Lethal Weapon is a tetralogy of American action movies/comedies, originally written by Shane Black and entirely directed by Richard Donner. The series starred Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as a pair of mismatched detectives in the LAPD. The movie series effectively defined the entire Buddy Cop Show genre. The unbalanced, unhinged Riggs was contrasted with calmer, stricter family man Murtaugh.
Each movie played out like a cross between the typical cop show and Indiana Jones, with spectacular stunts at a breakneck pace while following a chain of evidence.
The installments are, in order:
I'm too old for this list of trope examples:
- Adopted to the House: Riggs is, for all intents and purposes, a member of the Murtaugh family by the start of the second movie.
- Always Accurate Attack: While Riggs is the crazy badass ex-special forces soldier, whenever Murtaugh loosens his neck before carefully lining up a shot with his revolver, he'll have unerring accuracy.
- Artistic License Gun Safety: Real life cops would never handle firearms as recklessly as Riggs and Murtaugh do. The only time it's arguably justifiable is in the first film, when Riggs was borderline suicidal and thus was pointing his gun at his own head on purpose.
- Author Appeal: Riggs is a fan of The Three Stooges and occasionally apes their trademark moves. Actor Mel Gibson is an outspoken Stooges fan.
- Badass Unintentional: Murtaugh really hates being dragged into all this crazy crap. Reluctant Badass might be a better term.
- Boom, Headshot!: Murtaugh's signature manoeuvre, done once a film, after rolling his head from side-to-side to crack his neck.
- The films are played quite frequently on TNT and TBS, which are infamous for censoring language in films. For someone who's familiar with the theatrical version of the first film, watching it on one of these networks can be quite hilarious for that very reason (Leo's infamous drive-thru speech is always a highlight). Unfortunately, sometimes the censorship seems unnecessary and arbitrary— like when they cut out Riggs punching the guy on the hood of the car in Lethal Weapon 3 after asking if he was all right.
- Also, in Britain the theatrical release of Lethal Weapon 2 cuts the scene where Riggs kills two of the villains who drowned Rika after he uses his Houdini impression to escape the same fate.
- Brick Joke:
- The nailgun from the second film has a longer run than you'd expect. In the third film, it reminds Murtaugh, who is trying to sell his house, that he forgot to get permits to repair his blown-up house!
- 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.
- Murtaugh was concerned about Rianne's flirtations with Riggs and the possibility she'd end up married to a cop. The latter happened, but not to anybody Murtaugh knew.
- Broken Aesop: The third and fourth films contain some very strong anti-gun messages, including several Take That! jabs at the NRA and a scene where Riggs explicitly tells Leo Getz that he shouldn't have a gun because he's not a cop, and then throws Leo's pistol (i.e. his personal property) into the ocean. It's easy to conclude from what the films have shown that our cop heroes shouldn't have them either, considering how many times they've demonstrated extraordinarily careless, irresponsible and dangerous behavior with guns, including negligent discharges, muzzle sweeping, poor trigger discipline, and even pointing loaded guns at each other for laughs.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Martin Riggs is suicidal in the first film, and then just plain crazy after he gets over it. He deliberately plays havoc with the department's psychiatrist (and starts to make her snap), for bonus points. His near unstoppability when dealing with thugs is likely the only reason he is left on the force.
- Buddy Cop Show: The films pretty much codified the Buddy Cop genre.
- Butt-Monkey: Leo Getz. Granted, he's a bit annoying but his heart's in the right place and he is actually useful. Despite this, he's treated horribly. At one point Riggs alters his medical chart in hospital so that he has to undergo unnecessary RECTAL surgery. Late in the series, however, his character is brought full circle and receives some heartfelt gratitude after helping Riggs find the peace of mind that's eluded him for four movies.
