The first and best Lethal Weapon, this was Mad Mel’s Hollywood breakthrough and the start of his enduring collaboration with Richard Donner in this hard-edged franchise-spawning action thriller.
Mel Gibson is Martin Riggs – a reckless, suicidal cop (traumatised by the death of his wife) – and Danny Glover is Roger Murtaugh – his cautious black partner, a happily married family man.
Both are Vietnam veterans and the case they’re working on one Los Angeles Christmas turns out to be a legacy of that nightmarish war on the home front.
Investigating the murder of a teenage cocaine addict, the pair uncovers a vicious gang of ex-soldiers commanded by a former general, continuing in peacetime the same kind of ruthless business they conducted as CIA commandos in Southeast Asia – drug trafficking.
There’s more hideous violence than usual, and the mayhem is non-stop – Lethal Weapon is excessive and implausible, but never boring.
The final battle between drug lord and murderer Mr Joshua (Gary Busey with a fierce bleach job) and Riggs is a classic. Both actors did their own stunts and took up martial arts to make this a superb fighting scene.
Lethal Weapon 2 was released two years later.