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‘Lethal Weapon 3’ (R)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 15, 1992

He promises, oh how Danny Glover promises to retire. But in "Lethal Weapon 3" he's only fooling himself. He'll realize that, one day, in "Lethal Weapon 6: This Time Grampa Really Means It."

There is no time for quitting in this third teaming of Glover and wacko partner Mel Gibson. Those L.A. detectives have their work cut out for them: How can they outdo the car crashes, the brutality, the quipping, the guy bonding and the incendiary finales from the previous installment, without repeating themselves?

Answer: Who said they can't repeat themselves? If there's an original moment in this movie, producer Joel Silver and director Richard Donner sincerely apologize. They've made minor plot adjustments, and added new guest Rene Russo and new villain Stuart Wilson. They brought back "LW2" guest star (this time, unfunny) Joe Pesci. But essentially, they guarantee you the same product you consumed twice before.

Which means the Mel-and-Danny show is back. The boys are already at bonding speed when the movie starts. Gibson hauls unwilling Glover into a basement parking garage to defuse a bomb ticking away in a parked car.

"I'm cutting the red wire, OK?" says Gibson.

"A minute ago, you said blue," says a petrified Glover.

"Did I?" says Gibson.

In a way, "LW3" is the perfect sequel. A wham-bam encounter, it gives you everything you (presumably) want, sets itself up for another sequel, and it makes sure you don't recall a thing about it in the morning.

On the trail of someone selling armor-piercing bullets, Gibson and Glover go through the familiar motions. There are high-speed highway chases, at one point against the traffic, "To Live and Die in L. A." style. In love matters, Gibson has an extended run-in with Internal Affairs dragonlady Rene Russo -- a lethal weapon of her own. He even charms a Rottweiler into silence (kids, don't try this at home).

The tough tenderness between men remains, of course. And speaking of sensitive, "Lethal 3" makes a show of pity for the young and slain, namely a neighborhood friend of Glover's and a young cop. But as it mourns, it conveniently overlooks how it raises screen killing to adulatory heights. The filmmakers probably shouldn't anticipate a community award from today's violence-ravaged L.A. County.

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