Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Movie Review: Lethal Weapon 4 Two 1/2 Stars

The true star of Lethal Weapon 4 is Hong Kong cinema export Jet Li, who as the nefarious Wah Sing Ku speaks only one English phrase the entire movie: “In Hong Kong, you would be dead.” Frankly, that’s just about the only thing he said in Chinese, too. But Li didn’t need dialogue. His menacing smirk and spinning back kick said it all.

Li’s incredible kung fu fight sequences, a car chase involving a mobile home that culminates in a driving sequence through an office, two train wrecks, a rain-soaked bare knuckle showdown, an underwater firefight, and an impaling with steel rebar drive the action to wonderfully absurd heights in this action-packed sequel.

The overwhelming sentiment of Lethal Weapon 4 is a callback to the weary declaration of soon-to-retire Det. Murtaugh (Danny Glover) in the first installment: “I’m getting to old for this s**t.” Three sequels and countless exploding trucks, trains and toilets later, Murtaugh has yet to retire and still utters the avowal. But now his partner, the once-suicidal, now flippant Det. Riggs (Mel Gibson), is beginning to feel that he too may be “getting too old for this s**t.”

Unfortunately, the audience may feel that this s**t is getting too old. Familiarity breeds contempt, and there’s a lot to hold in contempt here. The characters of Murtaugh and Riggs, interesting cop archetypes forced to be partners in Lethal Weapon, are now bantering cop stereotypes, endlessly vomit out flat jokes disguised as dialogue. My advice to all action films: stop talking and start shooting. When the thin plot takes a backseat to the bloodshed, Lethal Weapon 4 is a thrill ride.

The box cover proclaims that “The Gang’s All Here” and, indeed, they are. Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), the annoying loudmouth who gets f’d at the drive-thru has returned to get f’d on the cellphone. With only a few asskicking scenes, Internal Affairs sergeant Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) is back and utterly wasted in this outing,. You get the feeling that the gang is getting too old for this s**t as well. However, the newest addition to the gang is Det. Lee Butters (Chris Rock), who, unbeknownst to Murtaugh, is married to his daughter, Rianne (Traci Wolfe). Rock is hilarious as Butters, the gung ho homicide detective hellbent on impressing Murtaugh through good police work and brown-nosing.

Richard Donner has directed a fast, furious film of escalating action which leaves no doubt that, at least, he is not getting too old for this s**t.

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