Riggs and Murtaugh received a comedy sidekick played by Joe Pesci as a witness and insider to the new bad guys. The Big Bad of the movie was Arjen Rudd, a South African diplomat using diplomatic immunity to hide his large-scale drug smuggling activities.
Followed by Lethal Weapon 3.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Eventually, even Murtaugh can't help but chuckle at the "rubber plant" left on his desk.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Rika ends up hooking up with Riggs, a badass and somewhat unhinged loose cannon.
- Amoral Afrikaner: The racist South African drug dealers, who are also the main antagonists.
- And This Is for...: Riggs does this in the climactic showdown when he starts shooting one of the bad guys and saying the names of all the slain officers and Rika.
- Artistic License Law: Arjen Rudd's plan for using Diplomatic Immunity to commit crimes out in the open wouldn't have worked in real life. If a diplomat gets caught committing a crime the police have the right to report him to his superiors who in turn would fire and prosecute him for abusing his authority. And no matter how corrupt the regime might be, they would do that, given the negative political consequences the country would suffer from having one of their diplomats abuse their position in a country as powerful as the United States.
- Big Bad: Arjen Rudd, who is using his status as a diplomat to cover up his illegal drug-dealing activities.
- Big "NO!": The Mook driving the tow truck does one of these when a surfboard crashes through his windshield, decapitating him.
- Bombproof Appliance: A bathtub. The MythBusters eventually tested this as in the scene, and aside from the detonation method (which actually took longer to go off), it all worked exactly as advertised.
- Bond One-Liner:
Murtaugh: Nailed 'em both.
- Played with when Murtaugh is attacked in his home by an assassin and dispatches him with a nail gun — but he doesn't say anything. Then another assassin shows up, Murtaugh dispatches him similarly, and then he quips:
Rudd: (wielding his credentials) Diplomatic immunity!
- When Rudd is shooting at him:
Murtaugh: (shoots him) It's just been revoked.
- He later tells Riggs that Rudd's men were "dekaffirnated"
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Invoked several times, as the villains have numerous opportunities to dispose of Riggs and Murtaugh and don't.
- Boom, Headshot!: After Arjen claims "diplomatic immunity", Murtaugh puts a bullet in his head.
- Murtaugh: It's just been revoked.
- Brick Joke: After Murtaugh's daughter appears in a condom advertisement, Murtaugh bemoans how his police colleagues will be planting condoms wherever he goes. That night Murtaugh and his family are attacked in their home and no-one is interested in playing jokes on him...until later on in the movie when Murtaugh shoos away some cops crowding around his desk only to find they've planted a 'rubber tree' there. Even Murtaugh can't help breaking down in laughter. Also, later, while Murtaugh is trying to figure out what is meant by Alba Varden, the same advert comes on TV. Leo gets very excited (obviously not knowing that she is Roger's daughter). Roger turns off the TV and warns Leo that he'll pretend he hear him say that. Leo also happens to repeat what the carpenter said earlier about her making him want to buy rubbers.
- Cement Shoes: Vorstedt tries to dispose of Riggs by throwing him off a dock while chained to a weight. It doesn't work. It did work with Rika, though, much to Riggs' anguish.
- Chekhov's Gun: The nailgun that the construction worker working on Murtaugh's house had comes in handy when an assassin tries to kill Murtaugh while he was searching through old VHS tapes.
- Chekhov's Skill: Early in the movie Riggs demonstrates at the police station as part of a bet his ability to get out of a straitjacket by deliberately dislocating his shoulder. This comes in handy when the bad guys try the above Cement Shoes while he is in a straitjacket.
- Complexity Addiction: The South African villains send two helicopters full of machine-gun toting mooks to kill Riggs which fail conspicuously, only to later get the drop on him by just hitting Riggs over the head as he walks to his car.
- Contrived Coincidence: The Dragon just happens to be the very assassin who murdered Riggs' wife.
- Cop Killer Manhunt: The South African government drug dealers assassinate several LAPD police officers to make them back off their investigation. Of course this just makes Riggs and Murtaugh more determined to defeat them. Riggs kills the assassin who killed them, and Murtaugh murders the government official who ordered the hit.
- Darker and Edgier: Easily the darkest and most violent entry in the series, particularly during the third act.
- Death by Sex: Rika dies soon after having sex with Riggs.
