Once you hear a little bit of the “Looney Tunes” theme on the main title track of “Lethal Weapon 2,” you know that this sequel is going to be a bit lighter than the original and not as dark (at least, not until the last half of it). “Lethal Weapon 2” reunited director Richard Donner with stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and it also brought back Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton and David Sanborn to compose the music score. Bringing together familiar themes from the original and creating new ones for new characters, they once again succeeded in creating an unforgettable score that highlights the crazy action scenes and exposes the raw emotions that Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh are forced to experience this time around.
The expanded and remastered “Lethal Weapon 2” soundtrack is part of La La Land Records’ “Lethal Weapon Soundtrack Collection” box set, and it features a lot of the music that I have been longing to hear on a compact disc. The original commercial release of the soundtrack frustrated me in that it only contained a small portion of Kamen’s, Clapton’s and Sanborn’s score and a couple of tracks by them that seemed designed solely for the soundtrack and not the movie. Thank goodness the people at La La Land Records finally took the time to give “Lethal Weapon 2” a proper soundtrack release that contains every single piece of music from a sequel that in some ways proved to be even better than the original.
Among my favorite tracks on the first disc is the opening track “Main Title/Chase the Red BMW/Kugerrand” which gets “Lethal Weapon 2” off to a thunderously good start. It perfectly complements Riggs as he runs after the driver in the red car, demanding to see his driver’s license and proof of insurance. Riggs is reckless, but he also clearly loves his job more than any other homicide detective on the planet. Another great track is “Mulholland Chase” which comes in the scene where Riggs is hanging on for dear life from a tow truck as one of the bad guys tries to drive away from the scene of the crime. It reuses music from “Lethal Weapon,” but Kamen and company have made some adjustments to it that make it stand out on its own here.
But the score for “Lethal Weapon 2” also has its darker moments which get really dark as the movie throttles towards its inevitably violent and bloody conclusion. Listening to tracks like “You Can Stay With Me/Riggs Captured/Riggs Fights Back” is to be reminded of how Kamen and his collaborators focus on the emotions of the characters as much as they do on the action set pieces. Things, however, really hit a high emotional pitch on the second disc as the music illustrates the depths that Riggs and Murtaugh will go to seek revenge for their fallen comrades.
The second disc also includes the original album of “Lethal Weapon 2” which of course has been remastered for this edition. Songs like “Cheer Down” by George Harrison are included which played over the movie’s end credits, and there’s also The Beach Boys’ “Still Cruisin’ (After All These Years).” It’s not a classic Beach Boys song and you will definitely not find it on their “Pet Sounds” album, but it’s a nice little tune that’s fun to listen to every once in a while. Randy Crawford also sings a version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” but its inclusion on this soundtrack always baffled me because, unless I’m mistaken, this version of the classic Bob Dylan song does not ever appear in the movie. As for the score, there are only a few portions of it on this disc and they are not all the same versions that were featured in the movie.
In Jeff Bond’s booklet “Some Movies Don’t Invent Genres: They Just Perfect Them” which accompanies the box set, he gives a lot of background information on the making of “Lethal Weapon 2.” It turns out that Richard Donner wasn’t initially interested in directing the sequel to “Lethal Weapon,” and it took Mel Gibson and Danny Glover saying that they didn’t trust anyone else with their characters than Donner for him to return. It is also revealed that Shane Black, who was briefly was involved with this sequel, originally had Riggs dying in the final act. When Donner decided that he wanted to lighten things up this time around, Black decided to leave the project. However, he did later admit that the choice of villains for this film was excellent.
Regarding the score, Bond doesn’t leave a single detail out. Kamen, Clapton and Sanborn largely stuck to what made their score to the first film so great, but they also added some other musical elements to this sequel as well. One of them was Emil Richards, a well-known percussionist who has percussion instruments from all over the world, and he was instrumental in giving the South African baddies a distinctive sound that lent quite a bit to their evil presence. Bond also points out how a theme was created for Leo Getz (played by Joe Pesci) who became one of the franchise’s most popular characters.
Personally, it is such a delight to see this expanded and remastered edition of the “Lethal Weapon 2” soundtrack. I’ve always loved the scores to these movies, and I particularly love the score to this sequel as listening to it gets me all excited. For a time, I didn’t think I would ever get to hear many of these music cues on a compact disc, but thanks to the good people at La La Land Records we finally have the soundtrack release that “Lethal Weapon 2” has long deserved, and it couldn’t have sounded any better.