If part four has anything going for it, it's continuity. Gibson and Glover are back as LA cop-couple Riggs (reckless) and Murtaugh (careful), herein promoted to captains in order to keep them off the streets as they attempt to break a Chinese immigrant-smuggling ring.
Like the Die Hard franchise, Lethal Weapon demonstrates the law of escalating returns: each subsequent instalment has grossed more than the previous (Part 3 pulled in $300 million; 2 did around $220 million). Ergo, they'd be insane not to give it another whack.
If 4 has anything going for it, it's continuity. Gibson and Glover are back as LA cop-couple Riggs (reckless) and Murtaugh (careful), herein promoted to captains in order to keep them off the streets. Rene Russo returns as Riggs' squeeze Lorna (whose karate-kicking antics are cruelly reduced to waddling and doughnuts as she's now nine months pregnant), as does Pesci as Leo, whose squawking stooge role - essential to 2 and 3 - is expanded to private eye ("private eyesore," cracks Riggs). Murtaugh's entire family is cast consistently with all three films, and the music is - yet again - by Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton and David Sanbourn. So far, so Lethal. In fact, watching Part 4 is more like switching on a favourite TV series than going to the pictures. All it lacks is a few commercial breaks. Disappointingly, it's also the worst: not bad, just not as good.
The series appears to be having a mid-life crisis ("We're not getting too old for this shit!" Riggs chants, doubtfully). While an honest development - commensurate with a long-running TV show's fourth season - the sore joints leave Murtaugh and Riggs reliant on verbal sparring rather than physical. Gibson and Glover's schtick is very entertaining, a relationship borne of experience, but they suddenly seem one step away from a pan-racial Matthau and Lemmon.
"A gunfight, explosions, sharks, the usual," shrugs Riggs, dangerously close to the workaday truth. While the action interludes are impressively staged and edited, they strain for originality (a car chase involving a mobile home and Riggs "skiing" on an upturned table is the best shot). New blood, provided by US chat show sensation Chris Rock as Murtaugh's new detective son-in-law and Jet Li, the now-obligatory Chinese action star, as a resilient Triad hitman, is welcome, but not sufficient to dispel the sinking feeling that we are gathered to watch the last in a once unmissable series.
Entertains but this classic cop franchise doesn't end on a high.