This movie opens with one of the corniest and cheapest looking opening title sequences I’ve seen. It literally looked like they were trying to rip-off a Bond movie, especially with the sultry Sting song over the top, which was also a bad choice. Add to that the poor and also cheap looking text/font design, and you had something that simply didn’t look right for a movie of this supposed caliber. It looked like something for a straight to DVD job.
After the horrible looking title sequence we yet again leap straight into the action. Bad boy Riggs and old man Murtaugh are in the middle of a bomb situation. Against orders Riggs talks Murtaugh into going inside a large office block to try and defuse said bomb. Essentially what follows is a small comedy routine between the duo as Riggs messes around whilst fiddling with the bombs wires. And Murtaugh basically acting like anyone would (kinda) and panicking. Again this sequence is basically setting up the rest of the movie, its telling you what to expect, and that’s lots of cringeworthy goofy comedy.
Riggs fails in trying to shut off the bomb. They run from the building as it explodes and crumbles in on itself completely. As the dust and debris settles, the guys look up from their hiding position behind a nearby patrol car. They notice the destruction they have caused, the heap of rubble that used to be a building. They then notice a small group of cops who begin slow clapping, mocking them. The guys duck back down behind the patrol car. Riggs, wide eyed, murmurs to Murtaugh, ‘oops!’. Murtaugh responds, ‘yeah, oops’. And that pretty much sums up the level of comedy we’re dealing with here. One word, predictable (as fuck).
So this time the mismatched duo (who are now not quite as mismatched as they once were) must take on an ex-cop who’s turned evil. Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson) was an LAPD lieutenant who is now smuggling arms in LA. Yes it not drugs this time, that was sooo 80’s. The main issue with this smuggling is the discovery of armour-piercing bullets. Kinda self explanatory really but just in case…bullets that can pierce body armour. A real problem for cops. Luckily Leo is back and conveniently knows Travis. Also we get the introduction of another character into the fray, a woman this time. Lorna (Rene Russo) from internal affairs is also on the case, much to Riggs displeasure. Sexism, always a winner for comedy.
We know Riggs and Murtaugh pretty well and nothing has changed much for them (Riggs still has a mullet, Murtaugh is still old). Lets look at Lorna Cole, the new character to make up the new trio. Lorna is basically the 90’s version of girl power, female empowerment for the time, which was limited. She was blonde, smart, sassy, and could kick major ass. She was kinda like a sexy tomboy for Riggs to play with. And looking back that was kinda the problem with that character, she was clearly there just for Riggs to fall in love with. Sure she was tough and didn’t need Riggs help in a fight, but she was only there to diversify the all male cast and be Riggs love interest. The scene where the pair are comparing battle scars kinda sums this up really. Lorna clearly has an interesting backstory, her scars testify to that…but who cares about that?? Lets get it on! (obligatory sex scene).
Now we know Leo (Joe Pesci) from the last sequel, and in that movie he was light relief but still a relatively sensible character. Well unfortunately in this movie Leo becomes a full cartoon character. Now I like this character, he’s an amusing sidekick well performed by Pesci. But here’s the real problem, like this movie franchise this character starts out grounded, relatable. But as things progressed the character became more and more dumb. So on one hand you have an enjoyable, decent character that (originally) added to the movie. But on the other hand he becomes a complete buffoon later on down the line and its really hard to deal with (even to the point where he’s accompanied by his own comedic buffoon-esque theme tune). Its essentially the story of this franchise in the character, starts out grounded, becomes a farce.
Then you have the issue of a poor villain…again! Jack Travis isn’t really much of a bad guy, he’s not intimidating, he’s not threatening, and he looks like a grumpy football coach. This guy isn’t even hidden away much, we know he’s the main bad guy also from square one, so not much tension. Unusually he doesn’t even have any recognisable henchmen. Yes he has lots of faceless henchmen that are merely cannon fodder, but no one who stands out. What’s more, because he owns a construction site, all his henchmen seem to be…builders? Because he also wants to…construct a housing estate?? And this is in between pinching weapons and ammo from police stations to sell on the black market?? Wut?? Why did Travis go rogue by the way? How did he go from real estate to arms smuggling? Meh…don’t question it.
The movie does offer more insight into Riggs and Murtaugh’s relationship I’ll admit, nothing amazeballs but its in here. One of the strongest scenes has to be where Riggs and Murtaugh fight. Murtaugh accidentally shoots dead a young kid who was friends with his son. This kid was involved in a drug deal and was on the road to becoming a gangster basically. Old Roger takes this hard (for some reason) and goes off the deep end. Riggs obviously has to try and get Roger through this ordeal and that does offer a very emotional sequence of truths for both characters, but mainly Riggs. Its powerful, and it continues with another scene at the dead kids funeral where Roger confronts the parents.
One does understand the parents grief, and one does understand Murtaugh’s remorse. But I personally stand with Riggs, this kid had a deadly weapon and was fully prepared to use it. Either Murtaugh shoots the kid, or the kid would have shot Murtaugh. The other issue with this entire subplot is the fact its not actually required. There is literally no reason for this entire subplot other than to add some gravitas. It does nothing to forward the actual main plot and feels completely crowbarred in.
Apparently Donner wanted to cut and tone down the action sequences, focusing more on Riggs and Murtaugh, and boy can you see this. The movie really does lack bite. There are some decent looking set pieces for sure, such as the ice hockey sequence and the fiery finale. But overall its seems like there are fewer action sequences. What we do get is once again very fake looking in terms of noticing stunt doubles, background extras and vehicles performing obviously, obvious rigged up sets and live action spaces etc…There is more hand to hand fighting which showcases Lorna and her martial arts, clearly a stunt double. It is daft how Riggs, Roger and Lorna can enter a baddies premises without a warrant, start snooping, and then proceed to beat the occupants up. Bad guys or not, its really unbelievable, and of course to simply showcase Lorna’s badassery.
Alas once again everything had been somewhat watered down to fit a more wider audience. This being the real problem with many later sequels in adult franchises that had gained massive popularity. The action was generally very safe, more big stunts, no blood, not much real violence. It did feel like the only real adult stuff left were the odd moments in the police station where all the cops fooled around. There are some nice little sequences here which do present some very good group performances. Its also really by this point that Murtaugh has been reduced to the butt of a lot of (admittedly giggle worthy) old man jokes and nothing more.
Eventually we do reach the end and naturally its all tied up with a nice bow. We are treated to a sequence that harks back to the original movie and the not so shocking news that old Roger isn’t gonna retire after all; and Riggs is now an item with Lorna. At the time we all thought this was the final movie to finish the trilogy, how stupid and naive we were. At just under two hours long (for some reason) this entry really felt like it was just going though the motions. Almost like it was obligated to do so. Just chuck out the same spiel all over again just to finish the trilogy and milk that last bit of moolah before the two stars get too old. Its passable but entirely forgettable.