- Did Not Die That Way: In the first film, Riggs' wife was said to have been killed in a car accident. Turns out that the "accident" in question was a deliberate hit-and-run by Pieter that was meant to kill Riggs himself but got her instead.
- Diplomatic Impunity: Arjen Rudd is using his diplomatic immunity to hide his smuggling empire, which infuriates our heroes to no end. However, when he tries to use it to freely gun down cops, he learns the hard way that it protects from an arrest or prosecution, not from being killed in self-defence. (Given how he was mocking them with his badge, it's hard to sympathize.) However, he was only a consular officer, and they get a lower grade of immunity unless he had some other official status as well, he could have been searched provided proper procedures were followed. Also, they could have deported him to South Africa at the very least, who likely would extradite to keep the US happy.
- Disney Death: Arjen Rudd shoots Riggs, who falls into a pit. In response, Murtaugh shoots him. Then he goes down into the pit to check on Riggs. And guess what? He's fine! Well, mostly fine, anyway.
- Disposable Woman: Rika's entire role in the plot is to fall in love with Riggs, then get murdered to make sure that It's Personal. The original plan for her was for her to survive and attend the Thanksgiving party at Murtaugh's house with Riggs, but the script was changed.
- Disposing of a Body: Rudd invites one of his hapless henchmen into his office which is covered in plastic for an apparent renovation. Pieter then shoots him in the head and wraps him up in the plastic. This becomes a Brick Joke when he's being chewed out later by the boss and keeps looking down at his feet. "I'm checking to see I'm not standing on plastic."
- The Dragon: Pieter Vorstedt is a highly skilled martial artist and top enforcer to the mostly Non-Action Big Bad, Arjen Rudd.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Pieter Vorstedt to Arjen Rudd. In fact, Riggs' hatred for Vorstedt is because he was responsible for the death of Riggs' wife.
- Famous Last Words:
- "I'm sorry, Mr. Rudd. Uh, it happens." Hans
- "Who are you? What the fuck do you want? I'm a cop, you son of a bitch!" Wyler
- "I know hon, I'm just gonna take a couple laps before I go down to the station." Shapiro
- "I'm out." Cavanaugh
- "Bye." Rika Van Den Haas
- "Diplomatic immunity!" Arjen Rudd
- Foreign Money Is Proof of Guilt: Riggs and Murtaugh get on the case of the Afrikaaner villains after foiling an attempted "theft" (read: money laundering) and discovering that the money stolen was gold Krugerrands, which on top of everything else were illegal to import in the US at the time (in response to the apartheid government).
- Gilligan Cut: Murtaugh, stuck on the toilet, begs Riggs to keep his call to the bomb squad discreet. Guess what happens instead?
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: Almost immediately after meeting Leo Getz, Riggs tells him to shut up. Getz says, "Oh, I get it— good cop, bad cop." Then Murtaugh also tells him to shut up. "Okay... bad cop, bad cop."
- Gory Discretion Shot: A mook is killed when a surfboard flies into his windshield and hits him in the face. Not much is shown but Rigg's squicked out facial expression says it all. It's also lampshaded by Captain Murphy later. "All I know is there is a guy in the morgue and he's got a surfboard where his face used to be..."
- Greater-Scope Villain: Pieter Vorstedt, as he revealed himself to the man responsible for Riggs' wife's death, therefore he's indirectly responsible for making Riggs suicidal and a danger towards himself and others in the first film.
- Heroic Pet: Riggs' dog Sam alerts him to an attack by barking.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Riggs stabs Vorstedt with his own knife.
- Hollywood Law: This movie is the one that insinuates that diplomatic immunity is a license to commit crimes with impunity. In reality, once the LAPD found out that the South African diplomats were running a drug ring, they could have just notified the State Department, who would have them deported. Since South Africa is a United States ally, it's probable they would then be extradited, or at least tried in their home country. Once Rudd's men started assassinating police officers, diplomatic immunity would have gone out the window since his actions could be considered terrorism and South Africa would not dare to protect him. His government would disavow him in an instant since the entire situation could be seen as an act of war against the United States. In any case, the South African government wouldn't dare raise a fuss about the death of the Rudd under those circumstances. Murtaugh would sell it as "a man shot my partner, I returned fire", which would clear IA easily, and the South African government would have a very hard time explaining why their consular officer died holding a gun that LAPD Forensics could easily match to bullets pulled out of a police officer. It's possible that the whole thing is just a ploy by Rudd to scare the LAPD into leaving him alone (technically, they can't do anything until his diplomatic status is revoked, and in theory, they didn't have enough solid evidence to tie Rudd to criminal acts to get him deported immediately). It's clear that Rudd is planning to wrap things up and head back home (that's why he's on the boat back to South Africa), so he didn't need things to work forever, just long enough for him to cash in and get out of the country.
