Lethal Weapon Collection [Blu-Ray]

Lethal Weapon Collection [Blu-Ray]
On the supplemental Blu-Ray disc included with this extensive, remastered, high definition collection, Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black describes his vision of the original film as a gritty urban cowboy film, positing its heroes as run-of-the-mill, flawed but noble men pulling a nominal weekly paycheque while patrolling the sun-bleached cement streets of L.A. Producer Joel Silver, stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and director Richard Donner all reiterate this sentiment, pointing out that action movies and buddy cop movies weren't so prominent in the mid-'80s, discussing how original and distinct the initial hit film was in its day. What they don't address is how thematically ubiquitous it was with movies of the time, revolving around the inherent cultural terror of the nuclear family in peril. Before our "odd couple" protagonists are thrust together as reluctant, unlikely partners, each is defined by his archetypal reflection of social norms: Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is the picture of idyllic, Judeo-Christian normalcy, with a loving family and standard suburban home, while Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) is a lost soul in a downward spiral after the death of his wife (and apparent life purpose). Where the bond and ultimate heart of the movie emerge is in how these men help each other, and society, ward off imposing forces. Riggs's unconventional methods (he is a "loose cannon," after all) prove effective in battling the very landscape of corruption slowly impeding upon Murtaugh's well-adjusted, overly twee family dynamic. In return, the safety of Murtaugh's family unit restores hope and balance in the suicidal, lost Riggs. This trajectory bleeds into the second film of the series, only now the threat is global (apartheid) and Riggs's stability is threatened by the death of yet another love, as is Murtaugh's family unit when his eldest daughter acknowledges sexuality by performing in a condom commercial. It's really only these first two films that acknowledge the narrative tropes of the genre while featuring propulsive action and an endless array of sassy bon mots, as only the goofier, more marketable elements (Joe Pesci's obnoxious Leo Getz character) make their way into the third and fourth instalments of the increasingly cornball franchise. By part three, the darker, grittier elements of the earlier films are virtually excised. Riggs is little more than the zany uncle that likes to crack jokes, while Murtaugh's biggest concern is that of an expanding waistline. And by the time part four comes about, there isn't even the need for a script or plot, as Chris Rock points out in the sole "making of" supplement on that disc. They ostensibly rehashed a loose variation of the original formula, but tossed in Jet Li and Chris Rock to broaden the audience to a younger demographic and score some overseas sales. Entire sequences of the fourth film (the laughing gas scene in the dental office) don't even contribute to the trajectory or tone. But the budget is bigger and there are gigantic action sequences involving Mel Gibson riding a coffee table down a busy highway. If there's anything to learn by watching the four Lethal Weapon films back-to-back it's that a well-executed, clever idea will inevitably be exploited and degraded (or "made better") by corporate types drawing from the belief that appealing to the mass, oft-disingenuous cultural zeitgeist is fantastic because it means more money. Fortunately, the transfer to High Definition is impeccable, despite the obvious sound limitations of the first two films, which are still tinny. The only other supplements included are commentary tracks with Richard Donner, which are often indecipherable and always sparse. (Warner)