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Lethal Weapon Collection(1987-1998)
See individual titles for their synopses. Lethal Weapon 1 & 2 are new editions, not the same as bundled entries.
For more about Lethal Weapon Collection and the Lethal Weapon Collection Blu-ray release, see Lethal Weapon Collection Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Damon Hines, Ebonie Smith
Director: Richard Donner
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Lethal Weapon Collection Blu-ray Review
I'll never get too old for Donner's slick action series...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 23, 2012
Remember when a film had to deliver the goods to earn a sequel? When a movie could be green lit without a trilogy outline stapled to its first script? When directors and screenwriters poured their blood, sweat and tears, not into creating a franchise, but into advancing an entire genre? Maybe those days never really existed. Maybe they still do. Or maybe the Lethal Weapon series has left me a bit nostalgic. Whatever the case, spending the day with director Richard Donner's buddy cop series never felt like a waste of time. I never felt the films were too old to win over a new audience. I never felt the action was too silly to render the comedy listless or the drama inert. And I never felt as if I were watching a sequel for sequel's sake (even when I queued up the fourth film). More than a personal favorite, the Lethal Weapon series has weathered the years, brought fresh faces to the fold and, above all, continued to entertain its fans, year in and year out. As you might imagine, Warner's new release has a lot of high expectations to live up to. So how does it fare? Read on...
Lethal Weapon may not have invented the buddy cop genre or revolutionized the action-comedy, but it certainly helped define them. Midas-touch director Richard Donner (The Omen, Superman, and The Goonies, among notable others), then-first-time screenwriter Shane Black and, of course, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover not only turned the conventions of '80s gunslinger cinema upside down, they introduced audiences to a soon-to-be-inseparable duo -- LAPD homicide sergeant Roger Murtaugh and narcotics sergeant Martin Riggs -- that would go on to become the backbone of three successful sequels. Gibson and Glover's tug-of-war chemistry and barbed banter not only earns serious laughs, it lays the foundation of a relationship that, for all the over-the-top gunplay, nyuck nyuck comedy, and mano e mano conflict, still strikes me as sincere. Riggs could have been a cliché, a hot-tempered hotshot with a badge, but Gibson fuels his rage with something darker, deeper and more genuine. On the flipside, Murtaugh could have been an overbearing bore, but Glover unearths a devoted, world-weary family man; the perfect yang to Riggs' yin. As much credit as the cast deserves, though, it would be a shame to overlook Black's sharp, genre-skewering script. Black gives Gibson and Glover a dangerous little sandbox to play in, making the game they devise that much more entertaining. Even twenty years later, Lethal Weapon continues to stand the test of time. Yes, its tight jeans and tough-guy supporting performances date the film, but it's all part of what makes the first Weapon a mid-80s action classic.
If the first Lethal Weapon helped define the buddy cop flick and action-comedy, Lethal Weapon 2 nearly perfected them. Fine-tuning the riotous humor of the original, injecting more wit and action per square inch, and pumping more lead and 'splosions into the proceedings, Donner's second foray into Riggs and Murtaugh's unlikely partnership remains a cinematic rarity: a sequel that surpasses its predecessor in every way. Gibson and Glover return in full force, chewing up every scene they get their hands on, as does Black, who serves up a funnier, livelier, more frenzied script (that hinges on a hot-button '80s social issue to boot). Black and Donner even manage to introduce a new scene stealer: Joe Pesci. While some will continue to dismiss good ol' Leo Getz as comic relief, he alters the Riggs-Murtaugh dynamic in unexpected ways that keep their still-evolving friendship fresh and, in many ways, helps unite a variety of otherwise disparate plot threads. In that regard, every scene is an important one. There aren't any wasted subplots or extraneous tagalongs (a la the fourth film in the series), and exposition feels like a natural extension of Getz' ignorance and inexperience. More importantly, Lethal Weapon 2 doesn't feel like an aging product of the '80s. The usual fashion gaffes and zany decade fun holds the sequel back from timelessness, but its gags are rarely forced, its shootouts and car chases carry real weight, its Apartheid-driven conflict boils over brilliantly, and its every action elicits a more volatile and more thrilling reaction. Nine out of ten fans agree: Donner's second Weapon is the series' best.
Lethal Weapon 3 is bigger and badder. But leaner and meaner? Not quite. Rene Russo's Internal Affairs sergeant is a welcome addition to the series -- one capable of going toe-to-toe with Riggs and waking up next to him in the morning -- but everything else lacks that certain something. That certain Shane Black something. Even though screenwriters Jeffrey Boam and Robert Mark Kamen hit all the right notes, their dialogue doesn't quite strike the same balance, their villains don't stack up to Gary Busey's Mr. Joshua or Derrick O'Connor's Pieter Vorstedt, and their development of the Riggs/Murtaugh partnership doesn't go very far. Donner's third Weapon is still a blast; funny, frantic and fueled by enough drama to help Lethal Weapon 3 settle in comfortably just below the first two films. There are even some moments that tug at the heart strings (Murtaugh teaching his son to shave after being forced to kill the young man's gun-wielding friend) and earn hearty laughs (Gibson and Russo's play on a classic scene from Jaws for one). Through it all, though, there just isn't as much at stake, there isn't as much on the line, and there isn't enough Crazy Riggs to go around (true love brings out a kinder, gentler Riggs). Do I still love Lethal Weapon 3? You bet. But I'm also keenly aware of its shortcomings. I suspect Black would have shot the third film to the top of the franchise, but we'll never know.
