"Lethal Weapon 4"
"Lethal Weapon Collection " Soundtrack Review
Eric Clapton & David Sanborn
La-La Land Records
Disc 1: 21 Tracks/Disc Time: 51:50
Disc 2: 15 Tracks/Disc Time: 48:30
Total Time: 100:20 Grade: B-
(BEST OF 2013/14)
After the successes of the original "Lethal Weapon" trilogy (1987-1992) which was a worldwide success and one the best selling home videos by Warner Bros. throughout the 1990's and with the advent of DVD making its' debut in 1997, it was yet one more turn to dig into the cash cow that made studio a fortune. After years of trying to get what would become the final film of the series off the ground, "Lethal Weapon 4" finally arrived during the Summer of 1998 with no less than than four writers attached including the future creators of the hit series "Smallville" and a television writer in Channing Gibson (no relation to star Mel Gibson) in which was not finished, the characters of Joe Pesci's Leo Getz and Chris Rock's Detective Lee Butters were shoehorned into the script at the last minute and the ending finally figured out during filming. The result was a critical misfire in everybody's view and easily the weakest film of the series and the least successful. The film features the final on screen pairing of Riggs and Murtaugh (Mel Gibson and Danny Glover) who face a variety of issues which includes Riggs' commitment to Lorna (Rene Russo) and their impending pregnancy, Murtuagh's financial issues which come as a surprise along with another surprise when his daughter Rianne (Traci Wolfe) is also preganant and not to mentioned married to LAPD detective Lee Butters (Chris Rock, "Grown Ups). Murtaugh develops a soft spot for a Chinese family that they discover during an illegal human smuggling ring that he tries to protect and soon he and Riggs end up embroiled in a conspiracy involving counterfeit money and the Chinese Triads led by Riggs' ultimate match yet in Ku (martial arts superstar Jet Li, in his American debut "The Expendables"). Now hampered by age and the safety of their loved ones, Riggs and Murtaugh now have to rely on themselves and both Leo Getz (Joe Pesci, "Goodfellas") and Butters to stop Ku from eliminating the head of the Chinese Triads including Uncle Benny (Kim Chan) and taking over the business.
While the film was overlong and meandered rather badly in nostalgia that really didn't work, Jet Li was the film's saving grace along with the great return of the late Michael Kamen along with Eric Clapton and David Sanborn for their last hurrah in returning to score a "Lethal Weapon". After securing an incredible amount of work in the early to mid 90's, Kamen was soon diagnosed with Multiple Sclorosis which really affected his once favorable work load and would ultimately be lost to the musical world a few years later sadly. Kamen had been laboring on another Warner Bros. project in the big screen adaptation of British television series, "The Avengers" without any success and left that project instantly when it came to score this film. The tone of the score pretty much is in keeping with the series which features the familiar themes along with two new themes. One is Chris Rock's character which he assigns a harmonica motif to and the obvious one is that of Jet Li's character which Kamen integrates Chinese instrumentation/orchestration that consists of heavy, aggressive percussion.
Kamen starts up with the familiar material for Riggs, Murtaugh and Leo with "Don't Turn/Cute Shorts", and "Leo's Shark/Boys On Boat" that is given a more modern update in orchestration along with warm sentimentality that just works so well and Kamen happily reincorporates this solid material in later tracks as such as "Marriage Talk", "Tequila", and the film's finale "Hospital/Babies", which is the happy send off to the score. Kamen also gives Butters' some neat material with harmonica solos and a hip syntheszier beat in "Butters' Intro", "Chinese Food", "Cell Phone" and "Holiday Talk" that fits neatly with the other established themes. Kamen really leans heavy on the action and suspense material for Jet Li's menacing Ku character pulling out all the stops in his trademark rhythmic action with highlights such as "Ku Attacks", "Freeway Chase", "Chinatown Chase", "Riggs On Table" and climatic rumbles of "Underwater Fight" and "Underwater Fight Continues" which features the somewhat bland finish to Riggs and Ku final confrontation which many were disappointed with in the demise of Li's character. While Kamen revisits the series most nostalgic material in the poignant "Locker Room", "Cemetary" and "Murtaugh To The Rescue" featuring his memorable themes for what would be the final time.
La-La Land's final piece of this outstanding collection is the premiere debut of the score which was originally intended to be released when the film was released on Warner Bros./Sunset Records, but didn't materialize for some reason. Here is the complete score that didn't come out in 1998 all 100 minutes worth which is very effective for what it is: one final swan song the a terrific series that suffered a major setback with having a proper ending. However, Michael Kamen did have a proper ending and it is not his fault the film was a failure overall, but his music doesn't quite have or match the energy of the first three entries of the series. There is good material to like here, but if really does feel a little uninspired at times which unfortunately goes along with the film. On its' own, it is alot better than many of today's scores and a very good score for its' time. Certainly alot better than alot of the other scores that materialized in 1998. "Lethal Weapon 4" is a very good send off for the series and one of last of the great scores that Michael Kamen ever wrote. Marginal Thumbs up!