Film Review: Lethal Weapon (1987)

Release Date: March 6th, 1987
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Shane Black
Music by: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mitchell Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mary Ellen Trainor, Ed O’Ross, Al Leong, Jack Thibeau

Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes, 117 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I’m too old for this shit!” – Roger Murtaugh

Since there have been rumblings, once again, about Lethal Weapon 5, I was reminded that I haven’t really watched the original film in quite awhile. So, since I have the DVD box set, I figured that I’d give them all a rewatch and a review.

I actually forgot how dark this first film was in regards to Martin Riggs’ depression and suicidal thoughts. Sure, I remember that part of the story but I see a lot more layers with it now, as an adult that has dealt with depression his entire life and many of the experiences and thoughts that come with it. I can also relate to the loss and grief that Riggs felt over his wife’s death, as I lost someone very close to me, which had me in a similar head space for a few years.

As a kid and a teen, I don’t think I understood the real depth of Riggs’ despair and I also didn’t fully understand how this is a movie about a broken man finding something to live for and that he is essentially adopted by a family that grows to love him as one of their own. And honestly, I’m not sure if Shane Black’s script meant to take it that deep but Mel Gibson and Danny Glover add so much to their roles and this story, emotionally, that lesser actors couldn’t have achieved this on quite the same level with this much human emotion.

That being said, the film is really about a man emerging from absolute darkness and finding his way in the world again. And while this isn’t the main plot thread of the sequels, it helped to establish the bond between Riggs and Murtaugh so well, that the emotions and connections in this film created such a strong foundation that it made the camaraderie in the sequels natural and frankly, easy.

The movie is an action comedy, despite the really heavy emotional stuff, and within that, it has a great balance between the darker stuff and its lighthearted playfulness. It’s also full of badass action and just makes me wish that Hollywood could still make pictures like this that are this good.

Action comedies in the modern era just don’t hit the right notes. You can’t compare any of those Kevin Hart buddy action comedies to the Lethal Weapon films and that’s not a knock against the talented Hart, I think it is just a product of the times we live in and their contrast to what the 1980s (and ’90s) were.

A lot of the credit has to go to Richard Donner, who was on his A-game as a director in the ’80s, as well as producer Joel Silver, a man that was involved with some of the most iconic films of all-time, especially in this era and the action genre.

But it all really comes back to the greatness that is the pairing of Gibson and Glover. They’re bond and their banter is absolute perfection. You buy into what they’re selling and they feel like they’re your friends too. On top of that, Glover’s family is great and they make the scenes they share with the two leads pretty special.

While the actual plot dealing with the crime element in the film is a bit thin, it’s still interesting and it also brings in great performances from Gary Busey, Tom Atkins and the grossly underappreciated Mitchell Ryan. I also love seeing and hearing Al Leong actually speak in this beyond just being a voiceless henchman.

On top of all that, the action sequences are superb, the stunts are fantastic and this is a movie that still packs a punch and is just as exciting as it was over thirty years ago.

Lethal Weapon is a stupendous film. It has the greatest tandem in buddy cop movie history and it has aged tremendously well.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Lethal Weapon films, as well as most ’80s buddy action movies.

Film Review: Predator 2 (1990)

Release Date: November 19th, 1990 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
Written by: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Morton Downey Jr., Adam Baldwin, Kent McCord, Calvin Lockhart, Elpidia Carrillo (cameo), Kevin Peter Hall

Gordon Company, Silver Pictures, Davis Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 108 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t see the eyes of the demon, until him come callin’.” – King Willie

I know a lot of people that don’t like Predator 2. Those people are assholes and their opinion doesn’t matter.

Predator 2 isn’t as perfect as its predecessor, which was a true masterpiece of ’80s action filmmaking. It is impossible to follow up perfection with more perfection. Well, not impossible but incredibly hard, especially in Hollywood where chasing the money usually leads to shoddy results.

Still, Predator 2 is a damn fine picture that is true to the spirit of the original while being its own thing, in a different setting and expanding on the Predator mythos in new ways.

