Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.
Release Date: May 15th, 1992 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Richard Donner Actors: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Stuart Wilson, Steve Kahan, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe
ethal Weapon 3” gets a whole lot sillier, but director Richard Donner and the cast from the first two films return to keep basic elements faithful to the original characters and themes. The crew gets bigger when tough girl Rene Russo joins the team, the adventure is more intense when the villainy becomes severer (though the body count drops significantly), and the comedy is more frequent (thanks primarily to Joe Pesci). As with the previous episodes, the best thing about this series is the tongue-in-cheek dialogue and light-hearted buddy-cop turmoil that permeates every action sequence, even when guns are drawn and hostages are taken.
Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) has only eight days left before his retirement, but his suicidal partner Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) seems to be (un)intentionally doing everything in his power to foul it up. Since the bomb squad never shows up on time, Riggs decides to defuse a car explosive with little more than his instinct. That impulse turns out to be faulty (red and blue wires are confusing) and the duo is demoted to beat cops when the building housing the vehicle is reduced to rubble.
As with all of the “Lethal Weapon” movies, every bad guy is somehow connected to the other villains in the picture. So when Riggs and Murtaugh foil an armored car heist, the endeavor leads to crooked ex-policeman Lt. Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson), who is smuggling confiscated illegal firearms back onto the streets. With the help of Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) from Internal Affairs (who initially threatens their progress with a wall of classified information), the mismatched bunch tracks down the vicious cop-killer, paving a path of annihilation and bullets along the way.
Unfortunately, “Lethal Weapon 3” lacks an antagonist with any charisma or purpose beyond the typical delivering of lines of cruelty and random violence. But the stunts are still energetic, the shootouts fast-paced and suspenseful, the chases more elaborate, and the destruction more outrageous. As a result, though most adventure films are only as strong as the villain is memorable, the humorously reckless teamwork of Riggs and Murtaugh remains thrilling – even if some of the weepy, drunken male bonding is a little too over-the-top. As the duo’s chemistry becomes more complex, so too does their unlikely degree of indestructibility; the plan is still just to jump into harm’s way, guns blazing. So it really makes no difference that all the henchmen tote more advanced, heavier firepower.
It’s difficult to keep topping previous entries in a franchise. As the one-liners get cheesier, the rapid-fire quips and witty banter must double in quantity (as if to skip past any ineffective punches), especially when comic relief player Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) returns to poke his head into official police business. Almost every scene ends in a shootout (sometimes verbal but mostly with ammo); Riggs and Murtaugh can’t seem to avoid cinematic trouble – even grabbing a burger results in a drug bust and loss of life. Fortunately, the humor and verve outdo the sappier moments (for the most part), allowing “Lethal Weapon 3” to be a satisfactory (but not superior) addition to the popular action/adventure series.
– Mike Massie