25 Years Ago Today: “Lethal Weapon 2” Released

Lethal Weapon 2

On July 7th, 1089 Warner Bros. and Silver Pictures released the sequel to the box office hit “Lethal Weapon” called “Lethal Weapon 2”

Riggs and Murtaugh are at it again in this sequel to the original Lethal Weapon in 1987. When a red BMW crashes while they are chasing it, they discover the trunk is full of South African Krugerands. Their boss assigns them to protect a federal witness named Leo Getz to try and keep them out of trouble. When the witness reveals he has been doing business with South Africans, the story evolves into a fast moving chase.

Lethal Weapon 2 on Amazon | Lethal Weapon 2 on iTunes

In the original script, the South Africans were even more vicious. At one point, they even torture Riggs in much the same manner as Mr. Joshua in the original. The ending climaxed with a distraught Riggs dying after the wounds delivered from Arjen Rudd. The character of Rika was originally intended to survive, with the last scene in the film being Riggs and Rika eating Thanksgiving dinner with the Murtaughs, but the director decided to kill the character to increase Riggs’ motivation to destroy the South African drug smugglers. The scenes of her rescue and the finale with her were shot, but not used. When the original Shane Black screenplay was changed, he left the series. The rewrites that resulted in the final film are by Warren Murphy, co-creator of Remo Williams (the lead character of The Destroyer novels) and Jeffrey Boam (screenwriter for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Lost Boys).

The film was the debut of Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), a crooked but whistleblowing CPA who is placed in protective custody by Riggs and Murtaugh, and makes the detectives’ lives a living hell due to his neurotic behavior. The Getz character remained a regular throughout the remainder of the film series.

At two points in the film, Riggs intentionally dislocates his shoulder in order to get out of a straitjacket and then slams it back into place. This becomes a running gag not only throughout the film series, but also throughout a lot of parody films.

The scene where Riggs is on the road outside Arjen’s stilt house and grabs onto the front of the truck (the same scene with the surfboard killing a driver) was filmed on March 21, 1989. The opening chase sequence was filmed on November 28, 1988. The scenes where Riggs and Rika are ambushed by helicopters at night on the beach were filmed at Marineland of the Pacific in Palos Verdes California, on “Cobble Beach”. Other portions of the film were shot in Palm Springs, California.

Patsy Kensit described her sex scene with Mel Gibson as having been very uncomfortable to act out. She stated that the reason was that she and Gibson were both married and both Catholics.

The Star Wars series and Ghostbusters notwithstanding (which were released some years before), the film was among the first of the summer blockbusters to feature the ‘title only’ style of opening that would become an established feature of ‘event’ films from that point on.

The film received mostly positive reviews, although not as many as the original. The New York Times stated thusly: “Though it includes a smashed car full of Krugerrands, a hillside house blown off its stilts and a bomb set under a toilet, the point of Lethal Weapon 2 is that Mel Gibson and Danny Glover get to race around in all that chaos, acting crazy. Before it skids out of control in the final sequence, the film is so careful to preserve its successful comic-action formula that it follows the most basic law of sequels. If you liked Lethal Weapon, you’ll like Lethal Weapon 2; it’s almost as simple as that.” Los Angeles Times reviewer Michael Wilmington stated that “though it’s nice to have a big-audience action movie attacking apartheid and the slaughter of sea mammals, instead of acting as an enlistment poster for the Army Air Corps, local vigilante groups or the reopening of the Vietnam War, the sentiments don’t really transcend the car crashes.”

Lethal Weapon 2 on Amazon | Lethal Weapon 2 on iTunes

It currently holds an 83% approval on Rotten Tomatoes based on 36 reviews with an average rating of 6.6/10. Despite prominent anti-apartheid overtones and its somewhat crude depiction of Afrikaner characters, Lethal Weapon 2 was released uncensored in South Africa and proved a box-office success. Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, and Richard Donner have all stated that this is their favorite film of the Lethal Weapon series.

Did You Know…

  • Leo’s “okay-okay-okay” schtick was based on Disneyland employees giving directions to Fantasyland. Originally, Leo was going to be an oily, effeminate character, but Joe Pesci didn’t want to play him that way. He pitched the idea of making Leo all-too-eager to please, complete with “okay-okay-okay” ad libs, to Richard Donner. Donner laughed and said, “Do that! Do that!”
  • One scene that was cut out, but restored in the DVD Director’s Cut, is an extended version of Leo trying to show Riggs and Murtaugh where the “house with stilts” is located. In the scene, they are parked off road and Leo is trying to recall the address. He keeps going on and on that the address has to add up to 9 because “nine is my lucky number”. Meanwhile, Riggs and Murtaugh look through a map book and randomly pick a street to go down. Following this scene is the one already in the film of them finding the house. The deleted scene further explains Leo’s remark “I told you. Nine that’s my lucky number,” after Murtaugh moans “This is the ninth possibility, Leo.”
  • The scene where Mel Gibson attaches cables to the stilts of a mountain-top home and pulls it down cost over $500,000.
  • The “bomb in the toilet” sequence was used as an early teaser trailer for the movie. The trailer ended with the toilet landing on Murtaugh’s car and the voice-over announcer saying “They’re not taking any more crap!”
  • The body count is 33, the highest of the ‘Lethal Weapon’ series.
  • At the beginning of the movie, over the Warner Bros. logo, a few notes of the Looney Tunes’ “Merrie Melodies” theme is played.
  • The scene where Murtaugh does his ‘Free South Africa’ tirade – his statement of ‘one man, one vote’ did in fact, became part of then-South Africa’s president F.W. de Klerk agenda to end apartheid, lift the ban on the African National Congress (in the film, protesters outside the South African Consulate had the ANC flag), and released Nelson Mandela from incarceration. Danny Glover did portray Nelson Mandela in the made-for-cable HBO film Mandela (1987), which was filmed prior to the release of the first Lethal Weapon film.
  • In the scene in which Leo is cleaning Martin Riggs’ house, you can hear the song “I’m Not Scared”, by the short-lived British pop group Eighth Wonder, of which Patsy Kensit was the lead singer.
  • During production, Richard Donner was shocked when Mel Gibson confided that he was drinking five pints of beer for breakfast. Despite his alcohol problems, Gibson was known for his professionalism and punctuality.

Lethal Weapon 2 on Amazon | Lethal Weapon 2 on iTunes

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