Baby Driver (2017)

Stupid name for a heist movie, unless that movie is a kids comedy all about a bloke having to drive babies around during a heist. Or maybe an adult who drives like a baby or some shit like that. Why hasn’t anyone made a comedy about learner drivers yet? You could call it ‘Learner Driver’, hey that’s not a bad idea (copyrighted).

So this is a heist movie. In this movie a mysterious kingpin (?) called Doc (Kevin Spacey) uses various people to pull off various daring jobs, but he always uses the same driver. This driver is a young man called Baby or Miles (Ansel Elgort). Apparently Doc caught Baby breaking into his car many years prior and was so impressed with his skills that he decided to use him for his heists. Naturally Baby had to comply or face the obvious consequences. Now for a long time every heist has gone well for Doc, but clearly that doesn’t last and that’s the main crux here.

So straight away there are various questions here. Firstly, who is Doc exactly? What is this guys deal? Where does he come from? How is he so powerful? What does he do? Nothing is explained about this character and its kinda frustrating because he simply doesn’t come across like a bad guy (especially with Spacey’s performance). The fact he also makes such glaring mistakes with his decisions also raises questions about how he’s managed to gain so much power. Doc uses Baby as a getaway driver despite the fact he’s literally only a teenager, or at least in his early 20’s. Yeah OK Baby is a good driver, but is that still a good decision? To use such a young person as your heist getaway driver?? I can think of many problems that might arise with that.

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Doc also claims to never use the same people for each heist, but he does! He also uses Baby for every heist so what is he talking about. Then at one point when the gang suspects Baby of being an informant, and the fact he’s being telling his foster father all about their deeds; Doc and co still allow him to carry on being their getaway driver! These are what you call eye rolling movie decisions.

Now lets look at Baby, why is he called Baby? Dunno. This young man has tinnitus from an accident as a child (which killed his parents). Since then he’s been raised by a black man who is deaf. Is it me or does that sound both unnecessarily pc and kinda counter productive? Would a deaf (apparently single?) man be the right choice to raise a child with tinnitus? I honesty don’t know, it just seems like an odd decision, but hey what do I know. So Baby is a good driver, again we don’t know how this is, it just is. He’s a good driver don’t question it. Baby is also very much into his music, mainly because of the tinnitus. He listens to music virtually all the time and uses it to help him concentrate, even on heist jobs. The weird part is he often records people (without consent) and uses snippets of their speech to make mix tapes. Its a very odd part of his character and really doesn’t make any sense, or it didn’t to me.

So things all go wrong for Doc when he uses a team consisting of a couple of crooks who are in love, Buddy and Darling (Jon Hamm and Eiza González), and the violent Bats (Jamie Foxx). Of course the highly predictable outcomes are all a result of the highly predictable out of control character Bats. Because a trigger-happy, tattooed, ghetto lunatic is what you need in your specialised heist team, what could go wrong? The other two don’t really do much other than smooch, although Buddy does stick up for Baby at times leading you to think he’s a good guy. All the while Doc is supposed to be intimidating…but really isn’t.

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What follows is a bog standard turn of events that see the plot holes get bigger and bigger. At one point after discovering one of Baby’s mix tapes Bats and Buddy decide to go back to his place to get the rest of his stash, and question his foster father. Bats proceeds to knock Baby out…but how did they then manage to find Baby’s place?? When the heist goes wrong and the police react, I don’t believe any of the cops actually saw Baby involved in any way. Yet Baby runs off, and continues running even when in the clear, which would obviously cause the police to follow out of suspicion (as they would in reality, if you run you’ve got something to hide). Baby continues to escape by then carjacking and driving like a lunatic…which again will always make you stick out like a sore thumb. Why do characters in movies never get this?? You wanna blend into a crowd of people or traffic, act or drive normally, don’t run or drive like a nut.

