Heroes and Violence and Lawlessness - and Bond?

What follows is a discussion that originally unfolded in our upcoming films thread. The arguments exchanged there have more than a passing relevance to genre entertainment and Bond in particular.

I wonder how they could make that work.

LETHAL WEAPON was exactly the kind of “cops have to step over the line to be effective”-story, and even despite being the first major blockbuster franchise to partner an African-American with a caucasian, it did not really go beyond the Glover-Gibson schtick.

I did enjoy those films a lot - but I have no idea how to adapt that formula to today’s world. Nor whether that would be desirable. Also, it´s been so many years since the last one - and in that they already were more than approaching their pension. Bringing them back from retirement now would mean you have to include the next generation as well, and off we go to the Indiana Jones-problems.


I’d love to see this happen. But only if it’s in the 1 & 2 mould, rather than 3 & 4 (obvs :grimacing:). The former 2 movies were absolute gems, while the latter 2 are unwatchable stinkers (although the third did have a really great credits song from Sting and an equally great end credit song by Elton John and Eric Clapton).

The first one is great thriller. The second, with the inclusion of Pesci had some humour, but it retained balance, thanks to developing Riggs‘ backstory about his late wife and the uber dramatic development that took with Kensit and the villain’s henchman. They really pulled off a delicate balance between this drama, the thrills and the humour.

Sadly with 3 it went full on action-comedy and even more so with 4. All jeopardy was lost with the script trying to pepper gags and lightweight wackiness into almost every moment.

I’m guessing the franchise was a victim of its own success; execs demanding more and more family friendliness and less darkness to minimise the rating and maximise box office. The first was an 18, and all the rest 15s. Like a said they pulled it off with the first sequel (though frankly with the extremely dark themes and beats and some pretty violent scenes I’m surprised it got a 15].

The power of the first 2 movies came from Rigg’s torment (not as the article suggests PTSD, but from the loss of his wife). Once that wife story was fully mined by the end of LW2 there was no story left and no torment to motivate Rigg’s unique, suicide approach to his job. With LW3 he stopped being interesting because he’d become happy; the edge had gone and all we were left with were stunts and comedy.

So, if they make another LW the priority is that the script finds a way to recapture the bitterness and cynicism that made Riggs reckless and interesting. The first stop cliche for Hollywood writing 101 would be starting the movie with him in John McClane’s shoes: divorced and bitter. Hopefully they try a little harder, push into darker corners than that (but not being a widower - he’s done that story).

Perhaps PTSD from the war has finally emerged along with alcoholism. Everything can be a cliche, so it’s important to find the cliche that rings true for Riggs and give it enough time in the script to make us believe it (the scenes dedicated to this are what made LW1 really tick). Then the gags and wit are read as Riggs sardonic way of dealing with it and therefore it compliment’s the drama and thrills, rather than undermining the jeopardy, as with LW3 & 4.

Then again how about flipping the dynamic so that Murtaugh is the one walking the recklessness tightrope?

He was finally retired and enjoying being too old for this sh*t. But a tragedy at the hands of some evil toe rags has him dust off the 35 and hit the streets of LA one last time - two graves he’s willing and ready to dig, according to the saying - on a path to bitter revenge…

He calls on his ex-partner, also retired, for help. But after trying to talk old Murtaugh out of it, family man Riggs says no.

Of course when Murtaugh’s first attempt to exact revenge goes sideways, Riggs makes an entrance, saving Murtaugh and taking out the bad guys in such style that it’s clear he’s still got it. It needs to prove it’s darker credentials here as Murtaugh gets the info he needs on who was responsible for his tragedy.

This needs to lead them somewhere unexpected - someone powerful - perhaps a celebrity/political sex trafficking conspiracy (Epstein-esque). This takes the duo back to the cop beat they worked in LW1, which was all initiated by a prostitute falling from a high rise on drugs imported by ex-military from a previous war zone.

The movie can’t pull punches if it wants to keep the dark tragic tone of LW1 & 2. Just when they think they’ve got enough evidence / a witness to prosecute the bad guys / reveal the conspiracy, and Murtaugh finally seems to be acquiring a little solace… that’s when Murtaugh has to be killed (while saving his witness) and Riggs has to decide whether to leave this unwanted crusade, let the courts deal with it and return to his family, or succumb to that Riggs-rage that the audience get off on and he take his own revenge for his old friend in a final act…

Doh, I’m getting a little carried away here. Obviously this is the angle that works best for me and would make a final instalment feel valid.

