[Screen It]


(1998) (Mel Gibson, Danny Glover) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild Moderate Extreme *Heavy Extreme
Moderate Minor Heavy None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
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Mild None Minor Mild Extreme

Action/Adventure: A pair of detectives tries to stop the illegal activities of some Asian mafia types who've brought their criminal business to L.A.
In this fourth installment of the popular series, L.A. detectives Martin Riggs (MEL GIBSON) and Roger Murtaugh (DANNY GLOVER) are getting older and have more things on their minds than just police work. Murtaugh is about to become a grandfather courtesy of his daughter who's secretly (only to her dad) married to another cop, while Riggs is about to become a father with Internal Affairs inspector Lorna Cole (RENE RUSSO), although they're not married.

Yet after a gunfight and the subsequent discovery of a boatload of illegal immigrants, the detectives get down to work. After several costly encounters with some bad guys that the department's insurance won't cover, Riggs and Murtaugh are promoted to captains, hopefully to keep them off the street, but as everyone knows that won't last for long.

With the assistance of their comic sidekick and former money launderer turned private eye, Leo Getz (JOE PESCI) and a new detective, Lee Butters (CHRIS ROCK) who's curiously over friendly to Murtaugh, the two old partners discover that a crooked local businessman, Uncle Benny (KIM CHAN), is involved in illegally moving immigrants into the country as slave labor. When they discover that a member of the Asian Triad, Wah Sing Ku (JET LI), is also involved, they start to put the heat on the bad guys.

After Wah Sing Ku makes the conflict personal by nabbing some immigrants staying with Murtaugh and tries to kill the detectives, Riggs and Murtaugh set out to do what they can to expose and stop the criminal activity that runs deeper than initially expected.

If they liked any of the three preceding films in the series, they will.
For violence and language.
  • MEL GIBSON plays an over the top detective who occasionally bends the rules of being a cop. He's also about to the father of an illegitimate baby and cusses quite a bit.
  • DANNY GLOVER plays his partner who also cusses quite a bit, but is more restrained than Riggs.
  • JOE PESCI plays their bumbling sidekick.
  • RENE RUSSO plays a minor character who's pregnant by Riggs.
  • CHRIS ROCK plays a new and funny detective who's tired of all the crime being committed and who also cusses a lot.
  • JET LI plays the murderous villain who's proficient in martial arts.



    OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
    The ads for "Lethal Weapon 4" tell us to "Celebrate the 4th on the 10th," and while that obviously refers to the numbered installment and the date it opens, it also makes one think of the 4th of July, a time for meeting old friends and having a knock down, drag out get together. There's no better way to describe this movie than that.

    Once again we're brought together with people we've grown quite accustomed to seeing and we enjoy their company because of their outgoing personalities, the friendly comic banter and camaraderie among all of them, not to mention the many "fireworks" and the inevitable "guests" who'll crash the party. Simply put, if you've enjoyed any or all of the previous entries in this long running series that began in 1987, you'll have a blast getting to see these characters again in this film.

    Rushed into production to fill Warner Brothers' summer of '98 void that was created when the latest "Superman" film was yanked from the schedule, this movie is subsequently quite rough around the edges and probably features the weakest plot of the four "Lethal Weapon" films. The villains are thinly constructed types and the criminal activity in which they're involved isn't anything outrageously special or intriguing once completely revealed.

    Plot elements such as promoting Riggs and Murtaugh to the status of captains to keep them off the streets and out of trouble aren't reinforced once they've been introduced, and a dual pregnancy subplot doesn't go very far, especially when Renee Russo looks anything but pregnant (other than the volleyball under her dress). In addition, the film tries to pull off some "touchy feely" moments to offset some of the brutal violence, but more often than not they don't work as well as they should.

    Having long abandoned the original "lethal weapon" plot device (of Riggs being a loose canon, which made the original rather unique), the filmmakers have thrown all caution to the wind and don't care about such "insignificant" details. The film's really just about getting the entire cast together again one last time and giving them some spectacular action set pieces in which to play.

