It’s bad. No, that’s not the end of my first reactions to Fox’s weekly adaptation of the Shane Black written, Richard Donner directed 80s masterpiece Lethal Weapon; but it almost could have been.
The 2016 TV adaptation of Lethal Weapon unfortunately takes far too much of its inspiration from the latter entries in the series.
Let’s put it right out on front street, the Lethal Weapon film series did its best work in the first two films. The third entry doesn’t find the balance between the heavy inspiration for the story (police corruption, racism, gang warfare in the early 90s), the humour of the Riggs’ love interest Lorna Cole (Russo) and Joe Pesci’s bleached hair. Lethal Weapon 4 looked to Rush Hour (both released in 1998); and said, “hey, I think we can do that.” Gibson was a little longer in the tooth and didn’t go Tom Cruise M:I to get in shape to play Riggs and there’s some egregious stunt double work. Chris Rock is along for the ride as Roger’s son-in-law giving it his best Chris Tucker alongside Pesci’s P.I. The final film solely earns points because you love the characters so much.
The latest series pilot, set in a modern day Los Angeles has all the key elements of the story. Martin Riggs ex soldier and marksman, previously working narcotics, has been reassigned after the premature death of his wife. Roger Murtaugh is a senior officer, with a family returning to work after a heart attack, nearing “I’m getting to old for this shit” age.
The aesthetic is so damned wrong. McG (the man who did his best work with Charlie’s Angels and worst work with Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle), is lensing this show like The Today Show meets The O.C, instead of To Live and Die in L.A or Collateral.
Clayne Crawford’s Riggs has a great deal of charm, confidence and ‘kill care’ attitude that you need for the portrayal, but the intent of the pilot is move past the psychotic and depressive stages of the character. When you’re introduced to Riggs in Donner’s first film, he looks unkempt, tired and his eyes have splashes of red. He looks like a man out of sorts. While in the loner moments he’s self destructive, it’s not as overt in the subdued “prime time” mode. The frustration with the new Riggs’ fearlessness is that he doesn’t have Gibson’s fraying at the edges of sanity. When you meet Riggs in the Christmas tree lot snarling at the man that shortly held him captive you’re disturbed. Riggs packs a dramatic punch but also complements Murtaugh’s dark, comedic moments.
Damon Wayans is on board for Murtaugh and farcical. Wayans feels like he’s playing to a live studio audience and adding pause breaks for canned laughter (dear Youtube please make this happen). After Danny Glover’s Murtaugh is introduced in the bath in the first film, he grabs and wrestles his wife into the tub with him. At that stage he’s rocking a beard, looking like a tough burly cop; cheekily man handling his beautiful lady. Wayans is in silk pyjamas begging his wife for a blowjob and his desperation are so pathetic that you would probably rather strangle yourself with his ‘pj’s’ than to offer over your mouth.
Shane Black’s creations are so iconic and archetypal, and yet reinvented with such gusto that it’s devastating to see in a world where movie properties taken to TV can be as good as Hannibal, a series loaded with endless possibilities like Lethal Weapon, misses the target.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman