Lethal Weapon 3

There's a reason for calling this brand-name sequel mindless entertainment. If you think about what you just wasted two hours watching, you won't be entertained anymore. Lethal Weapon 3 offers mediocrity wielded by experts. It's not a movie, it's a machine. Why a third time? The first movie earned $65 million, and the second more than doubled that. End of discussion.

Mel Gibson is back as Martin Riggs, the cop who was suicidal over his wife's death in part 1 but has become just a laughably nutso eccentric. Gibson looks great, which by now is all that's necessary, besides showing up. Danny Glover also returns as Riggs's detective partner, Roger Murtaugh, the family man who is willing to provide Riggs with a home away from home. Gibson (The Year of Living Dangerously) can be a good actor, and Glover (To Sleep With Anger) is a great one, but you can't blame them for performing on automatic pilot. Anything else might disturb the equilibrium.

Director Richard Donner (a three-time Weapon veteran) and screenwriters Jeffrey Boam and Robert Mark Kamen don't even bother to sketch in the rudiments of a story. Okay, Murtaugh is supposed to be a week away from retirement, and Riggs doesn't want him to leave the force. But that's not a plot; it's an excuse. Lethal Weapon 3 plays like a collection of highlight scenes — the ones you see in trailers or on Siskel and Ebert. There's no connective tissue. Riggs and Murtaugh appear and in seconds the shooting starts or a building blows up or somebody gets fucked — literally or figuratively.

Joe Pesci returns from part 2 as the peroxided, peewee-voiced Mob accountant Leo Getz, who has gone semi-straight but is still a butt for jokes. Rene Russo is a new face as internal-affairs officer Lorna Cole, who proves a match for Riggs in the martial and bedroom arts. The scene in which they strip to show each other their battle scars has been done before (remember Jaws?), but not in a Lethal Weapon movie. Mel doesn't go bare assed — he stops at the briefs. Sorry for spoiling the film's one surprise.

Will the obvious emptiness of this enterprise butt business? Will the recent L.A. riots make audiences less likely to cheer two members of the LAPD wreaking havoc on the streets? Will the studio think twice about putting another chapter in the works? Hell, no. On its opening weekend alone, Lethal Weapon 3 took in a whopping $33.2 million, a gross exceeded only by Batman's first weekend. Even a cynical Hollywood player like Griffin Mill couldn't have planned it better.

From The Archives Issue 275: October 5, 1978