My Favorite Movies #6

"Jingle Bell Rock" plays on the soundtrack as a helicoptor shot twists through the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles. Finally, we circle a round tower, and track in through the window. A teenage girl, drugged out of her mind, climbs out the same window and jumps to her death. So begins 'Lethal Weapon,' a tour de force of adrenaline that sees Mel Gibson, writer Shane Black, and director Richard Donner at the height of their careers. Make no mistake, this the ultimate action movie. Everything hits - the grounded, but still jaw-dropping, set pieces, the bluesy score, the wild magnetism of Gibson in his major American movie debut - hell, even Gary Busey dials down the nutty to play Mr. Joshua, one of the coldest bastards to come along. The characters are well drawn, with actual personalities, personal lives, and motivations that allow an adult drama to play underneath the craziness. Shane Black's script is whip smart, and the witty banter is balanced with emotional, realistic dialogue (which is sometimes missing in the sequels). The action is borne of the plot, and isn't just a string of explosions held together with spit and glue. Danny Glover's Murtaugh and Gibson's Riggs have substantial character arcs, and the audience really cares for these guys, an attachment that continues through all four 'Weapons' (and there are rumors of a fifth in the pipeline). The 'Lethal Weapon' sequels may vary in quality, and they took the action to sometimes-cartoonish levels, but the original is a touchstone of the genre. Pop it into the old Blu-ray player again, and you'll see what I mean.

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