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The tagline for LETHAL WEAPON 2 ($25) states, "The magic is back." Personally, I donít think so. In fact, I feel that LETHAL WEAPON 2 is probably the weakest film in the entire series. This isnít to say that LETHAL WEAPON 2 isnít entertaining- in a big, loud action movie sort of way. However, the strides the first LETHAL WEAPON made towards creating cop/buddy movies with solid characterization seem to be all but forgotten in LETHAL WEAPON 2. From the word go, LETHAL WEAPON 2 gives one the impression that its stunt and special effects teams must have put in some serious overtime to make this high caliber action movie. The way LETHAL WEAPON 2 is structured, Richard Donnerís directorial duties require him to play traffic cop more than anything else. Heck, the movie opens right in the middle of a nighttime high-speed car chase that is filled with screeching tires, grinding metal, gunfire and explosions. Itís all wonderful, mindless fun, but this film lacks the emotional depth of the original LETHAL WEAPON.

Mel Gibson is back as police detective Martin Riggs, who is far saner in the film, having come to terms with his wifeís death. However, Riggs remains something of a cowboy within the department, as his risky, unorthodox methods and class clown demeanor will surely attest. Danny Glover as detective Roger Murtaugh remains the voice of sanity, who is able reign his partner in to some degree, but Riggsí gleeful, juvenile delinquent streak usually gets the best of both detectives. As I stated above, LETHAL WEAPON 2 open with Riggs and Murtaugh being involved in a high-speed car chase. However, because of all the damage that that Riggs and Murtaugh leave in the wake of that chase, the two detectives end up getting reassigned to a special detail, which the department hopes will be less destructive.

Their temporary assignment requires Riggs and Murtaugh to baby-sit federal witness Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) for several days. While the detail sounds easy enough, Leo is probably the most annoying human being on the planet, capable of driving anyone nuts. However, Riggs and Murtaugh arenít going to allow any bodily harm to befall Leo, other than whatever minor damage they can inflict themselves. After an attempt is made on Leoís life, the detectives begin their own investigation, which leads them to the front door of the South African conciliate. Unfortunately, our heroes are unable to do anything about the dirty dealings being perpetrated on American soil, due to a little technicality known as diplomatic immunity. Of course, Riggs and Murtaugh arenít about to let the matter drop, especially after a number of attempts are made on their lives. The cast of LETHAL WEAPON 2 also includes Joss Ackland, Derrick O'Connor, Patsy Kensit, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mark Rolston and Jenette Goldstein.

Like its predecessor, LETHAL WEAPON 2 has been given a brand new release on DVD, as a Directorís Cut that features four minutes of additional footage. However, unlike the first film, the restored footage really doesnít add any depth to the characterization, but the extra scenes do make for entertaining additions. Warner Home Videoís new DVD release is a major upgrade in video quality, since this is the first time that LETHAL WEAPON 2 has been offered in a 16:9 enhanced presentation. The new transfer restores the filmís 2.35:1 theatrical framing and looks quite nice. Of course, no one is going to be blown away by the image on the DVD, but this 1989 release does have a relatively sharp and nicely defined picture. Colors are pretty strong, with natural looking flesh tones and no evidence of either chroma noise or smearing of the more intensely saturated hues. Blacks are accurately rendered, although shadow detail isnít as cleanly defined as one would find on a new film coming off theatrical release. Thanks to dual layer authoring, LETHAL WEAPON 2 doesnít have any serious issues with digital compression artifacts.

The filmís soundtrack has been remastered in a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital mix, which has "action movie" aggressiveness. Split surrounds have been deployed to add some extra emphasis to the car chase sequences; the effect almost makes one feel that things are whizzing past their heads at a distance that is far too close for comfort. Sound effects are effectively spread across the forward soundstage, with the helicopter gun battle sounding fairly impressive for an upgraded sound mix. Dialogue is always intelligible and somewhat more natural sounding than it was on the first movie. Strong bass reproduction gives the sound effects a solid foundation, allowing them to explode out into oneís listening environment. The filmís music by Eric Clapton, Michael Kamen and David Sanborn is especially well reproduced and nicely integrated into the sound mix. A French surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as is a 5.1 channel DTS track running a very high bit rate. Subtitles are available on the DVD in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus have a cool interface that makes use of full motion video, animation and sound. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, plus a couple of extras. Extras include a theatrical trailer, a short featurette on the filmís stunt work and some production notes on the same topic.

While it isnít the film series most shining moment, LETHAL WEAPON 2 is an entertaining action flick. However, just for the anamorphic enhancement alone, fans will find the Directorís Cut of LETHAL WEAPON 2 a worthwhile upgrade.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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