- Career-Building Blunder: After the third film, where Riggs and Murtaugh were busted down to patrolmen for messing with the bomb squad's job (and blowing up a building), the fourth film has the department unable to get their insurance renewed due to the propensity of the duo causing catastrophic damage in their escapades. But since they can't be demoted off the streets, the department decides to promote them, fully two steps, bypassing Lieutenant and making them both Captains, at least until the insurance is renewed, in an attempt to get them off the streets. The insurance gets renewed at the end of the movie, though, resulting in Riggs and Murtaugh being busted back down to Sergeants. Notably, while their escapades are just as frenetic and crazy as the last three films, they are not nearly as destructive, explaining why they were able to get the insurance renewed.
- Cartwright Curse: Riggs' wife died in a car crash (actually murdered) before the first film, and his love interest in the second film slept with the fishes. Even Lorna Cole almost bought the farm, but ultimately subverted the curse.
- Casual Danger Dialog: Riggs and Murtagh are always arguing with each other over something during their various action sequences.
- Catch Phrase:
- Murtaugh's "I'm too old for this shit," as well as his "Go spit, Riggs!"
- Leo has one as well: "OK, OK, OK..."
- Character Aged with the Actor: To the point that the fourth movie has both protagonists dealing with their aging.
- Character Development: Riggs starts off as a suicidal, lonely man and at the end of the fourth movie is shown to be a happy member of a large family.
- Chekhov's Skill: Riggs' "trick" shoulder that can be dislocated more or less at will:
- Riggs' ability to dislocate his shoulder is established in the beginning of the second film, where he uses it twice to get out of a straightjacket.
- During the fight with Wah Sing Ku in 4, after he dislocated Riggs' shoulder, Riggs gives him a short but brutal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
- He also has to reset his shoulder twice in the third film, though not under such mortal circumstances. At one point, he slides himself into a pole to do so on the fly.
- Chronically Crashed Car: Trish's station wagon in the first two films goes through all kinds of ridiculous damage, including being hit by a toilet.
- Combat Pragmatist: Despite being a highly trained martial artist, Riggs isn't against groin attacks, using improvised weaponry, dropping a crate on a man, or killing him with a machine gun when it becomes clear he's not going to win a fist fight.
- Cool Guns:
- Riggs uses a Beretta 92, upgraded with a laser pointer in the fourth film. Its depiction in that film is credited for further popularizing the firearm.
- Murtaugh carries a .357 Magnum Model 19.
- Counting to Three: Played With as Riggs and Murtough discuss if it's 1, 2, 3, then go, or go on 3.
- Cowboy Cop: Every primary character that's on the force, and more than few supporting, too.
- Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: The psychiatrist gets progressively crazier as she has to deal with Riggs. In the first film this is because he is angry and depressed. In the sequels though it's just because he likes messing with her.
- Crusading Widower: Riggs is reasonably heroic, but he's also suicidal and is considered crazy by everyone who knows him. He slowly becomes less unhinged as he opens up to his partner Murtagh.
- Da Chief: Captain Murphy, though he regards Riggs and Murtaugh's antics with weary exasperation, as opposed to always yelling at them like most examples of this trope.Murtaugh: Captain, it's a shit assignment.
Murphy: You know what? I don't give a fuck, okay? That's why I don't have an ulcer, cause I know when to say "I don't give a fuck."
- Denser and Wackier: The sequels get increasingly lighthearted and comedic.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Frequently inflicted upon Leo. Yeah, the guy's annoying, but is that any reason to break his nose, then grab said broken nose? Not to mention the proctological examination in the third movie.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Every movie but the second, which is decidedly more bittersweet.
- The Drag-Along: Murtaugh just wants to retire and collect his pension for his time with the police, but Riggs is willing to kill himself if it will help get the bad guys. You often find Murtaugh saying, "I'm too old for this shit," everytime Riggs eggs him into doing something crazy.
- Family of Choice: At the heart of the story: Riggs' character arc is largely about how, starting out as a suicidal burnout with no one in the world to care about since his wife's death, he's gradually healed and re-socialized thanks to his friendship with Murtaugh. By the end of the last movie, he's in a hospital with his wife and newborn baby alongside Murtaugh and his entire family, posing for a picture with the photographer asking if they're all friends: "No! We're family!"
