Directed By: Richard Donner
Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey
Tag line: "If these two can learn to stand each other... the bad guys don't stand a chance"
Trivia: Legendary stuntman Dar Robinson was killed in a motorcycle accident shortly after principal photography was finished. Director Richard Donner dedicated the film to him.
Set in the days leading up to Christmas, director Richard Donner’s 1987 action film Lethal Weapon at least partially qualifies as a Holiday movie (the song that plays over the opening credits is Jingle Bell Rock). But at its heart, Lethal Weapon is the quintessential “buddy cop” flick, and one hell of an action movie.
Police detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), who’s just celebrated his 50th birthday, likes to play it safe. His new partner, Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) is reckless, and, if the precinct’s psychiatrist is to be believed, also suffers from suicidal tendencies, which have plagued him since his beloved wife died in a car crash years earlier. The two are assigned to investigate the death of a prostitute (Jackie Swanson), who just happens to be the daughter of Murtaugh’s old army buddy, Michael Hunsicker (Tom Atkins). As they piece together the clues, the new partners find the trail leads to a crack military unit under the command of former General Pete McAllister (Mitch Ryan), who, with the help of his right-hand man, Mr. Joshua (Gary Busey), is planning to smuggle a large shipment of heroin into the United States.
Lethal Weapon set the standard for every buddy cop film that followed it; from its pairing pf two police officers with nothing in common to its various comedic scenes, which are tossed into the mix early on (the funniest involves Riggs’ attempt to talk a potential jumper off the ledge of a tall building). Glover is superb as Murtaugh, the grizzled veteran who no longer takes risks, but its Gibson’s performance as the near-insane Riggs that stands out (the scene where he puts the barrel of a loaded gun into his mouth is arguably the film’s most poignant). Topping it all off is a final act that features one thrill after another, including a showdown in the desert, and a high-speed pursuit, during which Riggs chases down a speeding vehicle on foot!
These elements, coupled with Gary Busey’s bad-ass albino hit man, make Lethal Weapon one of the ‘80s most exciting films.