Detective Ernie: From what I've seen of their records, the only thing they do contribute is mayhem and chaos.
Martin Riggs: No, I'm Chaos, and (referring to Murtaugh) he's Mayhem. We're a double act. What are we, required reading, or something?
Lorna Cole: As a matter of fact, you are. It's a cross between Police Gazette and Mad Magazine.
Riggs finds a new Love Interest in Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), a fellow cop who is as tough and crazy as he is. She helps them to investigate a rogue officer who's been selling specialized armor-piercing "cop killer" bullets to the mob and onto the streets. Looming over Murtaugh's head is his upcoming retirement and trying to figure out his life as a cop and what it will be like after retirement.
Followed by Lethal Weapon 4.
- Abhorrent Admirer: Deloris towards Murtaugh, which develops when the two chase after a vehicle together. He chooses to hide from her when she comes visit him at the station.
- Actor Allusion: Mel Gibson eats dog biscuits.
- Addiction Displacement: Riggs replaces cigarettes with dog biscuits, as well as a raw onion.
- By the end of the film, he jokes about going back to cigarettes to deal with his "dog biscuit problem".
- Angry Guard Dog: Deconstructed. Riggs and Cole face a rottweiler guard dog in a warehouse, and Riggs proceeds to placate the dog with dog biscuits Murtaugh gave him to help quit smoking. They rescue him in the ensuing impromptu gun raid, and Riggs still keeps him as a pet in the fourth film.
- The Atoner: After Murtaugh recovers from his Heroic BSoD, he is told by said teenager's mourning parents to "get the man who put the gun in [their] son's hands"... he takes it to the heart, acting very outside of the book to nail the bad guys.
- Award-Bait Song: "It's Probably Me", performed by Eric Clapton. He recorded it for the soundtrack, and its backbeat was a constant theme throughout the film's score.
- Battle Amongst the Flames: The climactic shootout.
- Bizarre and Improbable Ballistics: The "cop-killer" bullets that are the basis of the plot seem a tad inconsistent in their destruction; they are so powerful that they can not only punch through two sides of a steel drum AND a vest worn by Billy (killing him), they can even penetrate a bulldozer blade and its engine block to kill the Big Bad! Two vests, however, stops 'em dead.
- Bland-Name Product: The hockey teams playing at the Forum were obviously meant to be the Los Angeles Kings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The colors are just about identical. Look closely enough at the right time, though, and you'll see they're wearing generic uniforms◊ (Toronto's have a spade with a "T", and the Kings are a weird deviation of the "Chevrolet logo"). If you pay attention, the film actually features stock footage of the Los Angeles Kings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. They apparently couldn't get rights to use at least real NHL uniforms for the scenes they filmed.
- Bond One-Liner:Travis: Now we have a relationship we can build on!
Murtaugh: Hey Riggs, cop killers!
- When Riggs turns Travis' "cop-killer" bullets against him:
Riggs: (shoots Travis) Ex-cop killers!
- Book Ends: The film opens and ends with a bomb in a building that goes off and destroys the entire building.
- Bulletproof Vest: The plot revolves around the sale of "cop killer" bullets that pierce through police armor. In one scene, Lorna survives by simply wearing two vests on top of each other. Made more baffling by the fact that earlier in the same scene the bullets are shown shooting through the front plate of a bulldozer. The bullets are also demonstrated by being fired into a vest hung on a stand. The bullet easily passes through both the front and back sides of the hanging vest, thus proving the bullets could easily penetrate a double thickness of vest.
- By "No", I Mean "Yes": Right as Riggs and Cole start to make out at the end of their Scar Survey, Cole reminds Riggs that she told him not to touch anything. But from that point, she appears not to have any desire to actually stop him, and even takes him down to the floor herself.Riggs: This could be a serious ethical breach here. I've never made it with another sergeant before.
Cole: Shut up.
- Cars Without Tires are Trains: One of the major chases involves Riggs trying to catch up with the Big Bad trying to escape with a cargo of illegal guns and ammo he just stole from the LAPD evidence locker through the LAPD metro lines. An unusual example because, unlike other cars on this page, the pick-up truck used for the heist was modified with a draisine rig once the Big Bad reaches a regular street, he just retracts the train wheels and drives normally.
- The Cavalry Arrives Late: Subverted when Riggs argues that the bomb squad never gets here on time!"; they meddle with the bomb, it goes off, a massive building is leveled... and the bomb squad immediately pulls up, having arrived in plenty of time to deal with the bomb had Riggs not interfered.
- Cement Shoes: Travis shoves a Mook who has failed him into a foundation and has cement poured over him. Quoth Travis: "Now we have a relationship we can build on!"
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The Dog Biscuits for Angry Guard Dog eventually become and addiction to Riggs.
- The machine gun loaded with "cop killers". Sold to Tyrone by Travis, who then sells it to Darryl, it is taken by Murtaugh when he kills Darryl. Later he uses it against the bad guys and finally tosses it to Riggs - who uses it to kill Travis.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Done exclusively in the Czech dub: When Riggs loses Jack Travis, he shouts "Fucking asshole!"
