****

A decidedly outstanding effort from Warner.  This anamorphic transfer is crisp, clean, and gorgeous throughout with excellent color rendering and no noticeable grain or compression, even in the darker scenes. 

Audio ****

The 5.1 soundtrack is loud, loud, LOUD and will definitely work out your sound system.  With the many action sequences, you'll notice plenty of discretion amongst your front and rear stages, as well as lots of bottom end coming from the .1 channel during the gunplay and explosions.  The audio and video on this disc definitely will provide you with maximum home theatre enjoyment of a good action picture.

Features ****

Warner elected to make this film part of their Premiere Collection DVD's, and it shows in the features, most of which are on side 2.  Trailers for all four films, a half hour documentary “Pure Lethal” hosted by Danny Glover, a great collection of interviews with all the principals, deleted scenes from the first 3 movies, and a full length commentary with director Donner.  A good collection of extras that allow fans to look both back and ahead in the series.

Summary:

Lethal Weapon 4 is not the best in the series, but shouldn't disappoint the fans, of which I'm one.  I rented this title first, then bought it, so I consider it worth owning.  Looks and sounds great, and a plethora of good features.  You can't go wrong.