Looking back at Lethal Weapon 2

Diplomatic immunity! Mark revisits the 1989 sequel, Lethal Weapon 2. But how does it compare to the classic original? And has Patsy Kensit improved?

It’s a scene that could only have been written in the 80s. In truth, there have been many great bathroom-based sequences put to celluloid, but if there is a better one than the standout scene in Lethal Weapon 2, I haven’t seen it yet.

The sequence in which Sergeant Murtaugh is trapped on a booby-trapped loo, trading jokes and sentiments with Riggs, is the one that Lethal Weapon 2 will always be remembered for, and rightly so. For in that one moment, the film’s over-the-top, hyperreal sensibility is laid bare for the viewer, and it’s a master class in suspense, entertainment and emotion.

For here is one of the series’ many touching buddy moments between its two leads, and it works a treat, juxtaposing the ridiculousness of the scene with the obvious heartfelt bond the partners have developed during their time together. And then, one gloriously silly explosion later, it’s all over.

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This scene is indicative of a screenplay which had the involvement of Shane Black, the last time he would be on board the Lethal Weapon series before other writers took over for future instalments. Black’s wicked sense of humour and bravado lend the film a self-knowing bluster that is simply too hard to ignore. You might prefer the first outing, but you can’t deny that this one aims high and, in the main, hits its marks.

This is partly, once more, down to the core duo at the film’s heart, who are arguably better here than at any other time in the series. They have clearly learned to love the roles they play, and the relationship is so strong that you get swept up in it easily. Interestingly, Gibson had starred in just one film of any note between this and the first Lethal WeaponTequila Sunrise – coming out as it did just two years after the first film.

Jumping on the crest of a wave the first had whipped up serves the film well, and Gibson truly begins his golden movie era here, later going on to star in a succession of so-so movies that nevertheless would help make his name over in the States (Air America, Bird On A Wire, Forever Young).

Glover? Well, Glover is just brilliant in pretty much every scene, here. Is it fair to call this a career highlight for him? Certainly in box office terms, and this was a huge boost for his profile.

Aside from the two leads, this sequel also saw the introduction of another character who would become a series regular: Leo Getz. Played with gusto by Joe Pesci, it’s fair, and true, to say that he’s really very annoying in this film, grating on audiences before settling into the role for movies three and four. I can see why he was brought in all the same, even if it doesn’t work for me here.

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Then there’s Joss Ackland. For a guy who was born in South Africa, it’s astounding to hear just how poor his accent is on screen. It’s not the worst – there are countless examples of dreadful accents on show in Lethal Weapon 2, mainly from the associated henchmen that make up the bad guys of the piece – but it’s not good.

He’s saved, though, by a truly atrocious all-round performance from Patsy Kensit as Riggs’ love interest Rika van den Haas. Transcending all boundaries of taste, Kensit manages to render entire scenes almost unwatchable thanks to her gutless lack of acting chops.

Fortunately, despite the poor level of acting on display from the film’s bad bunch, it manages to keep its head well above water by virtue of that brilliant, fast-paced and witty script, the return of director Richard Donner, who keeps things ticking on tightly, and a swathe of action sequences that leave you screaming with laughter and giddy with excitement.

It’s quite possible that Lethal Weapon 2 is one of Hollywood’s finest ever sequels. It’s definitely the best featuring a toilet-based bomb.

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You can read our look back at Lethal Weapon, here. We’ll be revisiting Lethal Weapon 3 tomorrow.

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