Lethal Weapon opens
When Lethal Weapon opened on March 6, 1987, for many it was the same Hollywood formulas repackaged at a higher volume. New York Times critic Janet Maslin wrote, “Clearly, the makers of Lethal Weapon, …are not interested in the soft sell. Their concern is that the largest possible number of people, props and vehicles be made to crash and burn. That objective, while not the noblest, has been achieved quite handily in this hard-boiled, high-voltage, hotheaded police thriller.” After all, the movie was produced by Joel Silver, who once defined his formula as “if you’re making an action movie, every ten minutes you must have an action beat,” which usually means another explosion, fight or car chase. On the other hand, the film pushed the action genre into new territories. It came together very quickly. At 23, Shane Black, an aspiring actor, who’d started writing scripts to see if he could earn some money to forward his acting dreams, had penned the story in less than six weeks. He called it Lethal Weapon because Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), a Vietnam vet with a recently dead wife, was himself a lethal weapon. His reluctant partner (Danny Glover) was a suburban policeman with dreams of a pension. The story’s giddy mix of humor, action and violence made it a hot property. And Richard Donner pushed all those elements to the hilt. For example, the ending fight scene, choreographed by stunt coordinator Bobby Bass, combined nearly every known type of physical fighting, from Jiu Jitsu and Capoeira to back alley brawling and street fighting. The film shot to number one, inspiring three sequels pairing the unlikely pair back together. Moreover it became the first franchise jewel in Joel Silver’s filmmaking treasure trove (the other two being Die Hard and The Matrix).