Firefox (1982)

So we all know Clint for his westerns, but you should also know him for his political thrillers. ‘Firefox’ was one of his first political thrillers in the midst of some tough cop/crime action flicks and stupid crap involving an orangutan. Naturally it was based on a novel of the same name which I’ve never heard of or read, so I am unable to compare the two.

The plot: Put simply, Major Mitchell Gant (Clint) is a Nam veteran who can fly anything and can also speak Russian (thanks to his Russian mother). He is brought back into action on a joint Anglo-American mission to steal a highly advanced Russian jet fighter (code name Firefox) which can hit mach 6, is invisible to radar, and can fire missiles controlled by the pilots mind. He is dropped into Russia undercover. He must reach and secure the jet fighter with the help of Russian dissidents. However, the KGB are aware of his presence and are hot on his heels. Yep, its a fictional cold war thriller.

The film is kinda split into two halves really, the first part follows Gant as he enters the Soviet Union, meets up with Soviet dissidents, and moves from place to place trying to stay one step ahead of the KGB. The second part follows Gant piloting the Firefox jet as he tries to evade Russian attempts to bring him down whilst trying to flee Russian airspace.

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For the most part the first half of the film in Russia is slow moving but with solid tension. The film wasn’t actually shot in Russia due to actual American-Russian cold war unease so Austria stood in for locations. This is made abundantly clear in a shot showing Gant walking past Red Square in Moscow; its a horrendously obvious and amusing bluescreen shot. It is also kinda amusing watching Clint in this role because if anyone stood out from the crowd as a possible US spy in Moscow, it would be Gant. The man is clearly on the ropes every time he speaks to an official. He’s twitchy, sweating, his eyes are darting about the place, he just looks worried as feck. Its so stupid how no Russian official ever pulls him in for further questioning.

I can’t deny it is quite exciting to watch Gant evade the KGB one scene after another. The sequence where Gant is trying to leave a subway station quickly before a killed guard is discovered is very good. The Russian dissidents were slightly over the top though I thought, a bit too gruff and merciless, but well acted. They also came across as too obvious for my liking, basically everyone looks so damn guilty in this film. At times it did feel like you were watching a film set in Nazi Germany, but I’m assuming its relatively accurate for the period. Seems very odd that people had to show their ID papers constantly, almost everywhere, but hey it was effective.

I do think the film would have been even more effective if all Russian characters had spoken in Russian with English subs, ditto for the Americans. Although listening to Clint speak Russian did sound rather off, an understandably difficult task. I’m still not entirely sure if Gant was supposed to be talking Russian (when speaking English) when communicating with various Russian dissidents at certain points in the film. Don’t think so but its possible.

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The second half of the movie sees Gant stealing the Firefox jet from within a Bond-esque Russian military base complete with white coat scientists who get brutally gunned down after exposing themselves as dissidents. The whole sequence isn’t quite as thrilling as Bond but instead quite dark and sobering. The jet itself is a very impressive full scale model which looks a bit like the Lockheed Blackbird aircraft. Whilst the air suit Gant wears is a very cool sexy and futuristic all black affair with slick helmet and visor. All the interior cockpit shots and sequences do look very authentic and of course very cool. The constant light and cloud reflections zipping off Gant’s visor (along with the cockpit interior) does sell the illusion perfectly.

The exterior sequences for the aircraft (and dogfight sequence) were filmed using a new technique from John Dykstra called ‘reverse bluescreen’. This essentially enabled the shiny black model aircraft to appear to be flying against clear blue skies and glimmering white snow without bluescreen leakage on the model. This does work but naturally things have moved on somewhat since 1982 so by today’s standards it still all looks a bit hokey. Some shots do look good, the flyby effect on land and sea is quite nice as the jet zooms overhead. The odd model shot does look pretty sweet but in all honesty a lot of it looks very fake. The more elaborate the aerial manoeuvre, the more fake looking unfortunately.

All in all this is definitely a movie of two halves (have I mentioned that?). The first half is a far more serious affair of infiltration and espionage. Its dark tense and engaging despite how simplistic it all is. On the other hand the second half becomes much more of an action movie with a more jingoistic vibe. Eastwood certainly seems to feel more at home when in the cockpit of an ultra cool armoured killing machine being an all American action hero (who somehow forgets about rear firing missiles despite being the best of the best). Yes in all honesty Eastwood probably wasn’t the best choice for the main role here (I know he gave himself the role). He’s as wooden as a very wrinkled narrow piece of wood and is clearly outdone by his Russian dissident costar (Warren Clarke), and pretty much all of the Russian military cast.