- Hope Spot: A tiny window for Riggs. He and Roger survive The Purge, Riggs and Rika barely make it out of his trailer before they're blown to bits, he drops Rika off at her apartment, telling her to call in sick the next day, both looking forward to a life together. Then, Pieter and company arrive, knocking Riggs unconscious....
- Idiot Ball:
- No one thinks that Miss Van den Haas will need protection from her evil employers that she just betrayed and who just tried to murder both her and Riggs. They simply drop her off alone at her home, where the villains already know she lives. Rika herself grabs hold of the ball by not recognizing the fatal flaw in this plan, and it gets her a one-way trip to the fridge.note
- Also Arjen Rudd. Near the end of the movie he starts to shoot at the policemen and claims diplomatic immunity that can protect one from being arrested but not, you know, from being shot in self defense. Had he refrained from shooting, the protagonists could have done nothing without provoking a major international incident.
- Improbable Aiming Skills:
- Riggs fatally shoots a pilot of a helicopter in the dark from about 100 yards away. With a pistol.
- Arjen Rudd manages to shoot Riggs several times with a pistol from what looks to be about 100 yards away.
- It's Personal with the Dragon: After The Reveal, because Vorstedt was the one who actually killed Rigg's wife.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Vorstedt reveals that Riggs' wife's death was not an accident as it appeared and was ruled; Vorstedt sabotaged the brakes to make her car go off the road, as he was trying to kill Riggs himself (who was not in the car).
- Mauve Shirt: All but one of the new detectives introduced in the movie end up dead when the South African gangsters start covering their tracks after receiving some nice rapport and characterization.
- Meaningful Name: Leo tries to make this work for him (and mostly just ends up annoying people).Leo Getz: My name's Leo Getz. Whatever you want, Leo gets. Get it?!
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: A traffic stop (of a car with a trunk full of Krugerrands) → an international drug smuggling conspiracy by South African government officials.
- Nail 'Em: Murtaugh is attacked by South African agents and defends himself with a nail gun.Murtaugh: Nailed them both.
- Neck Snap: After returning from the dip in the water that was supposed kill him, a very pissed-off Riggs attacks a mook with a chain and twists his neck around.
- And then, Riggs slamming a car door multiple times on the mook's partner.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Riggs should have told Rika to RUN LIKE HELL instead of dropping her off at her apartment.
- Non-Action Big Bad: The only time Rudd takes direct action is at the very end when he empties a clip into Riggs.
- Off with His Head!: One Chase Scene ends with an off-screen example — caused by a flying surfboard.Captain Murphy: All I know is, there's a guy in the morgue; he's got a surfboard where his face used to be.
- Oh, Crap!: Possibly literally when Murtaugh realizes that the toilet he is sitting on is rigged to explode with a dead man's switch.
- One Last Smoke: Defied. Not only does Riggs tell him to throw them away, but he survives.Riggs: I want you to... throw them away. Those things will kill you. Really.
- People of Hair Color: The South Africans, with the exception of Arjen Rudd, are mostly blond.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: The South Africans. What else would you expect from diplomats of the country that named Apartheid? Lampshaded by Riggs, who constantly calls Rudd "Aryan" and Vorstedt "Adolf".
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Non-verbal version; after putting a bomb in Murtaugh's toilet, the bad guys wrote "BOOM YOU'RE DEAD" on the toilet paper. If they hadn't, Roger probably would have stood up and been killed as planned.
- The Purge: The villain Arjen Rudd does this to the LAPD detectives investigating him, with Riggs, Murtaugh, captain Murphy and Mauve Shirt detective Eddie Esteban (the later two of whom weren't actually attacked due to being in the police station at the time) as the only survivors.
- Reality Ensues: Arjen Rudd flaunts his Diplomatic Impunity in the faces of the heroes. In the climax, said diplomat is trying to actively gun down cops, saying that his diplomatic immunity will protect him. Murtagh just revokes it, and suffers no consequences for it. No sane government would harbor a criminal with such a long rap sheet, especially one that includes attempted murder of police officers; doing so could be considered an act of war. Plus, diplomatic immunity only prevents people from being prosecuted. They can still be shot dead in self-defense.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: The Mythbusters tested the scene where Riggs and Murtaugh survive the toilet bomb by diving into the tub with a bomb blanket. The method would have worked, however, it was found that spraying the bomb with nitrogen would have given the characters a full fifteen minutes of time.
