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For my money, LETHAL WEAPON ($25) is probably the best cop/buddy movie ever made. Of course, I base my opinion of the film’s strong characterization, which has made it one of the genre’s most memorable outings. Now, Warner Home Video has made a good thing even better by releasing the Director’s Cut of LETHAL WEAPON on DVD. The Director’s Cut adds seven character rich minutes back into the body of LETHAL WEAPON, which gives audiences greater insight into the motivations of the film’s two lead characters.

LETHAL WEAPON stars Mel Gibson as detective Martin Riggs, who on the surface appears to be an almost certifiable nutcase. Because of the suicidal risks he takes on the streets, half of the police department thinks Riggs is crazy, while the other half are convinced he’s bucking for a psycho pension. The truth of matter is that Martin Riggs is a man in pain, who has is having great difficulty dealing with his wife’s death. Because of his reckless behavior, Riggs finds himself transferred out of the narcotics division into homicide, where he finds himself partnered with Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover).

Murtaugh is a laid back family man, who is celebrating his fiftieth birthday as the film opens, but he is none to pleased about the present that the department has given him- namely having to work with a dysfunctional detective like Riggs. As you might have guessed, there is a lot of tension between the two detectives. However, as Riggs and Murtaugh become involved in a homicide investigation that leads back to a band of drug smuggling mercenaries, the two detectives begin to count on one another when they are targeted for elimination. As a movie, LETHAL WEAPON is strong on drama, with a decided undercurrent of comedy running through it.

What separates LETHAL WEAPON from the later films in the series is the fact that the comedy and the action are secondary to the character development. Unlike the first film, characterization seems a bit shortchanged in the later installments. The sequels tend to play up the comedy, as well as sometimes allowing the action sequences to overtake the story. Another thing that separates LETHAL WEAPON from its sequels is the series most memorable villain. Once you’ve seen LETHAL WEAPON, you are not likely to forget Gary Busey’s cold as ice portrayal of Mr. Joshua, nor his final showdown with Riggs. The cast of LETHAL WEAPON also includes Mitchell Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Jackie Swanson, Damon Hines, Ebonie Smith, Mary Ellen Trainor, Steve Kahan and Ed O'Ross.

LETHAL WEAPON is another early DVD entry from Warner Home Video that has received a facelift. As I stated above, LETHAL WEAPON is now available as a Director’s Cut of the film that includes seven additional minutes of footage. The Director’s Cut sports a brand-new 16:9 enhanced presentation that restores the film’s 1.85:1 theatrical framing. Without question, I can say that LETHAL WEAPON looks better here, than it has in past video incarnations. LETHAL WEAPON sports a crisp and nicely detailed image throughout its full running time, plus the restored footage doesn’t give itself away by displaying coloring or contrast variances from the main body of the film. The film element used for the transfer displays occasional blemishes and few instances of film grain, but neither amounts to any form of distraction. Color reproduction on the DVD is quite nice, with natural saturation and healthy looking flesh tones. There is no evidence or chroma noise or bleeding anywhere on the DVD. Blacks are accurately reproduced and there is a respectable level of shadow detail contained in the image of this 1987 release. LETHAL WEAPON takes advantage of dual layer authoring to maximize the data rate and virtually eliminates all traces of digital compression artifacts.

The remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack improves upon the film’s original matrixed surround sound mix, but track’s origins remain obvious. Sound effects remain up front, where there is good channel separation. The surround channels add emphasis to the forward soundstage; while at the same time the rears deliver a solid dosage of ambient sounds. There doesn’t seem to be any real evidence of split surround action, although the mix remains effective. Dialogue is clean and intelligible, but the voices don’t always maintain a transparent quality. Bass is full and solid, however there is nothing in the film that requires an earth shattering quality. Additionally, the film’s music by Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen sounds very good, obviously receiving a boost from the Dolby Digital remastering. A French surround and an English DTS 5.1 channel soundtrack are also encoded onto the DVD, with the DTS track running a high bit rate. English, French and Spanish subtitles are available on the DVD.

The interactive menus are nicely designed, utilizing full motion video, animation and sound in the interface. Though the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features. Other than the additional Director’s Cut footage, LETHAL WEAPON is a little weak on extras. However, the disc does include a theatrical trailer, cast biographies/filmographies and production notes on the film’s fight sequence.

As far as cop/buddy movies go, LETHAL WEAPON is a genre classic. If you really like this movie, the Director’s Cut may be well worth a second purchase. However, if you don’t already have the original DVD, then this great looking and good sounding disc is a must have. Recommended.




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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