Don't believe it. Lethal Weapon 4 isn't a bad film. It isn't even a disappointing film... it's just a somewhat disappointing entry in a series that deserves better. Don't blame Jet Li; his Wah Sing Ku is one of the fiercest baddies the franchise has tucked under its belt. Don't blame Russo or Pesci; they're just benched with dead-end arcs (pregnancy and P.I. misadventures as it were). Don't blame Chris Rock, tempting as it is; miscast and misused, he tries his best, much good as it does him. And don't blame the Riggs/Murtaugh storylines; Riggs struggles with middle age and Murtaugh's discovery that his daughter married a police officer in secret aren't a waste, each one is simply squandered. No, blame screenwriter Channing Gibson, who never quite settles into Black's groove and has a hard time building a story around so many characters, so many subplots and so many threads, all of which need wrapped up in one neat little fourth film package. Thankfully, Donner, Gibson and Glover keep the fire lit and the torch burning. There are laughs to be had, cheers to be shared, hard-hitting fist fights to be felt, and ample gunplay and action to be enjoyed. Lethal Weapon 4 is at least entertaining, flaws be damned, and has something to offer the hungry franchise fan, even if its sugary confections aren't as filling or nutritious as what came before. Sadly, without a fifth film in sight, this is most likely the last ride of Riggs and Murtaugh. Considering Glover's age and Gibson's... ahem, ongoing PR nightmares, the two actors are probably, at long last, too old for another homicide case anyway.
Lethal Weapon Collection Blu-ray, Video Quality
Don't let "VC-1" and Lethal Weapon's opening stock shot send you into fits. The film that launched Donner's fabled buddy cop franchise features the same well-received, meticulously remastered 1080p/VC-1 transfer as its 2010 UK counterpart; not the poorly encoded presentation fans in the U.S. have been avoiding since 2006. The new encode doesn't turn water into wine -- grain is quite heavy at times, the film's increasingly oppressive shadows tend to leech detail, and filmic softness is in play -- but only because Warner's latest transfer is so faithful to Donner's intentions and Stephen Goldblatt's original photography. For all intents and purposes, this is Lethal Weapon as it was meant to be seen. Colors are strong and properly saturated, primaries pack heat, and black levels are deep and satisfying. Detail, meanwhile, is substantially improved, without any sign of the overzealous processing and manipulation that all but waged war on the quality of the 2006 Blu-ray presentation. Textures are refined and rewarding (not razor-sharp, mind you, but sufficiently exacting), edges are nicely defined and free of unsightly halos, and contrast rarely falls out of step. More importantly, artifacting, banding and all the other issues that plagued the 2006 encode aren't a factor this time around, and there's very little to complain about. Lethal Weapon still doesn't look like it was shot yesterday, but this is much, much closer to the film that took audiences by storm twenty-five years ago.
Lethal Weapon 2 receives a similar overhaul and the results are just as impressive. Gone are the rampant issues that afflicted the film's first Blu-ray release, gone are the compression artifacts, filtering mishaps and unmistakable eyesores that plagued the 2006 encode. The sequel's newly remastered 1080p/VC-1 transfer delivers, even when the sun sets and Goldblatt's thick shadows rush in to fill the void. Once again, grain spikes at times and softness has a role in the action that erupts, but it's all in keeping with the original photography. While contrast is a touch hotter now and again (it isn't Christmas anymore, Charlie Brown), color and clarity are largely unaffected, skintones are quite lifelike (even on a sweltering LA afternoon), and black levels are rich and absorbing. Fine detail doesn't disappoint either. Closeups are revealing, faces and fabrics aren't slick or smeary, edges are clean and sharply defined, and grain is, for the most part, pleasant and unobtrusive. Yes, soft shots lurk around every corner, as do scenes that are a little worse for the wear, but I'm going to assume this isn't your first time watching an '80s actioner in high definition. Compression anomalies and other significant problems are nowhere to be found, and the presentation almost makes up for the abomination that's been sitting on my shelf for the past six years. Don't feel ashamed to pump that fist, share that high five, mutter Murtaugh's favorite line and reacquaint yourself with Lethal Weapon 2.