A good solid reliable Eastwood film which ironically would probably have been much better if Eastwood wasn’t in the leading role. He is easily the weakest element in his own movie.

6.5/10

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The Cowboy Way (1994)

This movie was pretty much the epitome of cloning or ripping off another movies concept, and then see it go straight to video (in the UK at least). Back in the day you’d find many of these random comedies on the videoshop shelves. Movies you’d never seen or heard of before but had really good casts; its like they just popped up outta nowhere (‘Celtic Pride’ for example). You had no idea if they were any good but you’d usually rent them because of the cast, and sometimes the neat movie poster on the box.

The plot centres around two cowboys in New Mexico (Woody Harrelson and Kiefer Sutherland) who must travel east to New York in order to find their Cuban friend Nacho (who went to find his daughter). Turns out Nacho owed money to a gang for bringing his daughter into the US from Cuba. In the meantime the gang keeps his daughter in sweat shop slavery. So the butch stetson wearing duo must find Nacho and his daughter.

In short this is a very weak rip-off of ‘Crocodile Dundee’ but minus everything that made that movie a classic. I’m sure you know exactly what to expect when I say that. Both protagonists are your absolute cowboys. They both wear stetsons, jeans and cowboy boots all the time. They both have various stereotypical cowboy skills which come in handy throughout. And they are both displayed to be rather butch and sexy over dem city folk. The only real difference is Sutherland’s character is the more sensible, straight laced cowboy with morals. Where as Harrelson’s cowboy is the wildcard who loves loose women, drinking and getting into trouble. Pretty predictable stuff really.

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Most of the action we see if also your predictable guff (oh my the stunt doubles!!) which was done way better in that 1986 Aussie comedy. Being cowboys these guys are of course out of their natural habitat in downtown New York/Manhattan. They dress funny, they talk funny, and they act all gruff; its all just so…funny. Somehow they manage to waltz into the Waldorf Astoria unchallenged and then manage to get into the dinning area for a snack to eat. Oh the hilarity that ensues as Harrelson’s Pepper character acts all uncouth (ahem).

Later on Pepper gets himself into a posh yuppy-esque party for catwalk models (some middle aged woman takes a fancy to him). So this is the part where Pepper acts a bit homophobic because cowboys are real men, grrr! As the plot progresses they meet mounted police office Ernie Hudson who tickets them for camping out in Central Park (you know because they’re cowboys and that’s what cowboys do). Ernie’s character seems to fall under a bit of a man/hero crush with these cowboys and starts helping them on their quest. By helping them I mean completely violating his jobs procedures and acting like a wild cowboy. This includes riding all over New York on his police horse waving his gun around. And allowing Pepper to drive his truck full speed into a local bar owned by the gang (his truck seemingly suffers no damage and apparently no one gets killed or injured).

As the trio chase after the main villain (a snarling, scenery chewing Dylan McDermott who dies quite horribly in the end) they basically end up riding horseback all over places which you simply wouldn’t expect to see a horse being ridden. This is of course the movies main hook, having cowboys running amok in Manhattan. They make a point to ride past many landmarks, because of course they do. I can’t deny it was interesting to see these scenes of cowboys galloping down main streets, bridges, railway stations, the port areas etc…

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In the end this is a cheeky little number that solely relies on the then star ‘brat pack’ power of Kiefer Sutherland (which he retained for quite sometime); and that period in time when Woody Harrelson was considered a bit of a heartthrob. It also relies heavily on the overly used concept of lower class rough types clashing with posh types, and the tired culture clash formula. The weathered, seemingly backwards type character/s entering the fast-paced modern world.

Its totally as you would expect all the way. A silly comedy with Harrelson in his brazen undisciplined period, and Sutherland just doing what he always kinda did…look stoic (whilst also looking like he stepped out of a Marlboro advert here). Its reasonable but there are much better similar action comedy flicks from this era.

6/10

Killing Gunther (2017)

So this movie came outta nowhere for me. Apparently it was released straight to video on demand, and later got a limited theatrical release. Heck even the films poster looks like a fan job. Little bit misleading too I think, seeing as the titular Schwarzenegger isn’t really in the film until the very end.