Anywho the movie is formulaic right down to the last moment where Buddy keeps popping up despite Baby shooting him point blank (in the shoulder?? How did he fuck that up??). The only thing that got me was the fact Baby didn’t go down in a blaze of glory, or escape fully. But then we get this dreadful soppy ending which is even worse so…I find myself baffled by the reaction to this movie, once again I just don’t get it. It didn’t offer anything much in terms of originality, except for the main protagonist having hearing issues; and everything action wise was terribly average. I think the thing that disappointed me the most was the trailer giving me the impression that Baby drove a Subaru Impreza for the whole movie, which he didn’t.

5/10

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Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

There was a time when this franchise was thought to be finished. There was a neat little trilogy which ended quite sufficiently story wise. The main two actors were getting on in years, there seemed to be no real reason to go back to this well. Funny, we find ourselves in that very spot yet again, apparently.

So back in 1997 Warner Bros had a bad summer with its crop of releases. The studio needed a big hit and fast, and that safe bet was the Lethal Weapon franchise. Alas things did not go overly smoothly with an unfinished script and short production time. The actual script was never completely locked down and changed throughout the production. Regular character Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) was brought back after initially being kicked out, whilst new character Butters (Chris Rock) was also introduced late in the game (being gay originally). Its worth pointing out that the movies ending had also not been written when the cameras started rolling for the first time.

So this time the plot moves away from drug smuggling and into people smuggling. The lads stumble across a Chinese immigrant smuggling ring being run by some Triads. These bad guys are forcing one specific Chinese man (who clearly has some special skills) to engrave plates to create counterfeit Chinese money. In exchange for this the Triads are bringing his family to the US. Murtaugh and Riggs find themselves helping this specific family whilst trying to crack the illegal smuggling ring. So essentially its the same thing all over again, just swap out drug shipments for people shipments.

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I think the main issue with this movie is the fact it lacks action, for an action movie. There is a huge focus on the characters and their family lives here, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does get a tad dull. You don’t really feel like you’re watching an action movie, more like a TV comedy series. Overall I felt the movie struggled to keep things interesting. That being said, this movie did take a surprising turn back towards the original in terms of being somewhat darker, both content wise and visually.

Both Riggs and Murtaugh are getting way too old for this shit. Riggs spends most of his time complaining about how old he’s getting, and we are indeed shown how old he’s getting in a few scenes. Where as Murtaugh is quite frankly past it, you’re left wondering how this guy is still working on the force…in the field! The duo no longer come across like a mismatched pair of cops, but more like a mismatched pair of old fogies having a fun day out from their retirement home.

Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) is also back but has now been reduced to a background character that is pregnant. She is no longer kicking ass with a smug grin on her face, oh no. Now she’s lurching around slowly, heavily pregnant and stuffing her face with all manner of foods (because pregnancy equals cheap food gags). Whilst on one hand this angle is further expanding the story for both her and Riggs, it does kinda spoil her character. I really don’t think we needed to see that, surely they could have set the movie after she had the baby?

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As said Leo is back too and just as daft as ever. This time Leo has become a private eye so now he has a badge and can kinda get in on the action legally. Again its the same scenario with Leo Getz, he’s a funny character but way way too stupid for this type of flick. Well that’s what I would be saying but we all know this franchise turned into a slapstick comedy affair so technically he fits in fine. Its just a shame that they had to fall back on old jokes (a common problem with sequels). Did we really need another ‘they f*ck you at the drive-thru’ gag? Sure its amusing but you mean to tell me they couldn’t think of anything new?

New character Detective Lee Butters (stupid name) is secretly getting married to Murtaugh’s daughter (who is also pregnant) which is one comedy aspect to his characters story. The other being the new comedy double act that arises between him and Leo. This starts up by Leo inadvertently mistaking Butters for a perp and Butters taking offense, making it racial etc…From there on Leo thinks Butters is too touchy and Butters is always ragging on him. This was a neat little set up but its tainted because you know perfectly well its only in the movie to serve Chris Rock’s stand-up routines. At the time Rock was the new comedic sensation in the USA and clearly that got him this gig. Bottom line, Rock was badly miscast and stuck out like a sore thumb. Every time he spoke it just felt like part of his stand-up act, like the movie pauses just so he can have his little spot.

