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11 years after the first LETHAL WEAPON both Mel Gibson and his character Martin Riggs have the right to exclaim the same thing that Danny Glover's character Roger Murtaugh has been saying since the first film: "I'm getting too old for this (bleep)!" Despite the fact that father time has started to catch up Martin Riggs, LETHAL WEAPON 4 ($25) proves to be one of the better entries in the action/comedy series. The rapport between Gibson and Glover gets better with age. So does the good-natured comedy, it remains fresh and funny even in this forth installment.

LETHAL WEAPON 4 finds detectives Riggs and Murtaugh both promoted to rank of captain- just to get them off the street. It seems that the detective’s past escapades has made it difficult for the city to get insurance. Of course, their cushy new positions don't keep them out of trouble. The newly promoted captains soon find themselves investigating a boatload of illegal Chinese immigrants who were going to be used as slave labor in sweatshops. It doesn't take long for Riggs and Murtaugh to run afoul of Uncle Benny (Kim Chan), the local Chinese crime lord. However, Uncle Benny turns out to be small potatoes compared to Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li), a far more lethal criminal from China who intends to stop the investigation.

The plot of LETHAL WEAPON 4 contains other complications for our heroes; Murtaugh discovers he is going to be a grandfather at the same time that Riggs discovers that he is going to become a father. In addition to the magical combination of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, LETHAL WEAPON 4 features some delightful work from its ever-growing stock company. Joe Pesci is hilarious in his third appearance as the annoying motor mouth Leo Getz, who is attempting to become a private detective this time around. Rene Russo is underutilized as Martin Riggs' girlfriend Lorna Cole, however she remains very pleasant to look at. Comedian Chris Rock injects a lot of good humor into the film with his portrayal of Lee Butters, a young detective who always seems to be under Murtaugh's foot. LETHAL WEAPON 4 doles out both comedy and action in equal measure. As always, the stunt work in this forth installment is outstanding.

Fans of the LETHAL WEAPON movies will find the expected car chases, gun play and explosions. Hand to hand fighting in this film is exemplary, thanks to the appearance of Hong Kong action star Jet Li whose martial arts prowess is extraordinary. Hopefully, we will be seeing Li in more American action films. Director Richard Donner does his usual superb job of directing traffic; Donner gets the absolute best from all actors and technicians working under him.

Warner Home Video works their usual wizardry to make LETHAL WEAPON 4 an absolutely stunning DVD. The two-sided DVD features a Letterboxed presentation on one side and the supplemental features on the other. LETHAL WEAPON 4 is presented quite close to it theatrical framing of 2.35:1 and the DVD includes the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. Transfer-wise, the DVD is a knockout; the image is clean, sharp and sports an amazing level of detail. Colors are vibrant and the DVD reproduces the well-saturated hues without a bit of chroma noise. MPEG-2 artifacts were never bothersome thanks to a terrific compression job.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is a blast- another demo disc for action movie fans. All of the discrete channels are used to ping pong the directional effects, while the clear sounding dialogue remained strongly focused in the center. Bass reproduction was solid, which helped drive the film’s explosions and gunfire right at the viewer. A French 5.1 channel soundtrack has also been provided, as have English and French subtitles.

The interactive menus are somewhat animated and contained sound. Through the menus one can access this Premiere Collection's nice array of supplements including an interesting audio commentary featuring director Richard Donner, co-producers J. Mills Goodloe and Geoff Johns. Flipping the DVD, one can access a "Behind-The-Scenes" documentary, deleted scenes from the first three LETHAL WEAPON movies, as well as a cast and crew interview gallery. Theatrical trailers, production notes and cast biographies/filmographies fill out the supplements.

LETHAL WEAPON 4 is slam-dunk fun for fans of the film series, plus the DVD is a total knockout. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 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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