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Things That Happen In Every Lethal Weapon Movie

When "Lethal Weapon" released in 1987, few could have expected the modestly budgeted buddy cop thriller to reach the critical and commercial heights it eventually achieved. The film catapulted Mel Gibson and Danny Glover to fame, introduced the world to screenwriter Shane Black (who would go on to work on films such as "Predator," "Iron Man 3" and "The Nice Guys") and was popular enough to warrant three sequels that released throughout the 1990s.

While "Lethal Weapon 2" enjoyed similar praise as its predecessor, the third and fourth chapters were criticized for adhering too closely to the formula, offering little to the franchise that we hadn't already seen. By 1998, the series had become stale, relying far too much on action and story beats executed to perfection by early installments rather than charting their own unique course into the unknown. As such, the "Lethal" films, while still fun to watch, contain a number of similar elements that link them together, for better or worse. 

Here's a list of the things that happen in every "Lethal Weapon" movie. Read and then pray that director Mel Gibson finds newer avenues to traverse in his planned "Lethal Weapon 5." 

Riggs flies off the rails

What would a "Lethal Weapon" film be without Riggs doing his, well, lethal weapon schtick? The original title was directed at the character as a result of his volatile personality and an astonishing arsenal of unique combat abilities attained during the Vietnam War. We see both traits on full display often throughout the franchise. In the original, Riggs pursues a bad guy down a freeway on foot and later goes full-on loose-morals cop while engaging in hand-to-hand combat with Mr. Joshua (Gary Busey). 

In the sequel, Riggs isn't quite as wild but still has his moments. During the climax, for example, the cop goes on a killing spree after his lover is murdered and uses his truck to pull down a house on stilts — with Murtaugh and Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) inside! "Lethal Weapon 3" sees Riggs try and fail to disarm a bomb — he chooses the red wire on a hunch — and then hop on a motorcycle to chase down the film's chief villain, while "Lethal Weapon 4" concludes with our hero taking on Jet Li's dangerous baddie in a fight sequence that nearly costs him his life. 

Basically, there's nothing Riggs won't do, a trait that often makes him more dangerous than the villains he pursues.

Murtaugh's signature line

From the moment we meet him, Sergeant Murtaugh longs for the peaceful tranquility of retirement. His career gets a much-needed boost when he's forced to pair up with Riggs, a union that starts off on rocky ground but eventually settles into a lifelong friendship. Even so, Riggs often leads his beleaguered partner on a series of wild escapades that typically culminate with Murtaugh muttering, "I'm too old for this s***." The line would quickly become a popular trademark of the character, spoken often in the four "Lethal Weapon" films.

Murtaugh first uses the phrase after Riggs tackles him to the ground during their first exchange in the original "Lethal Weapon." He also drops the line when faced with the prospect of leaping from a shipping container in "Lethal Weapon 2" and says it again in "Lethal Weapon 3" during an early chase sequence. By the time "Lethal Weapon 4" rolled around, Riggs had reached a similar age as Murtaugh, and the pair actually recite the line together, albeit with a twist: "We're not too old for this s***."

As an aside, in the Richard Donner-directed western comedy "Maverick," Mel Gibson's titular hero bumps into Danny Glover during a bank robbery. After exchanging knowing looks — they seem to recognize each other, but can't figure out how — Glover exits the bank and notes, "I'm getting too old for this s***," to the delight of fans everywhere. 

Riggs visits Murtaugh's home

The turning point to Riggs and Murtaugh's relationship in the original "Lethal Weapon" arrives when the pair head to the latter's home for a jovial dinner. There, Riggs, a lonely cop with self-defeating tendencies, gets a peek at his partner's domesticated life and instantly becomes one of the family. He even makes a connection with Murtaugh's older daughter, Rianne, who harbors a crush on Riggs for much of the series. While the Murtaugh clan doesn't figure as prominently in the ensuing sequels, we're always gifted a moment or two with Trish (Darlene Love), Rianne (Traci Wolfe), Nick (Damon Hines), and Carrie (Ebonie Smith), all of whom are played by the same actors from 1987 until 1998. 

Rianne enjoys the biggest arc out of the bunch, morphing from a shy teenager to a professional actress over the course of the franchise. She eventually marries a detective named Lee Butters (Chris Rock) in "Lethal Weapon 4," much to the dismay of her father, has a kid, and seemingly lives happily ever after. Trish likewise finds success, albeit as a romance novelist, while Nick goes on to live a happy life despite brushing up with local gangs in "Lethal Weapon 3."

These character moments offer a nice emotional counter to the violent action and mayhem on display and are very much a staple of the "Lethal Weapon" franchise. 