- Feeling Their Age: Murtaugh's Catch Phrase was "I'm getting too old for this", appropriate for an older family man who had to deal with a wild card younger partner in Riggs. Nevertheless he continued to say it through all the movies and it eventually came around to Riggs in 4, as he started to feel his age too.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Riggs and Murtaugh don't particularly like each other when they first meet. But by the end of the film, Murtaugh is inviting Riggs to spend Christmas dinner with his family. And after a while, Riggs is family.
- Flanderization: Dr. Stephanie Woods. In the first film she's a competent psychologist with legitimate concerns about Riggs' stability. By the third film, she's an inept, touchy-feely shrink who serves as little more than comic relief. It's heavily implied in the fourth film that it was actually Riggs' deliberately toying with her over the course of the series that pushed her to this point.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: The main bad guys in each of the films: General McCallister is phlegmatic, Arjen Rudd is sanguine, Jack Travis is choleric and Wah Sing Ku is melancholic.
- Gonna Need A Bigger Warrant: The crimes always end up being more complex and involved than they appear on the surface.
- Grave-Marking Scene: Martin Riggs is shown visiting his deceased wife's grave periodically throughout the series.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Riggs & Murtaugh.Riggs: You're the only family I've got! I've got three beautiful kids, I love them, they're yours. Trish does my laundry, I live in your icebox, I live in your life!
- Iconic Sequel Character: Leo Getz first appears as a federal witness in the second film, and manages to show up in the rest of the series' films.
- Improbable Aiming Skills:
- Riggs pulls off some incredible shots. Sure, Murtaugh has his share, but Riggs was breast-fed on this trope. The sniper in the school, being able to shoot a smiley-face on the firing range, being able to successfully hit a helicopter God knows how many yards away, etc. all with a pistol. And then picking off Shadow Company mooks like flies. And that's just the first film.
- Murtaugh isn't a hot-shot gunslinger, but if he carefully aims his gun and rolls his head to loosen his neck before squeezing off a shot, he'll hit with perfect accuracy. He pulls off an excellent shot to kill both the Big Bad of parts 1 and 2. In part 1, he shoots the driver of the Big Bad's car coming right at him, and then gets out of the way as the out-of-control car goes flying onto Hollywood Boulevard and smashes into a bus. The flames from the crash causes grenades in the car to detonate, killing the Big Bad. And in part 2, he revokes Rudd's diplomatic immunity with a damned impressive head shot (and the bullet first came through the diplomatic passport).
- Deconstructed in the fourth film. Murtaugh aims for Ku. Ku dodges, but it hits and kills his brother instead.
- Interesting Situation Duel: The first film climaxes right in front of Murtaugh's house with cops already surrounding the place and Riggs fighting Joshua on the front lawn. The second movie took place in a cargo yard, the third had the final battle in housing development under construction which is soon set on fire and Riggs having to fight Travs driving a bulldozer at him. In the fourth a car chase escalated with Riggs pulling one of the goons into a model house in transport with the driver utterly unaware of any of this.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Leo from the latter films. He's often annoying and irascible, but basically a good guy.
- Knowledge Broker: Leo Getz. "Whatever you need, Leo Gets". (Unfortunately, he tends to get himself in trouble a lot.)
- Last-Name Basis: Martin Riggs is always referred to as "Riggs", even though he calls Roger Murtaugh by his first name.
- Leitmotif: Saxophone riffs (some consider them saucy enough to be Sexophone), which often play in Murtaugh's scenes, specially when he's in a "feeling too old for this shit" mood.
- Lethal Chef: Trish Murtaugh is not known to be skilled in the kitchen, as evidenced by the following exchange:Murtaugh: What the hell, thin's my middle name.
Riggs: Your wife's cooking, I'm not surprised.
[fires his gun several more times]
Murtaugh: What? What?
Murtaugh: Remarks like that will not get you invited to Christmas dinner.