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Again the villains in a Lethal Weapon movie aren’t all that intimidating or threatening. The Chinese bad guys here were generally faceless (as usual) except for Uncle Benny (Kim Chan) who was too old frankly. The actor playing him really didn’t come across as if he could actually act, whilst his character just doesn’t do anything (probably because he looked around 90 years old. Think old man Lo Pan in ‘Big Trouble in Little China’). Then you had Jet Li in his first American movie, and first role as a bad guy. Now where as Li is perfectly fine as the mysterious silent bad guy, he’s clearly too over-powered for the movies protagonists. Yet at the same time he’s still not that overly intimidating, he’s more like a deadly monk. He didn’t even dress like a baddie.

And herein lies another issue with this movie, the main bad guy is just too powerful. During the movie we are shown how strong, agile and skilled Li’s character is. Yet in the finale battle between Riggs, Murtaugh and Wah Sing Ku, the good guys win. Its a typical problem with many similar movies. The highly skilled martial artist bad guy can defeat just about anyone effortlessly, but can’t beat the aging good guys. This literally makes a mockery of the entire movie really. Not to mention the quite ridiculous moment when Murtaugh saves Riggs from drowning in the final showdown. Talk about movie magic and suspension of disbelief.

In the end this late entry in the franchise felt completely unnecessary. Merely milking the last few drops out of the franchise whilst they still could; whilst the actors were still just about able to pull it off. Did it work? Was it unnecessary? Well yes and no. Overall the movie definitely looks better, moodier, and felt a bit darker/edgier in tone. It certainly feels more like the franchise of old rather than the cartoonish third sequel. But that said it simply cannot escape the feeling of being somewhat unmerited because they kinda tied everything up OK in said third movie. All the soppy family guff we get at the very end was basically not needed, much like this movie truth be told. But surprisingly its actually better than the third movie.

6/10

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Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

5/10

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

The inevitable sequel cometh. The same mullet, the same tormented aging family man, the same scenarios, and the same car; Murtaugh’s family station wagon. Yep despite the car getting wrecked in the first movie, Murtaugh has the same car for the sequel. Well this time its actually an Oldsmobile (previous was a Ford) but I’m sure its suppose to be the same car seeing as it looks identical.

Anyway enough about the details of a family station wagon, what happens in this escapade? Mismatched cops Riggs and Murtaugh are now the best of pals and a top crime fighting partnership. Despite being a real pain in their superiors ass with all the damage and paperwork they cause, they always manage to get the job done. Right so this time the plot gets a bit political, well a lot political frankly (for the time). Yes once again the duo are after the arch nemesis of the 80’s, drug dealers. But this time the baddies turn out to be headed by a South African diplomat/consul. To be more precise, the Afrikaner Apartheid Government of South Africa. These diabolical villains are smuggling cocaine and are slowly preparing to return to South Africa with their nasty ill gotten gains.

I think the opening action sequence kinda sums up the movie for me, it shows you what to expect for the rest of the run time. Riggs and Murtaugh are chasing down one of the South African bad guys (Mark Rolston). The good guys are driving the family station wagon, the bad guys in a BMW. Somehow this crappy station wagon is able to keep up with said BMW for the most part. Then at one point Riggs gets out and pursues on foot, as he did in the first movie. Riggs then gets back into the station wagon and drives it up against the highway barrier causing much damage, to Murtaugh’s anger and despair. Yet in the next shot there is no visual damage to be seen. It all ends with auto carnage and a helicopter appearing outta nowhere to save the bad guys.

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In short this movie ejects the darker grittier aspect of the first movie and instead ops for overblown action and goofy comedy. Once again Shane Black was brought on to helm the script and once again he produced what you would expect Shane Black to produce. The studios rejected Black’s work for being too dark and violent. Apparently the studio and Richard Donner wanted to take the franchise into lighter territory, more comedy. Instead they went with a script by Jeffrey Boam which either cut or watered down much of Black’s work.

