Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)
Release Date: July 7th, 1989 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Richard Donner Actors: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Joss Ackland, Patsy Kensit, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Jenette Goldstein, Dean Norris
ethal Weapon 2” is actually quite the accomplishment for an action movie sequel. Director Richard Donner returns, with all of the original cast and more of the same buddy-cop chemistry and wild shenanigans that made the first feature so much fun. It’s still mostly tongue-in-cheek, Riggs is still borderline insane, Murtaugh is still overly concerned with not displeasing his wife, the sarcasm is still witty, and the action still intense. Guitar and saxophone riffs also continue to add an air of cheesiness to the hard-hitting violence, mayhem, and prevalent humor, but they help retain an appropriate mood and tone.
A routine drug bust winds up becoming an explosive car chase opening scene, thanks to the reckless maneuvering of LAPD detective Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and the failed restraint of Sergeant Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover). Back at the precinct, which is still a place for fun and games, the two detectives are given the monotonous assignment of protecting (or babysitting) a witness for the prosecution, Leo Getz (Joe Pesci). The constantly rambling Leo laundered money for various illegal organizations, one of which might be related to the South African gangsters Riggs and Murtaugh had previously unsuccessfully chased down. After following a trail of clues, they confront the Minister of Diplomatic Affairs for South Africa, a particularly cold man named Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland), who hides behind his diplomatic immunity to steal gold Krugerrands and a wealth of cash. When Rudd’s gang of assassins threatens Murtaugh’s family, Riggs’ newfound consulate secretary girlfriend Rika (Patsy Kensit), and the fellow cops in their department, the situation gets personal.
And when it gets personal, it gets violent. Riggs never has cared too much for following the rules, and his destiny of vigilante vengeance frequently borders on completely illegal. And although Murtaugh usually plays by the book, his even temper is no match for threats against his family. The plan? Go in guns blazing. “Lethal Weapon 2” once again proves that these two supercops can take an unmatchable amount of punishment and deliver the pain just as skillfully. Director Donner got just about everything right when following up his original action adventure, careful not to disappoint fans by changing the attitudes of the characters, the spirit of the crime-busting, or the level of colorful diversions, wisecracks, and silly one-liner kill phrases.
Pesci assuredly adds to the comedy element, playing a man with an opinion on everything and intruding almost entirely for comic relief. As the droll camaraderie gets better, the chemistry is more comfortable and the subplots – many of which are included solely for laughs – become more abundant. Pesci’s Leo Getz builds a quirky, likeable role that would return for the next two chapters of the franchise. While many scenes contain verbal and visual jokes, the action maintains the sense of seriousness and grittiness that frequents comparable R-rated works of the ‘80s and ‘90s. And as the stunts get more impressively extravagant, the adventure more adrenaline-rushing, and the destruction more explosive, it’s clear that this unstoppable duo will have a lasting impact in cinemas and on moviemakers.
– Mike Massie