Glover’s an excellent actor and could definitely carry this bitterness for audience and we’d really root for Rigg’s returning to the fray to help and ultimately revenge his old pal in what seems a suicide mission. Damn, I think I’d love to write that one myself! It’s definitely the way to do it.

Bottom line is for another sequel to work the story and it’s beats need to resonate with these characters at this advanced stage in their lives. And it needs to go ‘full Logan’. We’ve said that about Ford and Indiana Jones, but giving the dark origins of the LW franchise it’s far more relevant and necessary.

If they find a story, such as the one above (if I may say so) to motivate and ignite Rigg’s darkness, even if it’s not fully ignited until the final act (which imo is the best route - save the best for last) then we’re on track with a chance of great finale and coda to the series. If not, and it’s light on story, big on gags, then let it be and we’ll just rewatch the first 2 magnificent gems of action-thriller Americana.

The producer’s need to rewatch the first 2 LWs, Shane Black’s under appreciated The Last Boy Scout and of course the first Die Hard if they need a reminder of what an audience really crave from these Archetypes. It’s a hard edge peppered with sarcasm, not a warm, family friendly popcorn flick peppered with action.

… but: is that kind of story still something one should tell?

Let’s face it: the cop hell-bent on taking revenge, disobeying the law, is a huge problem. Glorified by Hollywood (and actually around the world), the myth of the right guys to kill off the bad guys is what led humanity to unnecessary dark corners and suffering.

I would say the time has come to leave this behind. And with Gibson currently facing new accusations of making racist remarks WB will not be eager to cast him (for tons of money) as a manic-depressive cop who is constantly out of line.

And really, why should we want to watch that formula again? Aren’t four films enough?

Why not make an action thriller about cops who actually follow the law and find clever ways to frame bad guys? And taking a page from EON´s book, the question should be: what will audiences be most afraid of the next years? What about white supremacists?



Historically, movies and television have been saturated with stories of the police and other law officials always winning/being correct. If they went somewhat outside the law they were supposed to be defending, that was okay, since they had a job to do and a society to protect.

Culture needs new narratives for changed circumstances.


There’s room for all of these stories. We shouldn’t have to pass everything through a PC filter to please that era’s loudest voices. It wouldn’t be Lethal Weapon and my post was about what a Lethal Weapon movie should be for it to work, or it’ll turn out as vanilla as 3 & 4.

Personally I’d enjoy a new LW that was as dark/tragic as the first two and from the success of movies like Logan I’d say there’s still a wide audience for that no matter how much some folk tell others they they shouldn’t be enjoying darker heroes in these ‘enlightened’ times. In fact the more people get lectured by society about all the things they’re doing wrong, the more they crave catharsis via heroes that do the wrong things.

The anti hero revenging an injustice will always be a strong draw, as it should be. If art is confined to working within the morals of the whomever believes they know what others should be allowed to watch then it fails to challenge when those moral arbitrators go too far.


I respectfully disagree - this is not about a PC filter or “enlightened times” seeing things differently.

This is about right and wrong. And to glorify cops who consider themselves above the law just always was and will remain despicable. Because the lens through which I myself saw this during the 80´s was: hey, how entertaining, these mavericks, not letting themselves be stopped by those stupid laws.

When the lens should have been: look at those how dangerous their behavior is. In other words: those who step outside the law because they think they act the right way are anarchists and/or even terrorists.

Of course, not all laws should be considered untouchable or unchangeable. If a story makes a clear point why cops are always stopped to protect the innocent because laws keep them from doing it, then that story I would call interesting and necessary. “Dirty Harry” was, if I remember correctly, closer to that idea - even if the sequels did glorify Callahan.

But really, despite enjoying “Lethal Weapon”, let’s be honest: that behavior, in real life, would be horrible.

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I agree and of course want the audience 100% on Murtaugh’s side when he seeks revenge - payback - the killer – it all indeed needs to amount to justice in the audience’s mind. As a writer you’ll well know that it’s good to test the audiences, but don’t alienate them! In a ‘good’ LW movie Murtaugh & Riggs’ journeys need to be complex and the destination imperfect, just like the first 2 movies.

