'Lethal Weapon' may have spawned three sequels and a TV series, but even 30 years later shines heads and shoulders over the rest of the films. It is not a perfect film, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it was hugely influential in the development of the buddy-cop film and to this day is one of the better examples of it.
Yes, it is implausible to the maximum and sometimes overblown, but the overblown nature to me and many others was part of the entertainment and wasn't that distracting. The implausibility is not quite as forgivable, with 'Lethal Weapon' being at its weakest in the script. Not that the script is terrible or anything, a lot of it is smart, very funny and crackles with wit, especially in the chemistry between Gibson and Glover, but sometimes the convolution and repetition reaches fever pitch.
Mitchell Ryan is the other weak link. Despite being the head villain, the character is forgettable somewhat and Ryan is both pantomimic and dull (that may sound oxymoronic but both extremes together are possible, indicating an inconsistent performance). Look at other reviews of the film, and one gets the sense that Mr Joshua, the henchman, is far more memorable (which he is) and sees near-unanimous praise for Gary Busey for good reason, who is at his villainous best here being ruthlessly cold and chilling.
It's not just Busey that makes 'Lethal Weapon' such a pleasure. As good as he is, he isn't even the best thing about it. Those three best things are the action, the chemistry between Gibson and Glover and the performances of the two.
The action is slick and bursts with excitement and tension, some of it is overblown but deliciously so. It is very easy to see why the chalk and cheese chemistry of the polar opposite characters of Riggs and Murtaugh became so popular, very rarely in a buddy-cop film has this kind of chemistry been so entertaining and perfectly pitched.
Gibson's performance here as the loose-cannon of the two is one of his best, a performance of wit, melancholy and great intensity. Glover has the no-nonsense and by-the-book character and is just as spirited while being more subtle. The story may seem familiar by today's standards and is not exceptional structurally, but back then there were not many films with the kind of story 'Lethal Weapon' had and the film was so influential that the number of buddy-cop films increased and the film was parodied a fair bit (like in National Lampoon's 'Loaded Weapon 1', one of those films that has seen me going against the grain and enjoying despite its faults).
As said, there are parts of the script that work well, while Richard Donner directs with an assured hand and the way 'Lethal Weapon' is shot and designed screams slick and stylish, still looking good 30 years on. Was expecting Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton's music to jar considering their other work (style-wise that is) and reading up on how it was orchestrated and used, but actually it added a lot to the atmosphere and had an atmospheric groove.
In conclusion, great fun and magic in the case of the action, the buddy-cop chemistry and the two lead performances. 8/10 Bethany Cox