This third instalment in the Lethal Weapon franchise suffers from the lack of a strong plot and villain. It’s every bit as good as the first two films in every other department but unfortunately, a strong plot and villain are central to films like this and this is where this third film falls down. It’s sad to see the franchise take a stumble in its third outing, but thankfully, there’s enough other elements on show to make this a worthy, if not up to par entry in the series.
The film starts off with a more low-key, but nonetheless amusing opening scene where Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) arrive at the scene of a bomb scare. It’s a high-rise building that’s been evacuated by the emergency services, and there’s no need for them to check it out but Riggs twists Murtaugh’s arm and they go in anyway. After some funny banter between the two with Riggs mostly trying to scare Murtaugh senseless, Riggs inadvertently triggers the bomb and the two barely escape in time to see the building collapse. As a result of their actions, they are demoted down to patrolmen, but not before they manage to stop an armoured car hijacking. When they try to talk to one of the armoured car hijackers they busted, Internal Affairs steps in and the two policemen find themselves embroiled in a much wider conspiracy involved a corrupt cop named Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson) who is utilising his inside knowledge of the LAPD to smuggle guns and ammunition back on to the street and making a tidy profit. After initial being refused access to the case by Detective Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), Riggs manages to convince her that they can help and together they embark on the case to bust Travis.
There’s an intriguing plot here with the idea of a corrupt cop, internal affairs and a the notion that the villain is actually from within rather than larger-the-life ex-mercenaries or South African mobsters. Unfortunately, it’s not really drawn out much in the story and as such, Jack Travis is actually quite a lame villain, or at least the way he was written in the script. He does some nasty things, but it doesn’t feel nasty. Also, the conspiracy idea of corruption in the police force is never really developed, and could have added a whole new angle to the franchise but sadly its never exploited to its fullest potential. Much of the reason why this is so is because the filmmakers decided to focus on Murtaugh’s impending retirement sub-plot, his relationship to Riggs, and the shooting death of one of Murtaugh’s son’s friends who opens fire on Murtaugh in a shoot-out and Murtaugh has no choice but to put him down (this also leads to some of the best moments between Riggs and Murtaugh in the entire series). These are strong themes as well but because the emphasis is so much more on this side of the story, the villain and the internal affairs side of the story remains underdeveloped, leaving a film that doesn’t have a strong through-line. More work should have been done in fleshing this out as it was probably a more complicated story than the relatively straight forward us-vs-them approach from the first two films.
Jack Travis is not a particularly good villain, especially compared to the previous villains Riggs and Murtaugh have had to face. He’s tough, ruthless and doesn’t let any one get in his way, but as played by Stuart Wilson, he just doesn’t make you believe it. He has a nasty little laugh when he buries someone in concrete, but it’s just not sinister like the previous villains. The screenplay may have also underserved the character by not giving him much of a build-up or dramatic focus in the story.
The addition of Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) is a nice surprise; as Rigg’s alter-ego, she’s more than a match for him and leads to some quite amusing sequences, such as when she’s kicking ass against five guys who don’t stand a chance and Riggs is looking on with pride and admiration.
The action is again first rate; the armoured car hijack/car chase is fantastic to watch, least of which it provides some comedy relief between Murtaugh and a female armoured car driver who takes a liking to him in the middle of the chase. Riggs’ motorcycle chase of Travis along LA freeways is another highlight, culminating on him going over the edge of an unfinished highway section and barely escaping alive. Even the opening scene with the destruction of the building is fun to watch.
As for this being a Director’s Cut edition, I didn’t think the additional scenes added much to what was already there, and to be perfectly honest, I preferred the original cut simply because it moves faster. It’s nice to see some extra scenes, but overall, this probably wasn’t necessary. I also get the impression that these added scenes are meant to be an extra in of themselves, which I have to say is no excuse for having next to no extras on this DVD.
“Lethal Weapon 3″ is still fun and entertaining, but it is step down from the previous films.
For the complete, original DVD review, click this link: http://www.allaboutmovies.net/dvdreviewlethalweapon3.htm
Alex DeMattia is the lead DVD reviewer at the film/DVD review web site All About Movies.net. He also contributes reviews and articles for the Digicosm Film Blog: http://www.filmannex.com/Digicosm