So what we have here is essentially an action comedy but with a mockumentary twist. A group of assassins led by Blake (Taran Killam) wants to eliminate the top assassin in the business, Gunther (Schwarzenegger). Each assassin has their own reasons for this but Blake simply wants to be the top assassin in the biz. Because Blake is somewhat eccentric and narcissistic he hires a documentary team to follow and document his team in their mission to kill Gunther. Put plainly, in my humble view, this is ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ but with assassins instead of vampires, concept wise. Although there is a musical score playing throughout, which makes no sense but whatever.

Admittedly at first I was getting a bit sceptical about the whole idea mainly because it instantly comes across like a clone of said New Zealand horror comedy. But the introduction of the over the top, stereotypical characters won me over. Firstly the leader Blake is the Bond-esque/Kingsman-esque gentleman type who dresses in a suit with a dapper hairstyle. Next is Donnie (Bobby Moynihan), an over enthusiastic, overweight, bumbling all-American trying his best to showcase himself as a good assassin. He often mugs to the camera. Next we have the token sexy femme fatale of the group, Sanaa (Hannah Simone). The daughter of a legendary Muslim assassin who is possibly the most skilled team member, but can’t shake off her overprotective father.

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Yong (Aaron Yoo) is a Chinese (I think) assassin with a penchant for poisons, but not guns or blood. Gabe (Paul Brittain) is the youngest on the team, merely a teenager by the looks of it. He is the tech expert, anything computers, or so he says. Izzat (Amir Talai) used to be an Islamic extremist but has since moved away from that and is now wanting to earn a reputation as an assassin. His other specialty is the fact he has a robotic arm that can crush pretty much anything. He lost it helping another extremist with his suicide bomb. And lastly Mia and Barold (Allison Tolman and Ryan Gaul), Russian siblings and thugs.

Now despite the mockumentary premise being old hat these days, it never fails to raise a smile (I think). If you think of all mockumentaries, in general they’re all pretty good, if not classics. So essentially you kinda know what to expect comedy wise from the outset, but its still admittedly funny. Obviously with this movie its all gonna be send-ups of the espionage/action genre. I’m sure you know what movies I’m referring to.

Whilst all the humour isn’t brilliant there are some nuggets of goodness to be found. After an encounter with Gunther the team review the footage that was captured by Blake’s documentary team (yes the documentary team are also involved in this). Gabe the tech guy hooks it all up and they scan the footage. They find a shot of Gunther and pause it, Blake orders Gabe to enhance the image. Gabe looks at Blake puzzled and says he can’t do that, computers don’t do that. What follows is an argument about how everyone has seen that done on TV and in films so it must be a thing.

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When the team goes to collect weapons from a secret arms dealer, the guy turns out to be this really nice, almost camp chap who just happens to look like a butch biker. Cliched and unoriginal but the whole scene works nicely. Then there are lots of little moments such as watching Donnie trying to slide over the top of a cars bonnet only to fall on his face. ‘Just erase that’ he says to the camera after climbing off the car. Donnie is probably the funniest guy in the film for me with his physique and mannerisms. He’s always trying to be cool, like a character from an action movie. When he’s gonna flick the switch to blow some dynamite he looks into the camera and says ‘boom goes the dynamite’ with a smug wink and grin. Of course the bomb fails to go off. Then you’ve also got Yong who carries tiny bottles of poison around with him…and throws them at people…in gun fights.

This actually felt more like I was watching an action packed episode of ‘The Office’ more than anything. The movie has all those exact beats, tropes and cliches. The movie does have a nice twist of sorts in the latter half as we find out that Gunther is doing exactly the same thing as Blake (with a documentary team); but he’s doing it to expose how inept Blake and his team are. Everything that happened during the movie was all setup by Gunther; although much suspension of disbelief is required for that. Nothing is genuinely explained properly, its all very tongue and cheek. Just run with it, type of thing.

I think the movies biggest issue is the fact that there are too many characters and not all get enough time to shine. You could of easily left out a few of them, like the Russian siblings. The other issue is none of them grow as characters, they all remain the same stereotypical doofuses as they started out. Although I thought Donnie having to convert to Islam in order to marry Sanaa (under threat of death from her overprotective father) was quite funny. But by the end the plot gets more contrived and stupid as they quickly try to wrap things up neatly. The fact that Gunther apparently doesn’t die is also something of an ugh! moment.

I liked the found footage style of the movie, I think its works surprisingly well here. Its not the best mockumentary there is but I thought it was a solid comedy with much to offer. Certainly a much appreciated slightly new angle for the now overcrowded espionage genre. Yes its all very dumb, not very sophisticated, hardly subtle, and very meta. But after a slow and uncertain start, I got into this.

7/10

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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

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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