Unfortunately this comedy aspect is really really obvious throughout the entire movie, to the point where it becomes annoying. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of super decent action in this movie and the mismatched pairing of Riggs and Murtaugh still holds strong. Its just a shame they turn the gritty duo into a goofy comedy act duo. There are so many scenes of silly dialog between the characters which are admittedly amusing but at the same time, it just feels too much, they just go too far with it. Easily the funniest scene in the movie has to be the TV commercial for condoms with Murtaugh’s daughter. That scene is genuinely amusing and played out perfectly. No problems, it fits the bill; but then you have the entire toilet bomb sequence. Its supposed to be thrilling and emotional, showcasing how close Riggs and Murtaugh have become. But at the same time its basically one big gag which ruins any impact its supposed to have.

Its in this movie that we also get the introduction of a new character to the team, sort of. Joe Pesci turns up as Leo Getz, a slimy, greasy little conman who laundered a billion Dollars for the South Africans. He’s now in the witness protection program which Riggs and Murtaugh have been assigned to (especially for Getz). Now in this movie little Leo is actually a somewhat solid character. Pesci’s performance is terrific fun (can anyone say ‘fuck’ better than Pesci?) and he is actually a good addition to the movie. The character adds a nice comedy element which isn’t over the top; in turn he comes across as relatively realistic. Its just unfortunate they really wreck this character in the next movie.

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Then you have the action sequences which have naturally now become really big and slick. Take the main car chase sequence where Riggs and Murtaugh go after an assassin that just tried to off Leo. The entire sequence is bold and clearly looked good on paper. In reality (looking back) its a mixed bag because everything looks so fake. For a start the car chase is clearly going very slowly, but using a pickup truck towing a car what do you expect. Secondly the stunt doubles are far too obvious. You can clearly see at multiple points its not Gibson. And lastly the ending is so stupid and it didn’t even work. The surf board that flies through the air and supposedly goes through the bad guys face, yet you can clearly see in the shot that doesn’t happen. Terrible editing and effects for a daft conclusion.

The bad guys for this sequel are definitely more menacing than the first I think. Admittedly Joss Ackland’s elderly South African consul Arjen Rudd isn’t overly intimidating, he merely comes across as a grumpy grandfather if you ask me. He also doesn’t really do much other than stand around looking grumpy and barking orders. Its his henchmen that are more dastardly I think. This is mainly because they aren’t totally faceless and useless. We do get to know some of the henchmen by face which adds a bit more zing when they fight with the good guys (if they’re faceless hoods its meaningless, who cares).

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The lead henchman Pieter Vorstedt (Derrick O’Connor) is the real villain of the bunch though. O’Connor really has the perfect look for this character with his scrawny, wiry frame and gaunt face. He looks evil, he is merciless, brutal, and packs more punch than you’d think. I also liked how he’s dressed in retro/dated attire that does fit with old school South Africa, the schoolboy-esque blazer and tie look. Vorstedt was easily the best thing in this movie, a really solid villain. Its also worth pointing out that these villains were also racist in this movie. Yes they even used a derogatory word most commonly used in South Africa. God knows if they’d get away with that now (doubtful) but it most definitely adds to the realism and emotional impact when things get heated.

Overall this movie is a hard one to judge really. Its both enjoyable but totally flawed, annoyingly so. Looking back there are so many tiny mistakes such as the length of Riggs hair from scene to scene. The obvious stunt doubles are horribly obvious. The stunts are often very obvious meaning its just too easy to tell where its all been set up, cornered off etc…People and vehicles in the background give the game away far too easily, and the big car jump out of the cargo container in the docks looked like something out of a stunt show. In other words these sequences didn’t really blend in, they stuck out. Then there’s the nagging question of why Riggs never uses his martial arts skills anymore, remember he had those? And what is it with his constant wearing of red or blue shirts? Is there a hidden meaning behind those??

Its one of the best, if not the best, comedy action movies of all time. But alas its also one of the biggest disappointments in terms of watering down a sequel from its far grittier, darker, superior original. Its up there, but it could/should of been so much more.

6.5/10

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Lethal Weapon (1987)

This movie opens with the classic Christmas song Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms. Yes that’s right this classic action flick could also be considered a Christmas movie as it takes place over the festive season. This is one reason why its always kinda reminded me of 1988’s ‘Die Hard’. Its seems Xmas was a popular backdrop for action flicks back in the 80’s.