    As such, director Richard Donner (who helmed the first three installments, as well as "The Omen," "Superman," and more recently, "Conspiracy Theory") has delivered some spectacular action sequences that are thrilling and which thoroughly pleased our preview audience. Starting out with an over the top scene featuring a flame throwing, machine gun firing terrorist, it's clearly evident that we're in for the same sort of goofy mayhem found in the previous films. Later sequences are also quite thrilling, including a "fun" freeway "skiing" piece that has to be seen to be fully appreciated, as is the case with some well-executed martial arts fighting scenes.

    While I've come down hard in the past on films that push the "suspension of disbelief" factor (ie. "Armageddon," etc...), this picture gets away with it for two reasons. First, it doesn't go beyond what we've already grown accustomed to in this series (People being pummeled in fights but still coming back for more, the detectives discussing other matters in the heat of the battle, etc...). More importantly, though, the film also benefits from familiar and likeable characters (thus making it so much easier to forgive their "plot faults") and Donner perfectly mixes outrageous stunts with enough humor to make everything that much easier to swallow.

    Speaking of humor, the addition of comic Chris Rock (TV's "Saturday Night Live") to the cast works quite well and adds a much needed additional layer of fresh humor to the proceedings. A scene where he and Joe "Okay, okay, okay" Pesci deliver a scathing diatribe about cell phones is very funny, as are most other moments featuring this gifted comedian, including a brief, but hilarious recounting of his character's childhood. One almost gets the sense that he may be one half of the next "Lethal" team once Gibson and Glover turn in their guns and badges (which may be never if they keep getting paid so much to star in these films).

    The rest of the performances are exactly what you've come to expect from these characters, and if you've liked what Gibson, Glover, Russo and Pesci have delivered before, you'll feel the same way about them again after this flick. Other than their retreading the same, familiar material, the only other major complaint is that there are too many sidekick characters (now totaling three) with not enough screen time for any of them, especially Russo who's all but absent for a great deal of the film (but is fun when she's there).

    As the villain, Asian film superstar Jet Li proves to be a physically capable antagonist, but the team of screenwriters (who reportedly worked feverishly on the set to mold the story as it was being shot) didn't do much in making him a real character. Menacing, but as flat as a squashed piece of cardboard, Li can't do much to flesh out his first ever villain character (he's previously always played the hero) in this, his American film debut. Even so, his acrobatic martial arts skills are amazing and fun to watch.

    Given that talent, Donner occasionally revs up the action to a point nearing that of legendary Hong Kong director John Woo ("The Killer," "Face/Off"), including several fight sequences between Li and Gibson and Glover that were clearly the favorites with our audience. While some (actually many) of them push that credibility factor to the limits, the film still manages to get away with it.

    Benefitting from a built in audience that loves these characters, the jokes and the familiarity of it all, this supposedly last installment of the popular series should be a big hit this summer. Featuring some spectacular action set pieces, stunts, and more humor than many straight comedies manage to produce, "Lethal Weapon 4"is a big, loud, and often viciously violent experience that can't be accused of holding anything back.

    If that's not your idea of entertainment, you'd better skip this film. On the other hand, if you've liked the series' other installments, you won't want to miss this one because you'll enjoy the heck out of it. We did, and thus give the film a 7 out of 10.

    If you've seen the other films in this series, you pretty much know what to expect. Violence is obviously extreme with many people being killed via various methods, and we get to witness even more hand-to-hand combat (some of it quite vicious and bloody) that would probably kill even the most seasoned soldier or toughest athlete. Profanity is also extreme with 30+ "f" words and an assortment of other words and phrases.

    Beyond all of that, the obvious bad attitudes of the villains, and a great deal of action scenes that may be intense for some viewers, the rest of the film doesn't contain much in the way of other major objectionable material. Even so, and particularly since many kids will want to see this film, we suggest that you take a closer look at the content if you're worried about the film's appropriateness for you and/or your kids.

