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Lethal Weapon 2
First run Theater cinema
Mel Gibson and Danny Glover reprise their roles as LAPD officers Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh. This time out the buddy cops must protect a troublesome federal witness—a neurotic and crooked accountant played by Joe Pesci—while taking on a group of drug dealing South African diplomats. With this worthy sequel, Director Richard Donner and producer Joel Silver began to take this series in a more comical, family-friendly direction. It was a wise choice, as the central conceit of the first picture—whether or not Gibson’s loose cannon detective Riggs has a death wish—was not something that could be sustained beyond one movie. Silver commissioned the original writer Shane Black to pen a sequel script, which he did with novelist Warren Murphy, but it was rejected for being too dark. Screenwriter Jeffrey Boam (Straight Time, The Dead Zone, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) was brought in to create an entirely new story. Boam, who had done some uncredited re-writing on the first film when Donner had wanted to lighten up Black’s work, initially wrote two different takes of the sequel; one straight-up action script, one broad comedy. Donner, naturally, asked him to mix the two drafts together.

The result is a sequel that retains much of the original movie’s spirit but isn’t just a rehash of what came before. Pesci is a terrific addition. Many people might think he was cast because he was the riding a high of energetic, comedic roles, but this picture was actually made a year before his Oscar-winning turn in Goodfellas and three years before the unexpectedly successful My Cousin Vinny. Pesci had only appeared in one small comedy to date, the Rodney Dangerfield vehicle Easy Money (1983), and it was casting director Marion Dougherty (who also had the inspiration to cast Glover opposite Gibson in the first film) who brought Pesci to Silver and Donner.

Another inspired choice was to make the main villains Afrikaner diplomats from the apartheid government of South Africa. By 1989, TV and movie screens were saturated with so many Mexican and South American drug lords they had become a tired and ugly cliché. So the creation of foreigner bad guys whom everyone could feel good about hating went a long way, and the fact that they were corrupt diplomats gave us another Danny Glover catchphrase that was almost as inspired as his, “I’m too old for this shit,” from the first picture. 

There are just as many solid set-pieces in this film as in the first (shot this time in widescreen), but they are played much more consistently for laughs rather than tension. Upon its release in 1989, it might have felt a little disappointing that the filmmakers were forgoing the edge that characterized the original picture, but most critics and audiences wholeheartedly approved of the more consistent tone. And to modern viewers, this lighter more self-aware picture plays as less dated and less impressed with itself. (Even the sax-heavy soundtrack by Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton and David Sanborn sticks out less prominently).  By 1989 everyone, creators and audiences, seemed to understand that the buddy-cop picture was a well-worn genre and the goal in making a new one should be to spin the tropes in fresh, humorous ways rather than to try to circumvent them. Which is just what Lethal Weapon 2 delights in doing. Sequences like the one where Gibson must help save Glover from an exploding toilet could have come off as camp, but Boam and Donner establish such a well-balanced tone that this signature moment plays as both funny and as an effective point in the friendship of these two characters.

Twitter Capsule:
A worthy sequel to the genre-defining buddy-cop comedy thriller of '87. Gibson and Glover are terrific together, even without the edgy tension they had in the first picture. A more consistent comedic tone than the first film helps it feel less dated. 
Directed by Richard Donner
Produced by Richard Donner and Joel Silver

Screenplay by Jeffrey Boam
Story by Shane Black and Warren Murphy
Based on characters created by Shane Black

With: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Joss Ackland, Derrick O'Connor, Patsy Kensit, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mark Rolston, Jenette Goldstein, Dean Norris, Damon Hines, and Jack McGee

Cinematography: Stephen Goldblatt
Editing: Stuart Baird
Music: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, and David Sanborn

Runtime: 118 min
Release Date: 07 July 1989
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1