So what is this all about? Well back in 1985 Shane Black wrote a screenplay for an urban western inspired by ‘Dirty Harry’. In typical Shane Black fashion the script was quite long and excessively violent. Cutting a long story short, after numerous rewrites from various people (including Black), the script was eventually bought and offered to Richard Donner. The final result was (I believe) the first buddy cop flick to really light up the box office; and I believe the first flick to kick-start the whole buddy cop genre, to establish the rules almost. Over the years, from this one movie, came a raft of clones that used and abused every idea to the point where they became common stereotypes.

The eventual plot: Its very simple really. Riggs and Murtaugh must battle a heroin-smuggling operation known as ‘The Shadow Company’ (they umm…smuggle heroin). You see a young girl is murdered and her father (Michael Hunsaker, a close friend of Murtaugh) wants her killers found. But it turns out Hunsaker used to be in cahoots with the Shadow Company, helping them launder their money. When Hunsaker wanted out, the company killed his daughter. So Riggs and Murtaugh run about the place trying to solve this little problem with lots of gunfire and car chases.

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Even today looking back, its really hard to not roll your eyes at all the common tropes and cliches that have now been milked dry over time. I had to keep reminding myself that this was literally the first movie to introduce these things. I mean lets look at the basic outline here, one white cop, Riggs (Mel Gibson). One black cop, Murtaugh (Danny Glover). One is middle-aged, ex-special forces, and a complete loose cannon. The other is an older more mature, straight-laced, by the books Veteran of the police force. The loose cannon is of course insane, suicidal (due to the death of his wife); where as the straight-laced cop is a sensible family man. The sensible cop is lumbered with the insane cop as a new partner. At first they don’t get on, a clash of personalities, but over time they come to respect each other and eventually become buddies.

At the start of the movie Riggs is essentially living like a bum. He’s an alcoholic living in a run down scruffy trailer on the beach. Not quite sure how he’s allowed to have a trailer on the beach, surely local laws would not allow that? In the meantime Murtaugh has a hectic family life with three young kids, one of which is of course a coming of age young girl. Riggs is looking to put himself into dangerous scenarios because he simply doesn’t give a shit; whilst Murtaugh is slowly becoming older and grumpier, trying to survive until retirement. The latter is exacerbated by a dreary saxophone theme that plays every time Murtaugh is feeling like shit. Again something that has become an action movie stereotype/cliche ever since.

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Everything in the movie is basically set up to reflect these character traits. For instance Riggs carries an automatic pistol where as Murtaugh uses an old fashioned six-shooter. The musical score for Riggs is obviously very different to Murtaugh’s little saxophone theme. Murtaugh’s young daughter takes a fancy to Riggs, much to his horror (a bit risqué these days!). Riggs sports a wild mullet that goes against police regulations and Murtaugh’s sensible short back and sides. Riggs dresses casually in jeans and a shirt, Murtaugh wears a suit etc…Its all very corny these days naturally. But of course the basic premise is that both characters save each other. Murtaugh and his family give Riggs a reason to keep living. Whilst Riggs injects some excitement and much needed manly companionship into Murtaugh’s life, at a point where he was at a low due to his age.

guess we gotta register you as a lethal weapon huh

As for the villains, well its obviously cliche city, but also not as good as you might recall. The Shadow Company is also controlled by an ex-special forces bloke (a regular trait of action movies, everyone is ex-something). General Peter McAllister (Mitchel Ryan) is simply an old bloke with white hair, he literally does nothing except throw some orders around. This character is not in the least bit threatening. His second in command, the über blonde Mr Joshua (Gary Busey), is also not particularly threatening. Unless you count being able to resist getting your arm burnt by a cigarette lighter as scary. Its amusing really because both characters literally do jack shit for the entire movie, Joshua has a fight sequence with Riggs in the finale but that’s it!

And why does Joshua and Riggs right anyway? Out of nowhere Riggs just offers him a chance to fight him, one on one, mano-a-mano. Yeah we know Joshua had Riggs tortured at one point, and shot him with a shotgun at another, but why do we need this fight? It kinda felt like Donner ran out of ideas for the finale, found himself needing something to fill the gap. Its also at this point we discover both Riggs and Joshua are experts in fighting; something you don’t get any inkling of beforehand and never crops up again.

