By James Gisante
If you were a fan of the original movies and worried about FOX’s new Lethal Weapon series you can relax, it’s very good and very fun. Retelling the story of two cops, one with a death wish and one who’s too old for this s***, Lethal Weapon had a lot of pressure with it’s first outing to not only appease fans of the movies but to stand out in a crowded procedural environment. Luckily it manages to do both.
Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans star as Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, roles famously brought to life by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover nearly thirty years ago. The success of the show, like the movies before it, depends on your investment in their partnership and chemistry. Lethal Weapon may not have discovered the mismatched buddy cop formula, but it certainly perfected it and both Crawford and Wayans fill the shoes of their predecessors admirably, albeit with some minor tweaks.
As fun and loud as the movies were, the original story of Martin Riggs was definitely a tragic one. A good cop who loses his wife (and here his unborn child), Riggs becomes despondent but can’t seem to end his own suffering as he’s transferred and assigned to his new partner. Bringing more than just sadness to the role but also a rugged charm, Crawford embodies Riggs in all the ways that matter. The redemption of Martin Riggs was the heart of the original films and the pilot did a great job of making us feel for the man.
Roger Murtaugh sees more changes made to his story than his partner, but the essence of the character remains. Instead of being days from retirement and ready to leave it all behind, Roger’s returning to the job after recovering from a heart attack and is struggling to ease back into his position and his new crazy partner isn’t making things any easier for him. Wayans was an interesting contrast to Glover’s original gruff take on the character, but he captures the family man aspect that drives the character’s motivations perfectly.
After an explosive first encounter, Riggs and Murtaugh have a rocky start as partners with both men having a hard time accepting either’s approach to the job. Dealing with a suspicious suicide case brings both men together and as much as dodging bullets and saving the day brings them together it’s the quiet moments together that really bond the men and endear them to the audience.
With more than a few nods to the original movies (I personally can’t wait to see how many times Roger’s car gets destroyed in pursuits) there is a lot for fans of the classic series to look forward to with the premiere. This may not have been a reboot diehard fans have been looking forward to, but thankfully Lethal Weapon hits the ground running with an excellent start.