If you're impressed by Lethal Weapon 2's spiffy new transfer, just wait till you get a load of Lethal Weapon 3. While most every difference between the two can be chalked up to differences between the films' original sources and Donner's intentions -- not Warner's remastering or encoding efforts -- it's tough to deny that Donner's third Weapon represents another leap forward. Colors are natural, primaries boast indirect kick, skintones are pleasant and convincing, shadow delineation is revealing, and black levels are deep and discerning. Detail brushes perfection too, with well-resolved fine textures, crisp edges and a lineup of striking closeups. Grain is present throughout but almost imperceivable; faint but filmic, it isn't unruly or inconsistent, it's just an organic part of the image. Yes, yes, softness still finds its way into the presentation. That much should be expected by now. What doesn't find its way into the image is macroblocking. Or banding. Or ringing. Or really anything that might give a good videophile pause. Lethal Weapon 3's presentation is about as close to flawless as it gets in the realm of early '90s action, and you'd be hard pressed to find a buddy cop flick from the era that looks any better in high definition.
Fast forward six years to Lethal Weapon 4 and behold the best 1080p/VC-1 presentation in the bunch. Again, the increase in quality is inherited, nothing more, and again, that's only said to put the earlier Lethal Weapon transfers into perspective, not to belittle the third and fourth films' encodes in any way. Like Lethal Weapon 3, the fourth and final entry in the franchise looks fantastic. The movie itself may suffer from diminishing sequel returns, but the image is strong and steady. In fact, only a handful of scenes could be called anything less than perfect -- a shoddily shot conversation between Uncle Benny and Wah Sing Ku is particularly rough, and Riggs and Murtaugh's run-in with a Chinese cargo ship is disrupted a bit by slightly noisy skies -- and none of them amount to a distraction. Andrzej Bartkowiak's palette is warm and inviting, saturation and contrast are dialed in terrificly, black levels don't disappoint, and detail is dead on, fine textures, edges and all. And the encode? Pristine and proficient, with nary an artifact, halo or technical misstep worth noting. The film barely shows its age actually, and its transfer is without any serious fault or flaw. Fans may not flock to the fourth film as readily as the others, but they'll certainly embrace its top-notch Blu-ray presentation.
Lethal Weapon Collection Blu-ray, Audio Quality
While the 2006 Blu-ray releases of Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2 underwhelmed with problematic Dolby Digital mixes, Warner's latest editions of Donner's first two films feature a pair of lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround tracks. Was it worth the wait and heartache? In a word, absolutely. Neither actioner defies its age, but as '80s actioners go, both Weapons sound great. Dialogue is clean and clear, without any prevailing prioritization issues or muddled voices. Shootouts, explosions and heavy downpours overpower a few lines, sure, but aside from some pronounced ADR, fans won't have to contend with any major problems. Likewise, gunfire sounds as if it's been ripped straight out of the '80s, canned ricochets and all, but it's all part of the charm. The LFE channel throws its weight around, adding welcome oomph, padded as it sometimes sounds, to every action beat, chase sequence, thunder clap, fist fight and falling shipping crate. A few explosions and car crashes send some solid shockwaves across the floor too, which only makes each track that much more effective. The rear speakers aren't aggressive by any means, but they actively support each film's score (saxophone runs and all), crowded street corners, chatty police stations, bustling embassies and dangerous shipyards. That said, neither experience breaks free of the films' distinctly '80s sound design. No one will mistake either film's lossless track for that of a modern action extravaganza, but genre junkies and audiophiles will be more than pleased with the upgrade.
Lethal Weapon 3 and Lethal Weapon 4 offer excellent lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround tracks of their own, and each successive sequel sounds better than its predecessor. Dialogue is crystal clear and neatly prioritized, without any glaring discrepancies of note, and gunshots, roaring engines, squealing tires and punches sound more convincing. ADR rears its head yet again -- name an '80s or '90s action flick that isn't rife with it -- but rarely undermines the integrity of the mixes. LFE output is fuller, weightier and more natural, and explosions, shotgun blasts and other hearty LFE-bolstered effects are more natural and nuanced. The rear speakers are more active too, with a number of more precise directional effects and more stable pans at their disposal. Not only are the third and fourth films' soundfields more immersive, the resulting sonic experiences are more involving and less front-heavy. It may be stating the obvious, but Lethal Weapon 3 and (especially) Lethal Weapon 4's sound designs aren't as dated, making their lossless audio mixes more satisfying, even if the bump in satisfaction is superficial. In other words, while the raw technical quality of the four tracks is uniform, it's the last two films (and, really, Lethal Weapon 4) that steal the show.
Lethal Weapon Collection Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Disc One: Lethal Weapon
Lethal Weapon Collection Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Lethal Weapon series speaks for itself. Its first two films are action classics, its third is a flawed but solid companion, and its fourth is the only entry that falls short of greatness. But how does Warner's new Blu-ray release stack up? Wonderfully. All four films have been granted thorough remasters and terrific video transfers, all four feature a tough, tenacious DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and the 5-disc set offers four audio commentaries and four recently produced high definition retrospective documentaries with key members of the series' cast and crew. Suffice it to say, this one is worth adding to your collection.
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