Directed by Richard Donner
Written by Shane Black
Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mitch Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darlene Love, Traci Woolfe, Jackie Swanson, Mary Ellen Trainor, Steve Kahan, Grand L Bush, Al Leong.
In this 1980’s action yarn, also set at Christmas (but a Christmas movie?), introduces two newly partnered cops. There is traditional family man Roger Murtaugh, who has just turned 50 (but played by then 40 year old Glover). There is also recently widowed Riggs, (Gibson) who is borderline suicidal due to his loss, and living on the edge. Their first case together is to investigate the potential murder of the daughter one of Murtaugh’s friends, their investigation leads them to a enormous drug shipment, led by ruthless military men.
Released a year before my previous post, these two films are in similar fashion as each other, as both are establishing movies in a series. Here however we get the ‘buddy cop’ genre, which the other doesn’t. Interestingly the two films share a couple of side actors (Bush and Leong) as well as the composer Michael Kamen. Kaman, along with Eric Clapton were composers on the film, and the theme– which follows on for the next three (soon to be four) films is universally recognized (and even spoofed in another Donner/Gibson film in 1994).
While once upon a time I thoroughly enjoyed this film, I have to be subjective here, and in a reviewer mindset (watching in 2022 however), this doesn’t have the same ‘oomph’ as other films in the same genre.
The leads here too are the ‘everyman’ and not the archetype of the 80’s norm of Arnie/Stallone/VanDamme, but unfortunately they don’t possess the same screen presence of others released in the same few years – mainly my most recent review of Die Hard’s John McClane.
Gibson is a great actor, and can be a compelling lead, or co-lead. In watching this with today’s eyes, his ‘on the edge’ persona was too much – especially at times where he has an almost Luney Tunes type anger. In these moments they are not even trying to be self aware or ironic either. This hasn’t aged well, and I actually forgot how on the nose this was. There are also some dialogue that has aged poorly, and is purely a product of their time.
The villains of the film are also over the top at times, and some of their actions don’t really make much sense – especially in the latter part of the film.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad film. It’s just not as good as I once remembered.