- Combat Pragmatist: Lorna Cole isn't above using groin attacks when she grabs a man by his junk and pulls it upward rather painfully.Lorna: This PMS... It's murder.
Murtaugh: I know what you mean. I've been married 25 years.
- Comically Missing the Point:Murtaugh: When are you gonna learn you can't solve every problem with your fists?Riggs: Well, I couldn't use my gun; there was a crowd.
- Continuity Nod:
- Leo serves a realty agent trying to help Roger sell his house. Because of full disclosure issues, when the prospective buyers mention that they love the picture window, he says it's recently been replaced because a drug dealer crashed his car through it and shot the entire place up. (A reference to the first film, but see below). Then he has to mention the damage that happened in Lethal Weapon 2:Leo Getz: The bathroom upstairs has been completely remodeled due to unexpected bomb damage.
- The flirting between Riggs and Lorna has Riggs mentioning a 'whole family of .44s on the back' from where Arjen Rudd shot him at the end of LW2 and he also mentions the knife Vorstedt got him with in the leg at the climax.
- Leo serves a realty agent trying to help Roger sell his house. Because of full disclosure issues, when the prospective buyers mention that they love the picture window, he says it's recently been replaced because a drug dealer crashed his car through it and shot the entire place up. (A reference to the first film, but see below). Then he has to mention the damage that happened in Lethal Weapon 2:
- Crazy-Prepared: Not so much crazy as it was clever, but Lorna managed to survive a potentially fatal cop-killer bullet wound by wearing two Bullet Proof Vests just in case.
- Disney Death: Lorna is shot several times by Jack Travis with the cop-killer bullets. However, after Riggs kills Travis, it turns out that Lorna had actually worn two bulletproof vests prior to this shootout, but it still wounded her.
- Disposing of a Body: Jack Travis kills a mook who had failed him while he was standing in front of a form that would be turned into a foundation of one of the houses Travis was making in his civilian identity. Difference from the norm is, said mook is still alive when he's being buried. No gunshot, no stabbing, just whacked in the head, held down by shovels, and buried in cement.
- Eating Pet Food: Murtaugh helps Riggs quit smoking by feeding him dog biscuits.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: While interrogating one of Jack Travis's henchmen, Riggs reads out the name on the man's driver's license: Hubert Bartholomew Smith.Lorna: (impressed) Bartholomew!
- Even Evil Has Standards: Gangster Tyrone is visibly disgusted at Jack Travis' disposing of a rebellious mook by burying him alive in wet cement.
- Evil Counterpart: Jack Travis is pretty much presented as being what Riggs would've become if Murtaugh hadn't come into his life.
- Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Travis thinks burying his stupid mook alive in cement is hilarious.
- Extremely Short Time Span: The film takes place over the last eight days before Murtaugh's retirement. In the end, he doesn't retire.
- Famous Last Words:
- "Whatever you say, Jack." Smitty
- "Jack." Billy Phelps
- "Here are your keys, Captain." A cop watching the arms dumps
- "Where the fuck do you think you're going? Let's go." Hatchett
- "Riggs...." Edwards
- "Go to hell, Riggs." Jack Travis
- Good Is Boring: The gist of Jack Travis's Motive Rant when he takes Capt. Murphy hostage.Travis: You know what a future a cop has, Murph? None. You punch a clock for 30 years, retirement, pension... nothin' to do. Drunk at noon, bullet in the brain by evening. Well, not for this kid! The police department's got it all: guns, ammo, drugs, cash... it's a one-stop shopping center. If you've got the balls and the brains, there's not a fucking thing anyone can do about it!
- Groin Attack: Lorna Cole delivers a harsh kick in the family jewels towards a random thug from within a warehouse. Later on, she crushes one thug's testicles bare-handed in a fight scene!
- Guns Akimbo: Riggs and Murtaugh during the subway shootout.
- Guns Do Not Work That Way: Thin plastic porta-potties stops armor piercing bullets while normal bullets go right through metal sheds. Then later the same kind of armor piercing bullets fired from the same gun blows enourmous holes in a bulldozer scoop.
- Heroic BSoD: Murtaugh goes on a drinking binge after he is forced to kill a teenager (who was a friend of his son's). In a Role Reversal, Riggs has to play the sane man in the entire episode.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Riggs kills Travis with a gun modified with cop-killer bullets (which Travis helped put back on the streets to begin with). And it is in fact the very same gun used by the boy Murtaugh shot. Which Travis stole from LAPD impound and sold to the boy in the first place.
- Identification by Dental Records: When Tyrone tries to back out of his gun running deal with Jack Travis, Travis tells him that "only your dentist can identify the body" when he's done with him if he does.
- I'm Cold... So Cold...: Lampshaded when annoying sidekick Leo struggles with the Big Bad for a gun, and is shot in the shoulder for his efforts. He thinks he's dying because he feels numb and cold all over... which is only natural, since he was lying on the ice of a hockey rink.
- Jerkass: Riggs and Murtaugh towards Leo Getz, by playing mean pranks at him.
- And a random jaywalker by pulling guns on him and pretending to gun him down.
