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Another Day, Another 'Lethal Weapon'

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 10, 1998

  Movie Critic

Lethal Weapon 4
Danny Glover and Mel Gibson star in "Lethal Weapon 4." (Warner Bros.)

Richard Donner
Mel Gibson;
Danny Glover;
Joe Pesci;
Rene Russo;
Chris Rock;
Jet Li;
Darlene Love;
Traci Wolfe
Running Time:
2 hours, 5 minutes
Profanity; gunfire; martial arts; bloody corpses; vehicular homicide; fiery death
"Lethal Weapon 4" is a stupid and violent delicacy, congealed nachos and Mountain Dew for the Beavis-and-Butt-head set.

Nobody does this better than director Richard Donner, who has had three previous attempts to perfect his patented blend of high action and low comedy. By now, who doesn't know the formula?

Mel Gibson is edgy cop Martin Riggs and Danny Glover his straight-laced partner, Roger Murtaugh, this time facing off against a vicious Asian crime syndicate led by Wah Sing Ku (Hong Kong martial arts superstar Jet Li). The irritating Joe Pesci returns as the even more irritating Leo Getz, now a private eye and professional butt of everyone else's jokes. From "Lethal Weapon 3," Rene Russo reprises her role as Gibson's love interest, policewoman Lorna Cole. And, in a blatant attempt to juice up the cast's dried-out shtick, Donner introduces comedian Chris Rock as detective Lee Butters.

Don't go to see it for Rock, though. The brilliant comic is restricted to about two minutes of admittedly quite funny stand-up, riffing on racism and cell phones from the back seat of a car and at the police station. Do see it for Jet Li, the fleet-footed heir apparent to action hero Jackie Chan. Li is marvelous as the villain with a beatific smile and a killer kick to the head. Exponentially more violent than the earlier films, "LW4" features eye gouging, impaling, a couple of garrotings and some stunningly choreographed and shot hand-to-hand combat. (That's on top of the standard car chases, smashed glass, fireballs and hail of whizzing bullets.)

As loose cannon Riggs, Gibson seems more mild than wild this time, grappling not with his own inner demons but with the decision of whether to marry his pregnant girlfriend. But honestly, does anyone come to these films to watch him act?

It's not his conscience that people want to see Mel wrestle with.

Like the characters they portray, Gibson, Glover, Pesci and Russo all escape this latest misadventure with their careers unscathed, save for a few flesh wounds and bruises to their acting reputations. I have a suggestion though-why not just end the charade that these installments are actual movies and turn the whole interminable thing into a weekly TV series?

I even have an idea for a brand-new cast. I hear Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are looking for work.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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