It is Christmas in Los Angeles in 1987, and Mel Gibson has lost his mind. To be more exact Mel Gibson’s character, Martin Riggs is losing his mind; Mel Gibson would lose his much later. Reviewing Lethal Weapon seems futile; everyone knows the story and understands the tropes; it is a classic buddy cop movie that designed most of the ideas that are familiar to the audience and genre. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover both do tremendous jobs in their respective roles as Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, but the real star is behind the scenes, and that is screenwriter Shane Black. Richard Donner does a great job directing the movie, but Shane Black’s screenplay is excellent and helps make the movie a classic.
Lethal Weapon is a quintessential buddy cop action film, and on this rewatch, I discovered that there is a lot more to the story than just gunfights and thrills. Interestingly, this movie deals with the ramifications of the Vietnam war and how it affected the two main characters; the antagonists of the movie are also Vietnam vets who use their knowledge of the drug trade to exploit and make money. There is an aspect of the movie that seems to be analyzing masculinity as well, and we see this primarily through the character of Martin Riggs. He has shut himself off from people, and up until he becomes panthers with Murtaugh, he is looking for a reason not to kill himself. Shane Black uses his films to parody and deconstruct masculine concepts, and he is not afraid to let his characters become close with one another and show their emotions.
I also find it interesting that the setting of the movie is on Christmas. Shane Black likes setting his films around the holidays. I assume it is because he enjoys the aesthetic of Christmas trees and Christmas lights, but there is also a thematic idea of the year coming to an end and the beginning of the new year. Both characters, Riggs and Murtaugh, are at turning points in their lives. Riggs has lost a wife and wants a reason to keep going, and Murtaugh has just turned fifty and is reevaluating his identity because of his age. The Christmastime adds a unique aesthetic to the film and uses the period to explore change and renewal.
Lethal Weapon is a classic. It has amazing performances, great direction, and an immaculate script. It is a perfect action movie to view around the holiday season because of the Christmas setting, but Lethal Weapon is perfect no matter the time or date.