  • An Asian man has a beer.
  • Murtaugh asks his adult son how he and his sister are going to spend some money he just gave them, and the son jokingly responds, "Hookers, drugs, contraceptives, orgies..."
  • Murtaugh and the father of an Asian family staying with him briefly drink tequila.
  • Riggs, Murtaugh, Butters and Uncle Benny get into a laughing fit after inhaling too much nitrous oxide at a dentist's office.
  • We briefly see a slightly bloody dead guy in a body bag.
  • Riggs has some bloody scratches on his face.
  • We briefly see a thug's bloody face.
  • We see some bloody bullet holes as people are shot, as well as others who are bloody after being shot.
  • A man is impaled with a steel rod and blood squirts out, and later a man is shot with a machine gun underwater and lots of blood spills out and floats in the water.
  • Riggs and Murtaugh are rather bloody by the end of the movie and after all of the fighting.
  • Getz makes a comment "What's that smell?" in a hospital, and a middle-aged patient states that she was on her way to the bathroom when Lorna grabbed in her the throes of labor pains.
  • Obviously all of the bad guys have both as they not only import Asian immigrants as slave labor, but also kill anyone who gets in their way.
  • Some may see the use of Asians as stereotypical, martial arts wielding villains as having both, although some are also used in good roles. Likewise, some comments (Riggs saying "I had some bad Chinese," and mentioning "Flied lice," etc...) may offend some viewers.
  • An immigration official has both for accepting payment to allow illegal immigrants into the country.
  • Murtaugh takes home a family of Asian immigrants, knowing that he's breaking the law by doing so.
  • Riggs pushes his detective weight around a bit too far several times (threatening the as-of-yet proven guilty villains, breaking a glass door, setting off a sprinkler system in a restaurant, etc...).
  • Many scenes listed under "Violence" may also be tense to some viewers, but most are done in an action-oriented, rather than outright scary fashion. Even so, the film is filled with many such scenes that may be rather suspenseful for younger viewers or those with low tolerance levels for such material.
  • During one of those, a shark that Getz had caught now comes after him and Murtaugh after their boat sinks (played more for laughs).
  • Two scenes involve vehicles being pushed into the path of oncoming freight trains.
  • Riggs finds himself precariously hanging from a rooftop after jumping to it from another roof.
  • A thug briefly holds his knife to Lorna's pregnant belly, but she then hits him and a huge fight breaks out between the cops and some thugs.
  • The thugs set a house on fire, leaving the cops and others inside to burn and the house is destroyed but everyone makes it out okay.
  • Riggs fights with a thug inside a modular home (on a moving truck) with many punches and kicks. After coming close to doing so several times, they end up falling through the plastic sheeting on one side and the thug is graphically hit by a truck. Riggs then holds on as he "freeway skis" behind the first truck on a table atop the plastic sheet while another thug tries to run him over with a car. Murtaugh then bangs his car into the thug's and the two continue to smash into each other's car.
  • Those who don't like trips to the dentist won't like a scene where Getz goes under the drill as a distraction for Riggs and Murtaugh (played for laughs).
  • The entire ending sequence (lots of gunfire, fighting, and two underwater bits) is all quite suspenseful in an action-oriented way.
  • Handguns/Machine guns/Flame Thrower/Knife/Piano wire (or something similar): Used to threaten, wound, or kill many people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Boinking" (for sex), "Shut the f*ck up," "Eat sh*t," "Holy sh*t," "Geez," "Shut up," "Knocked up" (pregnant), "Jerk," "Freakin'," "Kiss ass," "Pisses me off," "Bite me," "Scumbag," "Nut" (testicle), "Pissed" and "Piss."
  • Some kids may want to imitate all of the martial arts (and regular) fighting that occurs in the movie.
  • Riggs purposefully pulls the fire alarm in Uncle Benny's restaurant, setting off the sprinkler system.
  • Riggs climbs up through a car's sunroof and then onto the back of a vehicle transporting a modular home to get at some bad guys.
  • A man gives Murtaugh "the finger."
  • A vehicle suddenly pushes Riggs and Lorna's vehicle out into the path of an approaching freight train.
  • A heavy amount of action-oriented suspense music occurs in many scenes during the movie.
  • None.
  • Due to crowd noise, the following should be considered a minimum:
