Back in 1987, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover got teamed-up to what became one of the most amusing franchises ever created, spanning four films in just over a decade. With a TV series based on the movies is airing on FOX this fall, I look back on how important the franchise was and still is to the action-comedy movies and TV.
1) It cemented the buddy-cop movie genre
While history does indicate that buddy-cop movies and TV shows were around since the late '60s, it's popularity grew with the likes of Starsky & Hutch and 48 Hrs. Lethal Weapon cemented the genre with the cop with aging issues and the maverick on suicide watch. Every scene together was a competition to one-up each other in a comedic sense, that quickly turned familiar and entertaining, much like what we see today in virtually every single TV show that involves law enforcement.
2) Their adventures approached current themes
Murtaugh's aging complexes and Riggs handle on dealing with his wife's death set the tone for the first film, with each one of the characters facing their own problems. The second movie approached the Apartheid theme, as the bad guys were South-African. The third one included a crooked cop and armor piercing bullets, a novelty at the time and the fourth brought the Chinese Triad to Los Angeles, approaching the topic of illegal immigration.
Even the police coming down on minorities is a huge topic, as one of the kids mentions in the first film, "black police kill black people". Considering recent news events, things don't seem to have changed much.
At the turn of the century, technological and scientific advancements, as well as political subjects, have also been more in focus and the industry goes with it, presenting us with films and TV shows of current events as well near-future predictions of humanity.
3) It changed action movies in the '90s
While this might be a highly debatable, I can recognize that other players in the game, such as the Beverly Hills Cop franchise and pretty much everything with our action heroes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Segal and Chuck Norris were also responsible for this feat.
What makes the Lethal Weapon movies stand out, was the ability to insert a reasonable amount of comedy into action films, something that, at the time, was only achieved by Eddie Murphy. As well as it's sequels grew along side movies like Die Hard, Road House and True Lies, ultimately paving way for Bad Boys and Rush Hour.
4) The ensemble cast is full of stars
Danny Glover was recognized for his characters in The Color Purple and Silverdado, while Mel Gibson had just come off from finishing Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, both with already solid reputations. In the meantime, most of the cast was still up and coming.
Gary Busey was already a star by the first film as well as Joe Pesci by the second. Rene Russo had a handful of roles by the third and Jet Li had his American movie debut in the forth, along with Chris Rock, who was an already established comedian and actor. With all this star power, all of these actors moved on to do bigger projects and are now reputable individuals in the cinema industry. And Dancing With The Stars...
5) It's worthy enough to become a TV show
While four movies over a decade were pretty good stories that followed the two detectives through Los Angeles, it's potential to become a modernized TV series is huge! From what we've seen in the trailer, Damon Wayans as Roger Murtaugh and Clayne Crawford as Martin Riggs have nearly the same chemistry as Danny Glover and Mel Gibson had during the '90s. Jordana Brewster joins in as the shrink worried about Riggs mental health.