Riggs humiliates Murtaugh

Murtaugh may spend his days battling ruthless villains, but the biggest hurdle the poor guy must overcome is the endless assortment of pranks Riggs lobs at him on a daily basis. Riggs often takes aim at his partner's dignity via a variety of antics that often leave Murtaugh flummoxed. He decorates a tree with rubbers to poke fun at a commercial featuring Rianne, goads Murtaugh into performing an ill-advised spin kick next to a water dispenser, and spends much of the franchise destroying Murtaugh's property — namely his car, house, and boat. Basically, Riggs is always searching for ways to mess with his pal — all in good fun, of course.   

Riggs' antics come to a head in "Lethal Weapon 4," when he convinces Murtaugh to take off his clothes and wave his arms like a chicken in order to draw the attention of a well-armed criminal. Murtaugh does as instructed, and Riggs manages to blast the bad guy to bits. Except, later Riggs admits he had a clean shot the whole time and just wanted to see if his partner would actually dance like a chicken. "Go spit, Riggs," Murtaugh shouts.

If that weren't enough, Riggs hangs photos of the bit all around the LAPD, much to the amusement of his fellow officers — and the audience.

Leo goes on a rant

Leo Getz first appeared in "Lethal Weapon 2" and quickly became one of the gang, resulting in appearances in "Lethal Weapon 3" and "Lethal Weapon 4." As such, audiences grew accustomed to Getz's quirky nature and his affinity for going on F-bomb-laden tirades to vent his frustrations on life. 

Case in point: In "Lethal Weapon 2," Leo explodes after receiving the wrong sandwich via a drive-thru. "Can I give you guys a piece of advice, okay," he begins. "Don't ever go up to the drive-thru! Okay? Always walk up to the counter. You know why? Okay. Okay. They f*** you at the drive-thru! Okay? They f*** you at the drive-thru! They know you're gonna be miles away before you found out you got f*****!"

Later, in "Lethal Weapon 4," the short-tempered criminal-turned-hero joins with Chris Rock's Lee Butters to trash talk about cell phones. "They f*** you with cell phones," he snaps after a cellular call unexpectedly drops. "That's what it is. They're f***in' you with the cell phone. They love it when you get cut off. Y'know why, huh? You know why? 'Cause when you call back — which they know you're gonna do — they charge you for that f***in' first minute again at that high rate!" Leo's anger issues have no equal.

Riggs goes nude

Our introduction to Mel Gibson's now-iconic Martin Riggs remains decidedly unconventional. Rather than see the character taking out bad guys or performing an exciting bit of derring-do in an action sequence, we first happen upon Riggs as he rises from bed fully naked in his trailer by the beach. The introduction demonstrates the man's devil-may-care attitude and also works as a nice bit of contrast to Murtaugh's warm family intro moments earlier.

Or maybe Gibson just likes flaunting his stuff because he likewise jettisons his trousers for a lovemaking scene with Patsy Kensit in "Lethal Weapon 2" and strips down to his briefs whilst seducing Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) in "Lethal Weapon 3." The actor opted to keep his clothes on for the fourth outing, despite a flurry of female fans begging for more — a sign of Riggs' growth as a character, or an example of an aging star no longer convinced of his own sex appeal? You be the judge.

Murtaugh's signature move

There's a great scene in "Lethal Weapon" where Riggs and Murtaugh challenge each other to a shooting contest. Murtaugh pulls out his magnum — "A lot of old-timers carry those," Riggs remarks — cocks his head and fires a single round at a target. The bullet hits the paper silhouette directly in the forehead. Not too shabby. Of course, Riggs tops him by blasting a smiley face into his own target sheet, but Murtaugh's skills remain pretty darned impressive nonetheless. Luckily, we get to see the old fella deploy his signature move often throughout the series. 

In the original film, Murtaugh blasts the driver of General Peter McAllister's (Mitchell Ryan) vehicle during the action-packed climax, causing the car to spin out of control and explode. In "Lethal Weapon 2," our hero takes out evil South African diplomat Arjen "Aryan" Rudd (Joss Ackland) with a single shot after the villain peppers Riggs with bullets and tries to invoke his right to diplomatic immunity — "It's just been revoked," Murtaugh quips after the villain drops dead. 

Murtaugh uses the move in "Lethal Weapon 4," but misses his target, Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li), and hits the villain's brother instead. Hey, nobody's perfect.

Riggs almost dies

Since he's registered as a "lethal weapon," it makes sense for Riggs to throw himself into dangerous situations aplenty throughout the franchise with little regard for his person. Unfortunately, doing so often places the man precariously close to death on a number of occasions; he only survives by the skin of his teeth.