Riggs: My luck's changing for the better every day.
- Licensed Pinball Table: Lethal Weapon 3, released by Data East in 1993, which includes elements of the first three films.
- Lightning Bruiser: Riggs in the first three films. In the fourth, he's getting old and is much slower.
- Made of Iron: Riggs' response to being repeatedly electrocuted with a near-lethal voltage was to start beating ass. He's had a clip full of bullets emptied into him, and it did nothing but make him quit smoking. He's been pinned underwater by a concrete slab for minutes on end at the tail end of an exhausting fistfight, and didn't lose consciousness.
- Military Maverick: Riggs is an extremely reckless cop and ex-army special forces. He routinely places himself in great danger as part of a suicidal deathwish, yet his skills are so great that he continues to live through his adventures.
- Numbered Sequels: 2, 3 and 4.
- Odd Couple: Murtaugh is the family man detective who just wants to remodel his house in peace, while Riggs is the crazy loner cop who tends to have a Heroic B So D every movie.
- Old Cop, Young Cop: Murtaugh is an older cop waiting to get retired, and Riggs is a young suicidal loose cannon.
- Once an Episode: Murtaugh's house gets invaded by the bad guys and damaged in some way or another. It culminates in Trash the Set as the Triads burn the house down in 4.
- One-Man Army: Riggs for the first three films, until his age finally catches up to him in 4. The only guy he has trouble with in 4 is Wah Sing Ku.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Mel Gibson has this problem with his Australian accent, especially in the earlier films. Note the "gold pen" speech in the second film for an example.
- Papa Wolf: Murtaugh is fiercely protective of his family, but particularly his daughter Rianne. He even punches Riggs right in the face (and overboard) after Riggs says "I think I may have slept with someone I shouldn't have," leading Murtaugh to assume he was talking about Rianne. He was talking about Lorna. Granted, he was drunk at the time.
- This is the culmination of three films worth of tension. Murtaugh has always been protective of Rianne, and has worried that Riggs might "go for her". Or, more likely, that Rianne would go for him, given the goo-goo eyes she had been making since they first met.
- Playing Gertrude: Murtaugh's comments to Riggs in earlier movies suggest he's at least 16 years older than Riggs, possibly 20 or more. He's clearly stated to have just celebrated his 50th birthday in the first movie when Danny Glover was only 43 and only 10 years Mel Gibson's senior.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Leo Getz in all movies after the first, and Riggs and Murtaugh annoy him just as much as he annoys them.
- Power Trio: Riggs, Murtaugh, and Getz.
- Rated M for Manly: Like Die Hard, the series might be a little lighter given the protagonists are a family man and a nervous wreck. Their behavior and environment is still as manly as it gets.
- Reality Ensues: Martin Riggs, for all his amusing antics and badassery, has between his experiences in Vietnam and the death of his wife become an incredibly troubled human being. We see him contemplate suicide more than once, and a deleted scene from the first film shows him picking up a prostitute for the sole purpose of just having someone to talk to. As one would expect, it takes four films, spanning the course of about a decade and a half, before he begins to turn his life around and approach something close to a stable, healthy existence.
- Re-Cut: The first three movies received extended cuts in the early 2000's on DVD, with the words "Director's Cut" being used to generate more interest and sell more copies.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Riggs as the Red and Murtaugh as the Blue in the first three films. By the fourth film, Murtaugh is still a Blue Oni while Riggs is more of a Purple Oni, and Lee Butters is the Red Oni.
- Redemption Quest: The entire series is one for Riggs. Murtaugh had his in the third movie after killing a teenager in self-defence.
- Revolvers Are for Amateurs: Cautious family man Murtaugh carries a revolver, while the hot-shot badass Riggs carries an automatic. Riggs constantly calls him out on it. Lampshaded in the second film, where Leo correctly guesses their weapons based on their personalities. Subverted in that Murtaugh is capable of doling out headshots with frightening accuracy and later carries a semi automatic pistol alongside his revolver as a backup weapon.