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In these old action flicks the baddies normally are the cheesiest. For some reason all the multitude of henchmen appear to be middle aged guys in suits, often with odd haircuts, wearing shades. This was basically the norm back in the day for action movies, but its hilarious looking back now. They were also completely useless and couldn’t hit the side of a barn door with their automatic weapons. Its also amusing how these guys never seemed to have any sort of personal life, like they all just stand guard over their boss 24/7. And what group of bad guys would be complete without their own seedy bar to hang out in huh. The kind of bar where you can shoot someone and no one blinks an eye apparently.

Then outside said bar, Murtaugh simply walks into a random alley, the very same alley that McAllister is escaping in. They literally cut from an action sequence to Murtaugh wondering around outside and, oh look, there’s the bad guy escaping in his car, how convenient! After Murtaugh pumps the windshield full of lead the car hits a bus and inexplicably flips over and explodes (laugh out loud!). Yeah twas cool to watch back in the day but wut?? There are many (now) hilarious sequences like this in the movie, such as the desert standoff. Riggs is on sniper duty miles away, but McAllister finds him?? Where did McAllister come from?? Murtaugh threatens to blow everyone up with a grenade…but as Joshua points out, he obviously isn’t gonna kill his own daughter. Then there’s the ridiculous escape failure by Murtaugh’s daughter. She tries to escape in the car and somehow allows the baddie helicopter to run her into a ditch. She then proceeds to do the obligatory ‘get out and run and pretend to fall over’ routine.

Its clearly of no surprise to anyone that this movie is by far the best in the franchise. Like many other old action movie franchises the original is the darker, grittier, more adult orientated of the bunch. ‘Lethal Weapon’ is by no means a great movie looking back. After rewatching I found myself cringing at many of the action sequences, laughing at dialog and attempts at comedy, and generally thinking to myself how a persons opinions change with age (when I was younger I thought this was an epic action flick). I have to be honest and say, I think this movie gets more of a pass simply because it was the first of its kind; the first to kick open the doors and introduce all these hammy action movie cliches. Its actually the Murtaugh family scenes which are more of the highlight now. Watching Riggs react to Roger’s old man bickering with his wife and kids. But despite all that, as said, its still easily the best in the series and way better than most modern day attempts.

7.5/10

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North Sea Hijack (aka ffolkes, Assault Force, UK, 1980)

So this is one of those movies that has numerous alternative titles for no real apparent reason. The official British title, in my opinion, is easily the best and rather self explanatory. The title of ‘ffolkes’ is actually the name of the protagonist played by Roger Moore. ffolkes is an old English name/title that belongs to the Baronetage of Great Britain and yes it is spelt with a lowercase ‘f’. Naturally the Americans needed a more action packed title to sell it, ugh!

The plot: Its really quite simple. Ex-military officer Rufus Excalibur ffolkes is employed to create a contingency plan should any British oil rigs come under threat. Low and behold, months later, a team of crack terrorists take control of an oil rig in the North Sea. They demand a 25 million ransom or they will destroy the rig. Of course this is just what ffolkes was counting on, because he created that contingency plan remember. So its up to him to use said contingency plan and save the day.

So firstly, yes that is the characters real name. Rufus Excalibur ffolkes, just in case you didn’t quite get the fact that this chap is full on British. We’re talking full on Rule, Britannia! Union Jack waving, tea sipping British. And who better to play this type of character than Roger ‘Bond Templar’ Moore. The amusing thing is Moore took this gig on with the intention of getting away from being typecast as Bond-esque characters. Yet what we have here is merely Bond all over again, but grumpy. In fact the character of ffolkes is more in line with Daniel Craig’s Bond if anything. He’s rude, arrogant, merciless, and a misogynist (unapologetically so). Oh and he’s also a big cat lover. They basically try to make him out to be the typical bachelor, as far from Moore’s playboy image as possible. Alas that fails because it still screams of Bond.