  • At least 38 "f" words (1 used with "mother"), 4 sexual uses of the word "boinking," 55 "s" words, 1 possible slang term for male genitals ("pr*ck"), 18 asses (4 used with "hole"), 16 S.O.B.'s, 14 hells, 9 damns, and 5 uses of "G-damn," 4 uses of "Oh God," 2 uses of "God" and 1 use each of "Jesus" and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • There's a lot of talk about Lorna being pregnant from Riggs (they're not married), as well as Murtaugh's daughter getting pregnant from another cop (they got married after they found out).
  • Looking through one of Lorna's romance books (and spinning it around to look at a drawing or photo that we don't see), Riggs asks if they try what he's seeing.
  • Murtaugh asks his adult son how he and his sister are going to spend some money he just gave them, and the son jokingly responds, "Hookers, drugs, contraceptives, orgies..."
  • There's a mild running joke about Murtaugh believing that Butters is gay (which is why he thinks he's being so friendly to him).
  • After given some nitrous oxide (at a dentist's office), Uncle Benny admits that he's been sleeping with his wife's two sisters.
  • Some comments are made about Murtaugh "boinking" someone, but that person turns out to be his wife.
  • None.
  • Some references are made to Rigg's long-dead wife (she was killed before the first movie in the series).
  • Illegal immigrants used for manual labor (ie. Sweatshops).
  • That no one can take the repeated physical abuse that all these characters do and still be alive, let alone manage to keep fighting.
  • Riggs and Murtaugh encounter a man in a bulletproof suit firing a flame thrower and a machine into buildings and cars. He fires at both of them, and they fire back at him, hitting him, but to no avail. Eventually they hit his napalm canister sending him flying across the street and into a gas tanker that then explodes.
  • Men on a passing freighter ship open fire on Riggs, Murtaugh and Getz with machine guns. Riggs then shoots and kills two of them. Some oil barrels on the freighter catch on fire and blow up, another guy is shot dead, and Riggs and another man shoot at each other. Murtaugh's boat is sunk, another man is shot, and Riggs gets into a fight (punching and kicking) with another man.
  • A man's vehicle is pushed out into the path of an oncoming train where it's hit and explodes.
  • Riggs purposefully breaks Uncle Benny's large, glass restaurant door.
  • During a foot chase scene, a bad guy shoots through the glass of an elevator to jump from it.
  • Wah Sing Ku repeatedly kicks another Asian man and then eventually strangles him with piano wire (or something quite similar).
  • Riggs and another cop land punches on each other in a boxing ring.
  • Riggs and Murtaugh arrive at the latter's home to find some thugs holding the women there at gunpoint. They briefly get the upper hand, but a thug then holds his knife to Lorna's pregnant belly. She then hits this guy and a large fight (punches, kicks, chairs over backs, people thrown out through windows, etc...) breaks out between the three cops and the thugs, including Wah Sing Ku (who eventually knocks out all three).
  • The thugs set a house on fire, leaving the cops and others inside to burn and the house is destroyed but everyone makes it out okay.
  • Riggs fights with a thug inside a modular home (on a moving truck) with many punches and kicks. After coming close to doing so several times, they end up falling through the plastic sheeting on one side and the thug is graphically hit by a truck. Riggs then holds on as he "freeway skis" behind the first truck on a table atop the plastic sheet while another thug tries to run him over with a car. Murtaugh then bangs his car into the thug's and the two continue to smash into each other's car.
  • Later, Murtaugh and Riggs drive completely through the floor of an office building (smashing the glass panels on either side and all of the desks in between), and then a large truck smashes the thug's car.
  • Murtaugh punches Riggs for not telling him the truth about the identity of his daughter's husband.
  • Wah Sing Ku breaks a man's neck to make the victim's relative work harder, and then kills another man with piano wire (or something similar).
  • A vehicle pushes Riggs and Lorna's truck into the path of an oncoming train. Lorna shoots through the back window and strikes one of the thugs. The thugs' vehicle is then struck twice by trains and explodes.
  • A huge gun battle breaks out in a warehouse and many people are shot and killed and others are wounded, and more martial arts' kicks and punches are thrown. Others are killed, a guy is shot in a truck that explodes, and Riggs and Murtaugh get into a long, drawn out, and viciously bloody fight with a bad guy where one of them (guess who) is impaled with a steel rod.
  • More fighting follows and a man is riddled with shots from a machine gun.

  • Reviewed July 7, 1998

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