- Roofless Renovation: A running gag, as Murtaugh's house got partly blown up by an exploding toilet in the second, and several scenes showcase the resulting renovation.
- Running Gag:
- Trish's bad cooking is frequently referenced throughout the series, including a great exchange where Roger wishes the toilet-bomb had instead been put in the kitchen stove. Riggs responds with "All the needless suffering could've been ended right there."
- Getz's various "They fuck you with/at ___" rants, which even sparked a bizarre bonding moment between him and Butters in the fourth film, who previously had met in very bad terms. Butters was confused after their cooperative rant.
- Also Getz has a different job in every movie (an accountant in 2, a real estate agent in 3, and a private investigator in 4).
- "Hey guys, can I have a gun this time?" "No."
- Riggs and Murtaugh can never agree on whether to go on three, or go after three.
- Until near the end of the fourth film, when they're in perfect sync to pull the rubble off the nearly-drowning Riggs on a finger count.
- Riggs will always find an excuse to go after criminals on foot, despite the fact that they are usually escaping in a vehicle.
- And speaking of vehicles, Murtaugh and Trish's Station Wagons getting wrecked. Averted in 3, when Riggs and Murtaugh send in Da Chief's car, as an unmanned distraction, which absorbs hundreds of bullets for the cause.
- Salt and Pepper: Subverted. The by-the-book (and black) Roger Murtaugh is nearing retirement from the police force, while new partner Martin Riggs is the eponymous lethal weapon.
- Slow-Motion Fall: Riggs is involved in a few:
- Jumping along with the suicidal guy (they're supposedly cuffed together; you can see the stunt doubles jumping uncuffed).
- Falling, along with Leo Getz and an unknown goon, into a swimming pool.
- Falling, then hanging on for dear life after driving a motorcycle off an unfinished freeway ramp, then falling again on to some scaffold (both falls can be seen in the preview).
- Stealth Parody: These movies are more than aware of the genre they inhabit, which many people don't catch. Roger Ebert said that the main problem with the movie parody Loaded Weapon 1 was that it was trying to make fun of a movie series that featured an exploding toilet.
- Suicide Dare: Happens multiple times.
Murtaugh: You're not trying to draw Psycho Pension....you really are crazy!
- Murtaugh and Riggs are responding to a suicidal man standing on the ledge of a building. Riggs goes up to the roof in an attempt to talk the man down. After talking a bit, Riggs manages to get very close to the man and slaps a handcuff on him, handcuffing them together. The man starts freaking out, but Riggs actually starts encouraging the man to jump; he insults the man, saying that he's a coward for backing down now, just because his death will kill Riggs as well. Eventually Riggs jumps and pulls them both down...onto a crash-pad the police had already set up.
- Immediately afterwards, Murtaugh, furious with Riggs, drags Riggs into a nearby building and they being arguing. Murtaugh thinks Riggs is suicidal and is a danger to himself and others. Murtaugh tells Riggs to just kill himself already. Riggs actually pulls out his gun and points it at his head, screaming at Murtaugh that he'll do it. Murtaugh one-ups this and yells back, telling him to go ahead and do it, since it'd be doing him a favor. Ultimately, Murtaugh is horrified when Riggs almost goes through with it. He assumed he was bluffing.
- Theme Initials: Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, have opposite initials - M.R. and R.M.
- They Fight Crime!: Murtaugh is a by-the-book cop and a family man who's concerned about his age. Riggs is a crazy son of a gun who's been suicidal since the death of his wife. They Fight Crime!
- Those Two Guys: Riggs and Murtaugh themselves quickly become this. Many characters comment about their inseparable partnership after the first film.
- Uncle Tomfoolery: The first film flipped the formula, with a suicidal and crazy white man partnered to a black by-the-book family man. However, as the series continued, Riggs got less suicidal and Murtaugh got less uptight.
- The character that fits the most, is actually Leo Getz.
- Unnecessary Combat Roll: A special move of Riggs is to roll on the ground while unloading with his pistol.