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Backing up ffolkes during this dangerous escapade is Admiral Brinsden played by James Mason. Not really sure why they allow an aging officer to go along with ffolkes plan to take down the terrorists. I think the bad guys wanted leverage against the British government, a juicy hostage. But anyway, if you wanted more evidence of how British this movie was, you don’t get much more British than good old James Mason. Stiff upper lip and all that old chap.

The evil terrorist villains are led by Anthony Perkins (Lou Kramer) who looks and acts exactly the same as he always does, and Michael Parks (Shulman) as the sidekick with small thick Lennon specs. The character of Kramer is your bog standard baddie really. He’s very aggressive, shouts a lot, twitchy, trigger-happy, clearly loses the plot when things get a bit awkward etc…Where as his sidekick Shulman is the typically quiet, calmer madman who looks a bit odd down to his thick specs.

The movie clearly plays it straight and the results are amusing to say the least. We find ffolkes training his men, his elite special unit, on what looks to be a very large climbing frame. It literally looks like he’s pinched a builders scaffolding set up, because its literally scaffolding. His men are climbing all over it trying to reach the top within a certain time limit…or something. It doesn’t look like a specialised elite fighting unit that’s for sure, especially with ffolkes dressed like a character from the Harry Potter universe, or Where’s Wally. What really made me laugh is how the British government chose ffolkes and his team. They watch a crappy VHS video recording of his team taking out local Judo club members who were hired to guard his scaffolding (seriously).

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The movie does feature solid production values I can’t deny. Shot on-board real ships and using real dockyards (in Ireland I believe), all of which adds to the authenticity. There are some good underwater sequences, good sets, and reasonable model shots. Its also looks suitable chilly at all times which again adds to the whole look and feel. Overall it definitely looks like the action is happening out in the North Sea and it definitely looks uncomfortable and moist. As you might expect the action is somewhat lacking in thrills. There isn’t really any fisticuffs to speak of, hardly any gun porn, no breathtaking stunts etc…Its all pretty low-key really, dare I say very gentlemanly in execution, to tie in with the main protagonist perhaps. The most brutal things you’ll see are a few hits with a harpoon gun.

Overall this is definitely a middle of the road affair that you’d typically see on TV during a lazy Bank Holiday afternoon (probably on ITV). Yes it is indeed almost a precursor to the legendary 1988 action epic ‘Die Hard’, the similarities are evident. In fact its very much in line with the many ‘Die Hard’ clones that came later, ‘Under Siege’ for example. One of the best things about this movie is obviously Roger Moore and his quirks. But its the misogyny from his character that actually makes this more enjoyable honesty. Knowing how controversial it would be now, the sheer outrage that would follow (across Twitter). It does show how more accepting we were back in the day frankly, that you could actually do this without worrying about outrage. Knowing it was just for the movie, just a bit of dark humour for a dark horse of a character. It shows how much we have regressed as a society in my view.

I love how the finale kinda expresses this point. After the mission is complete ffolkes is congratulated by the Prime Minster and top ranking officials. But he doesn’t receive medals or money or whatever (stuff and nonsense my dear boy). Instead he is awarded with three fluffy kittens, because he’s a cat loving bachelor that hates women, remember.

6/10

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The Fate of the Furious (aka F8, 2017)

Wow so here we are huh, the eight movie in the franchise, this thing just keeps on goin’ doesn’t it. Obviously by now the entire population of this little blue planet knows how this shitshow works, its not to be taken seriously…at all. Yet despite that clear cut fact I cannot help but tear the opening sequence of this movie apart, and here we go.

It begins in Havana, Cuba where Toretto and Letty are having their honeymoon. Conveniently Toretto’s cousin is also in Cuba and is having some debt issues with some local petrolhead. Luckily this all takes place at an auto show (randomly in the middle of the city) which is filled with hot women that are basically half naked (won’t someone think of the children?). The perfect scenario for Toretto to show his stuff…aww yeah. So Toretto challenges this young guy with a super modified car to a race to get his cousin outta trouble. Unfortunately Toretto only has his cousins broken down wreck of a car to use. No worries, Dom fixes it up within five minutes (mainly using ‘Cuban NOS’? Any different to regular NOS?) and its ready to roll.