- And the director of Rianne's movie.
- Lorna Cole by assaulting a crook who... verbally abused her. Hell, it appears much of the movie is a Took a Level in Jerkass for the main characters.
- Lighter and Softer: The film has a much more comedic tone, especially compared with the second film.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Parodied when Riggs threatens a belligerent jaywalker with killing him and making him look like a suicide. After the man scurries away, Riggs and Murtaugh laugh about it.
- Man on Fire: Riggs sets a mook on fire during the final battle.
- Mauve Shirt: The 22-year-old cop, Edwards, who's the butt of jokes at his expense about his age and height throughout the film, and takes it all with good-natured, innocent charm. He ends up dead at the hands of Jack Travis.
- Meaningful Funeral: Daryl's funeral. When Murtaugh, who had killed Daryl in a drug-related shootout, seeks to console his family, his mother smacks him. His father then gives Murtaugh an admonition:You want to do something [to help our family], Sgt. Murtaugh? You find the man that put the gun in my son's hand.
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: A botched armor truck robbery → A corrupt officer stealing weapons from impound and selling them on the black market.
- Of Corsets Funny: Riggs catches Murtaugh wearing a girdle under his body armor so that he can fit in his uniform when they get busted to patrol. Naturally, Riggs teases him about it.Riggs: Does Trish know?
Murtaugh: It's not a woman's girdle, it's a man's girdle!
Riggs: They make girdles for men?
Murtaugh: Yeah, they make girdles for men! I haven't worn this uniform in fifteen years, the cleaners must have shrunk it.
- Oh, Crap!: The moment where Riggs fails to disarm the bomb from the opening.Riggs: Roger?
Riggs: Grab the cat!
- Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: A brutal example. Murtaugh gets into a shootout with a teenage gang member who turns out to be a friend of his son's.
- Pants-Positive Safety: Riggs and Lorna are both seen carrying their weapons tucked in their waistbands sans holster.
- Pet the Dog: Literally. Riggs has gone from Ax-Crazy Death Seeker to Bunny Ears Cop when he chooses to make friends with a guard dog instead of shooting him. He justifies it by saying that, while he's okay with shooting people, he's unable to shoot a dog. This probably would've been in effect even in the first movie.
- Redemption Quest: Murtaugh has own after killing a teenager in self-defence.
- Refuge in Audacity: Riggs follows Travis out of the subway station by riding on the front of a subway car.
- Retirony: Defied. Early on in the film, Murtaugh's wife shoves a bulletproof vest on him, to make sure he always wears it.Roger Murtaugh: She loves me.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The cop killer bullets were based on real reports of ordinary pistol rounds being made into armor piercing ones. Of course, these reports later turned out to be made up, meaning the whole movie is about a specialized bullet that doesn't actually existnote .
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Not quite as vicious as Riggs in the second film, but when Murtaugh returns after Darryl's funeral, he goes person-to-person shaking people down to trace his gun. At the first one's house, the home of one of Darryl's homeys, he rants about how gang-banging is tantamount to self-genocide for their race.
- Sarcastic Clapping: The bomb squad does this after witnessing the building that Riggs and Murtaugh tried to save going down.
- Scar Survey: The scene where Cole and Riggs strip down to show off their scars, and end up having sex.
- Shoot the Dog: After the guard dog befriends Riggs, Hatchett yells for someone to "Kill that damn dog!"
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: The acrimony between Lorna and Riggs largely glosses over the more subtle aspects of Belligerent Sexual Tension, as they end up having sex not long after cracking Jack Travis' gun ring.Lorna: I said don't touch anything. (proceeds to kiss Riggs)
- The Stinger: Riggs and Murtaugh arrive at a building where a bomb had been discovered. They discuss again or not to go in... and just as they stop at the building, it explodes and both leave as Riggs states "I hope nobody saw us".
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Riggs gets ahold of one of Jack Travis' flunkies at the garage in which he works, asking him "where's your buddy Travis?" After Lorna is waylaid by five other guys (and beats the crap out of them) while Riggs, Murtaugh and the original suspect watch, Riggs again asks the suspect where Travis is. "I told you, I don't know a Jack Travis." "I didn't say his name was Jack."Riggs: You better start telling me more than jack shit.
- Take That!: Riggs suck-starts the flow of gasoline from a fuel tanker. When he gets a mouthful of gas, he spits it out and goes "Ugh, Exxon!". The film was produced shortly after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.
- Wire Dilemma: Occurs... and the bomb goes off.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Whoever planted the car bomb in the beginning. It is never said if he/she was ever found, dead or alive.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Riggs in the opening, trying to disarm a bomb because "the bomb squad always arrives late." See The Cavalry Arrives Late entry above.
- You Have Failed Me: Jack Travis does this to both guys who attempted the armored car robbery, because they were "going into business for themselves" and running the risk of screwing up the entire operation. He has one of them drowned in cement and left to be paved over, and then goes into an interrogation room and shoots the other one in the head.
- You Just Ruined the Shot: Riggs tries to save Rianne from what he thinks is a hostage situation, but turns out to be a scene in the movie she's in.