Most of what we know about these alien creatures came from this film. It’s the first to really sort of showcase the psychology of the alien. You understand why it is doing what it is doing a bit more, you come to see that it isn’t just a cold blooded killer. The alien has rules and just appreciates a good hunt and going toe to toe with good game. It also shows that they are a society of respect for those they hunt against, if they just so happen to be bested in battle. Plus, it throws in an Easter egg to the Alien franchise, letting us know that these different alien species exist in the same universe.

Like its predecessor, this film also boasts a large cast of really talented people: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Morton Downey Jr., Adam Baldwin and Calvin Lockhart, as an evil voodoo drug kingpin that is maybe more chilling than the Predator itself.

I think that doing a sequel in a different environment was a good idea. I also feel as if the film took its cue from the success of Robocop and other ’80s films that took place in a near future urban environment with extreme crime and chaos. This is set in Los Angeles but it very much feels like the Detroit of Robocop 12. Frankly, I love the setting and I love seeing the Predator come between a massive gang war and drawing the attention of the LAPD, most notably the task force led by Danny Glover’s character.

We also get Gary Busey and Adam Baldwin as FBI agents that know about the alien and are trying to capture it alive in an effort to study it and steal its advanced technology. Busey’s group are a real thorn in Glover’s side but the two do get into a really cool sequence where they fight the Predator in a meat packing plant.

Alan Silvestri returned to score this picture, which was fantastic, as he did such an incredible job with the first movie. All of his iconic Predator themes are here but he adds in some new stuff and tweaks some of the other themes and presents them in new ways, which works really well.

I also want to point out that by Bill Paxton being in this, he is the only actor to be killed by both a Predator and a xenomorph from the Alien franchise. That’s a pretty significant honor.

This is just a cool movie. For people that grew up in the ’80s loving the action movies put out by Cannon, this is like a balls to the wall Cannon film but with a much larger budget.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Predator and Predators.

Film Review: Silver Bullet (1985)

Release Date: October 11th, 1985
Directed by: Dan Attias
Written by: Stephen King
Based on: Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King
Music by: Jay Chattaway
Cast: Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Corey Haim, Megan Follows, Terry O’Quinn, Lawrence Tierney, Bill Smitrovich, Kent Broadhurst, David Hart, James Gammon

Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“I mean, uh, what the heck you gonna shoot a .44 bullet at anyway… made out of silver?” – Uncle Red, “How about a werewolf?” – Mac

I’ve made no secret that I’m not a big Stephen King fan but maybe there is something to be said about film adaptations of his work where he actually provides the screenplay because Silver Bullet is a pretty good picture.

It is a typical werewolf story and there were several big werewolf movies in the 1980s but this one is only eclipsed by An American Werewolf In London, which is a true classic. While The Howling is beloved by many, and I like it a lot too, Silver Bullet surpasses it.

The film stars the always insane Gary Busey, as well as Corey Haim when he was still cute and showed some promise as an actor. The film also features Everett McGill, who was great in Twin Peaks, as well as small parts by Terry O’Quinn a.k.a. John Locke from Lost and Lawrence Tierney, the boss from Reservoir Dogs.

The movie utilizes some pretty stellar practical effects. In fact, it wastes no time in showing you the werewolf in action and it isn’t afraid to keep it obscured in an effort to hide flaws in the effects. The werewolf looks damn good and seeing it rip people to shreds from the get go is a real treat. Even the transformations of the werewolf look good.

One scene that was absolutely impressive was the hallucination in the church where we see all the townspeople transforming. I can’t imagine how difficult this was to capture in the mid-80s with budgetary constraints and without CGI to fill in the blanks.

The story of Silver Bullet is initially a whodunit mystery with a werewolf twist. Once the reveal happens, midway through the film, it goes into high octane and never relents until the big finale, which may be a bit hokey but is still really awesome.

Silver Bullet is pretty underrated and fans today don’t seem to know much about it. There were a lot of Stephen King adaptations that were a lot more popular than this one but this is definitely one of the best. It is infinitely superior to that 1990 television miniseries shitfest It. In fact, it is superior to all of the television miniseries of King’s works that were super popular throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s.

