The original Lethal Weapon is a wonderful example of the buddy cop movie that combines action, drama and some brilliant moments of acting for an entertaining and engaging two hours. The 1987 film still works just as well today as it did upon release simply because its main focus is the relationship between two very different characters, Mel Gibson’s emotionally battered Riggs and Danny Glover’s ageing Detective Murtaugh.
Martin Riggs is a cop past the edge, having lost his wife in events prior to the movie and consequently struggling to get through every single day, often holding a gun to his own head or in his mouth as he seriously contemplates suicide. He is partnered with Roger Murtaugh, a detective approaching his final years on the job with a large family to support and protect. The plot consisting of former army personnel and drug smuggling is standard fare that allows screenwriter Shane Black (Iron Man 3) and director Richard Donner (Superman) the chance to allow the characters to shine, including an exploration of the instant dismissal of Riggs’ grieving process as ‘crazy’ and the meaning of family and belonging as Murtaugh welcomes his partner into his personal life by the closing scene.
Riggs, being ex-special forces, has an array of skills including marksman and hand-to-hand combat and thus needs a villain every bit his equal. Enter Gary Busey in one of his most sinister and memorable performances as Joshua, a mercenary who will kill anyone and do anything he is paid for, including holding his arm above a flame just because his employer commands him to.
It’s between the characters of Riggs and Murtaugh and Joshua where a major plothole occurs…
Near the end of the movie Joshua escapes and is heading to Murtaghs house to kill his family. As Joshua arrives he begins by killing two police officers sat in a patrolcar watching the house before breaking in (machine gun blazing) and noticing a note on the Christmas tree. The note reads
Dear BAD GUYS
No one here but us
The GOOD GUYS
Then a cop car crashes through the window before Riggs takes down Joshua in a fist-fight on the front lawn. A brilliant scene and a great end to the action BUT…
Who left the note? Was it the cops in the car who were easily dispatched by Joshua and had no back-up? I don’t think so- these are standard plain clothes boys in blue simply doing a routine observation. If the threat to the Murtaugh household was deemed serious before the incident then more officers would be present and better hidden. These uniformed officers would unlikely break protocal for a possible har-de-har later on.
The most obvious, instinctual answer is that Riggs and Murtaugh left the note. It fits with the dark, twisted humour of Riggs and the brash cocky attitude he has displayed throughout the film. Based on Murtaugh’s actions throughout the film and the trust built up between the partners, Riggs would likely be allowed to get away with such actions by his new partner.
The problem with this likely explanation of who left the note is that…Riggs is a bit of a sick dog to allow two uniformed officers to sit there and die whilst also taking a perverse pleasure in letting Murtaugh’s house be destroyed, first by a barrage of bullets from Joshua and then the car crashing through the living room window. Did the two heroes really sit there and watch a couple of cops die and allow bullets to riddle the television, walls and kitchen work-surfaces whilst allowing enough time for Joshua to see their note?
Or perhaps the note is a traditional Christmas decoration in the Murtaugh household that just happened to fit the situation?
Whatever the answer, it’s still an amazing end to a film full of fantastic action set-pieces and character beats. Just sit back, enjoy and don’t think too much…