Indeed, Riggs is blasted by a shotgun, the impact of which blows him through a storefront window, tortured with electricity, and nearly beaten to death — and that's just in the first film. In the sequel, he's stabbed, pummeled with bullets, and left for dead; in "Lethal Weapon 3" he drops several stories into construction equipment following an intense freeway chase and surprisingly shakes off the incident with relative ease. The climax of "Lethal Weapon 4" has Riggs and Murtaugh team up to take on martial arts expert Wah Sing Ku, a battle that leaves them both bloodied and shaken. Riggs nearly bites the bullet after getting trapped underneath a slab of cement in the ocean but is luckily spared thanks to Murtaugh's well-time heroics. 

Hopefully, Riggs will think twice before diving headfirst into the face of death in the future.

Meeting with the captain

Every "Lethal Weapon" film features a scene where Riggs and Murtaugh meet with Captain Ed Murphy (Steve Kahan), who either gives the boys their assignment, demotes them, or chastises their reckless behavior. While our heroes always eventually save the day, their actions lead to an absurd amount of collateral damage, much of which must be cleaned up by their weary Captain. 

"I don't give a f***," he tells Riggs and Murtaugh in "Lethal Weapon 2." "That's why I don't have an ulcer because I know when to say, 'I don't give a f***.'" 

Murphy eventually gets in on the action in "Lethal Weapon 3" after he gets kidnapped by the villainous Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson), necessitating our heroes to put their lives on the line to save him. Fortunately, Murphy lives on to see Riggs and Murtaugh finally settle down at the end of "Lethal Weapon 4," where the character is last seen arriving at the hospital with gifts for Lorna and Rianne. He even gets to participate in the family photo that marks the end of the series. What a boss.

Wild chases aplenty

Every "Lethal Weapon" film features some sort of wild chase that ends with the villains either escaping or dying in a brutal fashion. No, seriously, Riggs and Murtaugh typically fail to capture the criminals they pursue. In the first movie, Riggs chases Mr. Joshua on foot but ultimately allows him to escape in a stolen vehicle. "Lethal Weapon 2" opens with a high-speed pursuit through downtown L.A. that ends with the bad guys escaping via helicopter. Later, in the same film, a crazy chase along windy country roads leads to a villain's decapitation, by surfboard no less.

"Lethal Weapon 3" bucks the trend slightly by allowing Riggs and Murtaugh to catch a criminal following an armored truck chase, but the bad guy is shot before they can interrogate him. Riggs then hops on a motorcycle and goes after a key villain, but ends up falling off a freeway overpass before he can make any arrests. 

Our heroes are even thwarted on water. Early in "Lethal Weapon 4," a cargo ship chase culminates with dead bodies and no suspects. Then, during another freeway chase, Riggs and Murtaugh plow through a building in pursuit of a bad guy and still don't catch their man — he gets crushed by a semi-truck. Are we sure these guys are good at their job?

Riggs dislocates his shoulder

Early in "Lethal Weapon 2," Riggs bets a group of LAPD officers that he can escape from a straight jacket. After some struggle, he achieves victory by dislocating his shoulder, thus allowing him to slide out of his restraints with relative ease. This character trait proves quite useful later on in the film when Riggs is tossed into the harbor and escapes his restraints to avoid drowning.

Throughout the remaining films, we see Riggs deal with this physical ailment a number of times. Memorably, in "Lethal Weapon 3," after Riggs flies off the overpass following his failed pursuit of Jack Travis, he's forced to pop his shoulder back into place after colliding with some construction equipment. He pounds his shoulder against a nearby post and collapses in pain more determined than ever to catch his man.   

During the climax of "Lethal Weapon 4," Wah Sing Ku violently twists Riggs' arm forcing our hero to stave off the villain one-handed. Riggs literally uses his head to knock Wah Sing Ku down long enough to reconnect his shoulder, rejoins the fight, and eventually vanquishes the bad guy for good.   

Riggs and Murtaugh stumble onto a case

As inept as Riggs and Murtaugh are as police detectives, they have a knack for accidentally stumbling onto a case that goes deeper than either of them expected. Murtaugh happens upon General McAllister's drug operation in "Lethal Weapon" only because he knew the father of a victim. In the sequel, the pair chase down a group of South African stooges and end up in Arjen Rudd's crosshairs. "Lethal Weapon 3" sees our boys demoted to patrolmen where they encounter an armored-truck robbery that just so happens to involve a couple of Jack Travis' henchmen.

Finally, in "Lethal Weapon 4," Riggs and Murtaugh are literally fishing just off the coast when they come across a large cargo vessel carrying Chinese immigrants tied to Wah Sing Ku's devious operation. 

Of course, our heroes eventually save the day following millions of dollars in property damage, a few thousand bullet rounds fired, and dozens of vehicles destroyed — though, one has to wonder whether Riggs and Murtaugh's good fortune is the result of skill or incredible luck.