And don’t be fooled by those lackluster King adaptations, this one has a great amount of blood and gore. It also has some humor, as the werewolf steals the baseball bat from an attacker and uses it against him.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The ‘Slap Shot’ Sequels (2002-2008)

Slap Shot (reviewed here) is one of the greatest comedies of all-time. It is also probably the greatest hockey movie of all-time. It certainly didn’t need sequels. But for some reason, twenty-five years later, we got Slap Shot 2 followed by Slap Shot 3. Here are my thoughts on those unnecessarily sequels.

Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice (2002):

Release Date: March 26th, 2002
Directed by: Steve Boyum
Written by: Broderick Miller
Based on: characters created by Nancy Dowd
Music by: John Frizzell
Cast: Stephen Baldwin, Gary Busey, Jessica Steen, Callum Keith Rennie, David Hemmings, David Paetkau, Jonathan Scarfe, Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson, David Hanson

Universal Pictures, 104 Minutes 

Review:

This film was a straight-to-video release, as it should have been. It also came out during the height of straight-to-video sequels of popular films. Historically, this formula led to a really shitty product. Straight-to-video movies were straight-to-video for a reason.

Somehow the Charlestown Chiefs still exist, without explanation, after they were sold and disbanded in the original Slap Shot, twenty-five years earlier. The Hanson Bros. still play on the team but other than them, these are all new characters.

The new cast is led by Stephen Baldwin, which should say a lot about the quality of this film. He’s never really been good in anything and it is no different here. He certainly can’t come close to filling the shoes of the legendary Paul Newman and it was a casting choice so poor, that the quality between Slap Shot and Slap Shot 2 is made very clear, just in watching the leads of the two films.

The only other noteworthy cast member is Gary Busey, who played an extreme right-wing television mogul who buys the Chiefs so that he can use them in a scripted hockey television show, where they are made to constantly lose and aren’t allowed to fight. The plot is bizarre and the idea of “family friendly” scripted hockey makes little sense in any situation. They try to sell it like the Harlem Globetrotters of hockey but the idea just doesn’t work and I’m not sure who would ever watch slapstick scripted hockey where the same team always wins. The Globetrotters are successful because of their skills displays and their storied legacy.

The Chiefs also have to wear different jerseys and different colors for the majority of the film, which doesn’t even make this movie feel connected to Slap Shot. The Hanson Bros., while featured a lot in the beginning, then disappear for the second half of the film until the very end.

All in all, it isn’t completely horrible. It was watchable enough for one viewing but I’ll never revisit it again.

The gay coach was fantastic, though. Actually, he was the best part of this whole film.

Rating: 3/10

Slap Shot 3: The Junior League (2008):

Release Date: November 25th, 2008
Directed by: Richard Martin
Written by: Brad Riddell
Based on: characters created by Nancy Dowd
Music by: Terry Frewer
Cast: Greyston Holt, Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson, David Hanson, Lynda Boyd, Mark Messier, Doug Gilmour, Leslie Nielsen

Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes 

Review:

After the mess that was Slap Shot 2, they felt like they could milk the old cow one more time, thirty-one years after the original.

This film stars Leslie Nielsen but he’s barely in it. The Hanson Bros. are also back but they spend half the movie as peaceful zen monks who have sworn off their violent ways. Mark Messier shows up too, for some reason.

The plot revolves around a boys’ home that is ran by the boys, as the caretaker died or something. I don’t know if that was made clear in the film or not. Anyway, they have some plan to get good at hockey, beat the evil rival town junior team and somehow turn that into saving their town. The plot makes less sense than Slap Shot 2.

The Hanson Bros. eventually go back to normal but not until after they make the Junior Chiefs play hockey in zen-friendly kimonos. Yes, you read that right.

This is, quite simply, a pretty awful and boring movie. It is only worth watching for the Hanson Bros. material but there just isn’t enough of them to make it worthwhile and at the same time, they shouldn’t have to carry a film.

Rating: 2/10