A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although Lethal Weapon (which stars Mel Gibson in one of his signature roles) is considered an iconic action comedy, it has a lot of graphic violence. And, despite the comic moments, the tone is often quite serious. It treats the deaths of villains and innocent civilians in a very casual manner, as if killing bad guys is simply part of the job of being a cop. The only violence that seems to have a psychic toll is the harm done to young, attractive women. Sex is portrayed only in the context of prostitution and murder; there is female nudity (bare breasts) and a naked male backside. There is frequent profanity, including "f--k." Characters are shown smoking cigarettes and drinking beer throughout the movie. One of the main characters is shown intoxicated as he holds a gun to his head. Early in the film, a woman is shown snorting cocaine and swallowing pills before falling to her death from an upper floor in a high-rise. A character is hung from a ceiling and tortured with electric shock; jumper cables are pressed against his body. Another character is tortured by having salt rubbed into his wounds.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Upon turning 50, LA detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) has been assigned a new partner, the suicidal loose cannon Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson). Murtaugh, a family man, and Riggs, a widower, form the obligatory cop/buddy odd couple, bickering at first and then gradually rubbing off on one another. They are assigned to investigate the death of a prostitute who happens to be the daughter of Murtaugh's old army buddy. The men behind the crime are part of the Shadow Company, a clique of drug-dealing Vietnam veterans. After the bad guys kidnap Murtaugh's teen daughter, things get personal, and the cops are forced to play rough.
Is it any good?
LETHAL WEAPON is an unsubtle action movie that trades intrigue for visceral emotion. Angst hangs over much of the film. This world is populated with vengeance-crazed murderers and lonely suicides. Writer Shane Black peppers the movie with gallows humor, and veteran action director Richard Donner keeps things lean and mean, refusing to complicate the simple drug-running plot with so much as a twist.
The film caters to the audience's bloodlust, allowing us to relish Riggs' ruthless retribution by making him pay for his sins with his sanity. The violence is justified only in the sense that the bad guys are drug-running murderers and so deserve to die. Gibson excels at playing the dispenser of righteous violence and tragically flawed action hero. Lethal Weapon is suspenseful but never quite achieves the fever pitch of a Die Hard film. It is more interested in justifying violence than making the audience think.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence here. Do you think there's a message here amongst the carnage, or is this simply an action film and not meant to be taken seriously?
How does this film meet the criteria of the "buddy movie" formula so often employed in movies?
- In theaters: March 6, 1987
- On DVD or streaming: March 25, 1997
- Cast: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mel Gibson
- Director: Richard Donner
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: Restricted
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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