The only reason this overblown
sequel in the Lethal Weapon series makes the HK Cinema
list is because it's the American debut of HK action superstar
Jet Li. Quite frankly, his US splash couldn't have come
in a bigger way. He plays a ruthless Chinese triad who's
involved in a massive counterfeiting scam and goes up against
the two Lethal mainstays, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.
Sadly, he's pure evil in this film.
Since our last installment,
both Riggs (Gibson) and Murtaugh (Glover) have gotten too
old, but they continue to disregard police procedure, destroy
public property, and brutalize the criminal element. Things
get wackier with the presence of new cop Chris Rock, and
the continuing annoyance of Joe Pesci as Leo Getz. Rene
Russo returns as Lorna Cole, who's now carrying Rigg's baby.
Plot kicks in when illegal Chinese immigrants (including
HK film veteran Eddy Ko Hung) are discovered in Los Angeles.
Murtaugh shelters them from the lawa no-no for a law
enforcement officerwhile Riggs makes off-color jokes
in the background. Meanwhile, the bad guys (led by evil
bastard Jet Li) act remorselessly evil.
Despite the above description,
there appears to be virtually no plot to this mega-blockbuster
wannabe. The shooting script was clearly ad-libbed from
start to finish, which is possible when you have an unlimited
budget and Mel Gibson as your star. Rumor has it that this
flick was a make-or-break monster for Warner Brothers, and
it did pretty well (about $120 million) for a straight action
Back to the HK angle: Jet Li does
well for himself, showing incredible speed and power in
what proves to be only sporadic bursts of action. Sadly,
he's just a bad guy here, and shows no acting chops beyond
evil sneers and menacing looks. Then again, Li's acting
ability has always been in question, though he has shown
good screen charisma. Here's hoping that he can harness
that charisma in a better suited US vehicle. On a side note,
Tiger on Beat star Conan Lee makes an appearance
as Li's brother.
The rest of the film is hit or
miss. As commercial fluff goes, Lethal Weapon 4 is
offensive and disturbing because it uses racist stereotypes
and blatant abuse of police power to create bang-em-up mass
entertainment. That's fine for anyone who has the brains
to separate fantasy from fiction. Sadly, it's likely that
there are many people out there who don't have a brain to
pick up a fork with, much less understand what goes into
making this increasingly complex and dangerous world. Hopefully,
no future policemen were influenced by the Lethal Weapon
films, because if so they're in for a rude awakening. Get
this straight: if you pull what Riggs and Murtaugh do in
these films, you'll either be tagged for the morgue or sentenced
to a good twenty-five years in prison. And you won't score
women like Rene Russo.
Still, for myself, I admit
that I like the Lethal Weapon movies because I find
it endearing that all the actors return, and that they all
seem to enjoy working together. That chemistry comes out
in the final product, as Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and company
seem to really care for one another both onscreen and off.
On the other hand, Gibson received $25 million for this
movie, which was probably mighty persuasive. Does anyone
know what Jet Li made? (Kozo 1998)