Trigger Warning: ‘Lethal Weapon’ hits some familiar targets…

Lethal Weapon was a tent-pole franchise for Mel Gibson. The tv version has all the right moves, but they're familiar ones...
Lethal Weapon (Pilot)
Lethal Weapon (Pilot)

Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) is a decorated detective with an eye for the unconventional – why use a gun when a rocket-launcher will cut the effort down to size? But on what should have been the happiest day of his life, tragedy strikes when his wife and unborn child are killed. Unable to fully deal with the loss, he brings her back to Los Angeles, where she was born, to lay her to rest. After six months of barely dealing with his grief, he is formally given a transfer to the local LA force and finds himself partnered with veteran Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) who is arriving back on the job after having a heart-attack.

They are both damaged people in one way or another, they both deal with a hole in the heart in one way or another – Murtaugh’s scars show his battles, Riggs’ are less obvious… until you watch how he takes down a bunch of bank-robbers with little regard for his own safety. However different the men are, they believe in justice and their different, dogged approach to solving what has been dismissed a a suicide may be what keeps them going ( even if it puts them at odds with each other, the department and the criminals behind the death).

If Riggs and Murtaugh can survive their first week together on the job without shooting each other, they may just have a chance to make a difference…

It seems such a long while ago now, but there was a time – particularly for the action industry – where Mel Gibson could do no wrong. He was taken seriously as an action hero, a genuinely-nuanced actor and a fledgling director to watch. Infamous off-screen behaviour put a stop to that and his fall from grace was sudden, deep and long-lasting, a career-stopper for which it’s taken a decade to show any signs of recovery.

But there’s little doubt that the Lethal Weapon movies were as pivotal to his career as they were lucrative and the decision to bring the concept to the screen was one that must have been around for a long time in one form or another. In the current climate of spin-offs, reboots, re-imaginings and reinterpretations, the stars aligned and FOX has shaped the show – or its pilot, at least – as both a homage to the original film and something that’s a little more updated.

There’s a familiarity at work that will surely help with the marketing aspect, but sometimes feels a little TOO-familiar and templated…

Clayne Crawford, a busy if not instantly-recognisable actor or choice, manages to give this Martin Riggs some genuine pathos. Though much of the personal tragedy that Riggs has experienced is confined to a five-minute prologue, Crawford convinces a guy who has the abandoned puppy-dog looks and all the right quips in his arsenal but also a bullet in the chamber for himself if the day gets too hard. Damon Wayans’ Roger Murtaugh has a little less to work with – always the burden of the straight-guy in a comedic act – but despite less obvious Danny Glover inflections, it’s easy to buy the veteran actor’s family-man trying to do the right thing for himself and his family. The zig to Riggs’ zag, this is the character that may have to be developed more than the more screen-grabbing Riggs.

Fast & Furious Jordana Brewster is Riggs’ therapist who gets to share some despairing looks and advice in the pilot (it’s not clear whether she’s being set-up as a love-interest, but one hopes not… that would be far too predictable) and Kevin Rahm is their tolerant boss, Brooks Avery ( a Star Trek nod, perhaps?)

Lethal Weapon is actually a lot better than one might have realistically expected. The combination of actors and pacing help proceedings and it has all the hallmarks of a primetime show built to draw in audiences. Therein lies the caveat: at times it feels very blueprinted, designed to intricately appeal to those old enough to remember the original films (a sprinkling of familiar one-liners and visual cues abound) while tweaking the details and language for a more (or less) demanding audience demanding a different pace. There’s a familiarity at work that will surely help with the marketing aspect, but sometimes feels a little TOO-familiar and templated.

McG directs with the expected flair for car-chases (somewhat unbelievable in design but well executed on a television budget) and action – it’s certainly all in his wheelhouse, though at some times that budget shows its restrictions. The result is a watchable pilot that demands little more than you enjoy the proceedings with a smile.

There’s a few unanswered questions in the pilot (and am I the only one who doesn’t fully trust Avery?) and certainly potential here if the series itself can carve something a little more distinctive away from its source material. Even if it does shoot itself in the foot the first time out…



The Good
  • Casting choices
The Bad
  • A little too reverential to the source material
  • Casting
  • Suitable pacing
  • Stunts