What follows is essentially the backbone of the franchise, how it all started, a gritty illegal street race. They throw this in at the start just to remind you of the franchises roots before it goes all xXx and Mission: Impossible on you. Yeah so they have this illegal street race through Havana. All the traffic is stopped merely by two motorbike riders who follow the race and block junctions. Miraculously there are no accidents with other traffic users and absolutely no police presence anywhere. The two cars tear up the city streets with Toretto eventually winning the race in a shit heap that is actually on fire. But no worries because xXx manages to dive out of the car (at top speed) just before it hits a concrete barrier, flies into the air, explodes and lands in the sea. Naturally good old Dom sustains no injuries whatsoever.

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As said, this is what we’re dealing with now with this franchise, complete disregard for anything actually based within the realms of reality (although this isn’t the first time, but its gotten way worse). It also makes it very hard to review such a movie because we all know this. We all know its not supposed to be a serious movie, we all know its throwaway popcorn trash that exists purely to provide Bay-esque visuals. So of course on that front the movie succeeds in every aspect, it does exactly what it says on the tin. The flip side is how far can this be pushed before it just becomes fucking ridiculous. The answer to that is of course about four movies ago.

Essentially this movie is now practically a superhero flick. All the characters are pretty much invincible and I doubt any will ever be killed off. Hell, if Paul Walker hadn’t actually died in real life then I’m sure his character would still be alive and well with the others. But this is a major problem with the franchise (alongside so many other problems). You just don’t care about the characters because you know they’re invincible. There’s no way any of the main protagonists will die, no flippin’ way. Even when one does get killed in this movie they end up coming back. All this does is equal zero tension, zero thrills and zero risk. Fuck me even the villain is too big to get killed off it seems, future sequels are gonna have impossibly large casts.

And what is the antagonists goal here exactly? The big bad villain (female of course, Charlize Theron) wants to start off a world war I believe it was, why? And in order to do this she needed Toretto’s help to get some vital bits and pieces in order to activate a nuclear sub and start a nuclear war. She couldn’t do this herself with her henchmen? And in order to keep Toretto under control she kidnaps one of his ex-girlfriends who is pregnant with his child that he knows nothing about. Convenience much??!! I guess you could say she’s lucky Toretto is even bothered about this considering its his ex.

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There is so much stupidity and deus ex machina in this movie its painful, so very painful. The way characters (Toretto) seem to just have secret rendezvous or help outta nowhere, like magic, only to be explained towards the end of the movie. Yeah because that’s really clever. There are numerous car chase sequences that are essentially fights with various vehicles, its like watching Transformers. Each vehicle also seems to represent its driver so Dwayne Johnson naturally drives a huge, hulking 4×4 jeep thing that probably has really shitty fuel economy and moves like a bus. Its also apparent that in these sequences the hero vehicles don’t sustain damage…until its clearly unavoidable (because product placement). The same is often seen with weapons, in other words Dwayne Johnson is always seen with a huge shoulder cannon type thing (what’s he compensating for?).

Then of course you have the finale where they all take on a nuclear submarine and we see a sequence which is pretty much straight outta the school of escaping ‘Prometheus’ style. Toretto survives a massive blast from a heat-seeking missile striking the sub (as do all their vehicles apparently). Roman is even more of an unfunny idiot but unfortunately doesn’t get killed here. Other characters from previous movies such as Tej and Frank Petty merely make up the numbers and continuity. Scott Eastwood is in here for no particular reason, I genuinely don’t know why he’s there. Statham does the same shit as before and some others pop up blah blah blah, who cares. Oh and Toretto names his son (from the ex) Brian after Walker’s character, even though in the movie Brian isn’t dead sooo…why?

One of the main problems with this movie (and some others) is the fact that you kinda have to know the previous movies to get everything. Bottom line this is not a good stand alone movie, its not a good movie but even more so because you gotta know the backstories to a degree. Other than that its not much different from the Transformers franchise for me, just glossy garbage that ticks all the correct boxes. The epitome of modern movies.

3/10

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