- Refuge in Audacity: Riggs' signal for Murtaugh to go into the stilt house and start shooting the bad guys is to use his pickup truck to start bringing the whole place down, by repeatedly full-throttle yanking a foundation column lassoed to a tow cable.
- Murtaugh: Hey... what's your signal?
Riggs: You'll know it when it happens.
Murtaugh: [sighs] Somehow, I think I will know.
- Even Murtaugh wasn't expecting the magnitude of Riggs' "signal". "RIGGS YOU CRAZY MOTHER—-"
- Reverse Grip: One of Arjen's mooks brandishes a knife this way when fighting with Murtaugh in his home.
- Revised Ending: The film originally ended with Riggs dying from his wounds. An alternate ending featured a Thanksgiving dinner at the Murtaugh house which is attended by both Riggs and Rika Van Dan Haas. Richard Donner later decided that Rika should be killed to further fuel Riggs' hatred of the South African diplomats. With Rika dead, this entire ending had to be scrapped. This ending was filmed prior to filming some of the other scenes from the film, including most of the second half where Riggs and Murtaugh go into final showdown with South Africans. Another reason why this ending was not used is because filmmakers weren't sure about whether Riggs should die or live at the end of the film.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: Leo is explaining that the reason he's marked for death is that he was skimming money from the accounts of the drug dealers he was laundering money for.
- Leo: It was easy! Millions of dollars in small bills changing hands - who's going to miss ten thousand here, twenty thousand there?
Murtaugh: Drug dealers.
Leo: ... yeah, that's right, they did...
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Riggs goes on one after he finds out the South Africans killed his wife and his new girlfriend. Good thing Murtaugh was there...
- Running Gag: Riggs and Murtaugh are always telling Leo to stay in the car, which he almost always ignores. The one time he does what he's told, two bad guys commandeer the vehicle and kidnap him.
- Murtagh's wife's new car gets more and more damaged as the film goes on. Among the damage it suffers is losing its front bumper, having its front windscreen shot (and then removed by Riggs), having its paint-work scrapped, having one of its doors smashed off, and having its hood smashed by a toilet.
- Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: Arjen Rudd and the South African mobsters.
- Sarcasm Mode: After Riggs confirms that Murtaugh's toilet is in fact boobytrapped:Riggs: Uhhh....you'll be OK as long as you don't stand up.
Murtaugh: Oh, well that's a relief...!
- Shoot Everything That Moves: Riggs telling Murtaugh the plan for rescuing Leo:Murtaugh: What's the plan?
Riggs: Wait for my signal, then just go in and shoot those fuckers.
- Stealth Pun: When Murtaugh and Riggs are sitting in the bathroom and Roger is worried he's going to die on the toilet. After Riggs tells him that guys like him don't die on toilets, he adds:Riggs: Besides, I'm here, and I have no plans on going right now.
- Tae Kwon Door: After a couple of thugs try to drown him, Riggs repeatedly slams a car door on the head of one of them
- Unbuilt Trope: This was the movie that popularized the Diplomatic Impunity trope in Hollywood action movies as an example of the Rule of Drama for why the heroes can't kill off the bad guy immediately. It provides the Big Bad with a few scant seconds of protection before Murtaugh guns him down, since no sensible government is going to protect a politician who is shooting at police officers.
- Visual Pun: The "rubber" tree that's left on Murtaugh's desk by his co-workers.
- What You Are in the Dark: Towards the end, Riggs and Murtaugh are trapped in a container with a car and millions upon millions of dollars in untraceable cash. Riggs plays Devil's Advocate and advises Murtaugh to take some of the cash for himself, as no one will ever know. Murtaugh seriously considers it, but then calls it "blood money" and throws it away. Notably, despite being the voice of temptation, Riggs never touches the money.
- You Have Failed Me: After Rudd's henchman Hans loses a million dollars worth of gold Krugerrands. Rudd summons him to a room with plastic sheeting over the floor and has him executed. Echoed in a scene later on, when Pieter Vorstedt meets Rudd in his office after a failure. Pieter looks down at his feet during the conversation and comments, "I am just checking to make sure I am not standing on plastic."