Hey, it’s a LW movie - definately not real life :+1:

There was plenty of horrible in the first 2 LWs - it’s a highly bittersweet affair (like Shane Black’s excellent The Last Boy Scout). The wit is a welcome foil to the brutal violence. With that grit absent in LWs 3 & 4 they were more or less comedies. Why bother making a LW movie as a ‘comedy’? Go hard or go home…

Not wanting to intrude but I must confess I haven’t seen a single Lethal Weapon film yet. Not out of any form of snobbery, it just never happened. I didn’t catch them at the cinema and whenever I happened upon one on the telly I zapped onwards after some minutes.

You’re in for a real treat if you find the time (with the first two movies). I’m not a huge fan of the big dumb 80s action movie, which these get unfairly pigeon holed with. The first two LWs are up there with the first Die Hard. Plus there’s a wonderful score from Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton. Top notch all round!

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With respect odd_jobbies, the issue is not political correctness, It is about the power of film to authorize/valorize/celebrate tropes and ideas across a vast audience At the most basic level, look at BONNIE AND CLYDE and the fashion craze set off by Faye Dunaway wearing berets. And this is at the level of mere clothing. Now, imagine how the decade-after-decade portrayal of law enforcement figures as always being right–always getting their man no matter the tactics–affected how people regarded them in real life. Then there is the matter of how screen images of Blacks, Asians, queers and other minorities affected how people treated them in real life.

These films do not provide catharsis; what is on offer is vicarious indulgence. Catharsis results (or is supposed to result) in the purging of emotion. The LW movies offer the opportunity for audience members to enjoyably indulge/wallow in their darker urges–purgation is not on the menu. In fact, it cannot be since the filmmakers want these same people back in these same seats next week for the next opportunity to wallow (with a stop at the concession stand beforehand–as many appetites as possible must be satisfied). If catharsis actually occurred, then the need for sequels/re-hashes would be obviated.

Why should it be? HAMLET is a tragedy because it shows the immense cost of revenge–the play ends with the stage littered with bodies, including the revenger’s. In LW, revenge is presented not as tragic, but as therapeutic (in keeping with the therapeutic orientation of contemporary society).

Exactly. The characters’ moving beyond the bounds of law is not only deemed permissible, but celebrated since it results in a therapeutic breakthrough. As SAF notes: concepts of right and wrong are pushed aside in the pursuit of healing–all of us now live in the warm embrace of the kingdom of goop.

I think Bertolt Brecht (among others) might disagree. One of the difficulties in creating tragic works today is the widespread expectation/demand on the part of audiences that they be provided with characters with whom they can identify. Separation between characters and audience is what allows tragedy to arise. But with the increased ability of film to present accurate representations of real life, distance collapses. No longer is language heightened–what is now prized is the ability to write realistic dialogue. How an artist can create tragedy today was one of the questions behind Edward Albee’s “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? Notes toward a definition of tragedy.”

But people do take their behavioral cues from movies: reel life informs real life–that is why movies have such power. The JACKASS franchise is a testament to this fact.

As I have posted before, for decades I have worked in youth services in Harlem, the Bronx, and other under-resourced communities. I was with a young person and their family once, and the youngest child was fascinated by the phone on the table. I made a casual, offhand remark that they really liked that phone. The child agreed, and I asked why. The response came: “Becasue it is white.” We should never underestimate the power of media to set a culture’s values and agenda.


Everything you say is correct, if you’re looking at it from an solely intellectual perspective bereft of humour. If you want to align LW with real life violence, racism and every other human malady that’s your prerogative. I simply want to enjoy these films for what they are and frankly having you more or less suggest that watching and enjoying these great scripts by Shane black, the strong direction and performances, the great soundtrack is more or less an evil activity that should be banned is stretching the over analyses a little far.

If a future LW did utilise revenge to motivate a more serious tone it’s far from alone. Bond has been motivated by revenge once or twice. There are indeed dumb action movies that do no more than glorify violence, but the LW films aren’t that.

That’s a nice story about the kid and the phone. Certainly people are impressionable, but there’s culprits out there in film, advertising and in particular music that really do promote violence. I’ve unfortunately also had plenty of experience of poverty and societal abandonment causing people to make bad choices, do bad things to other people in part spurred on by irresponsible culture and role models. I grew up on a large, rough central London council estate and being among the very poorest on that estate I was often singled out to enjoy the violence of dumb, or desperate people trying to escape theIr reality by beating on me or other younger kids. They were perhaps emulating the violence they’d learned from bad role models on screen. But the likes of LW wouldn’t have registered on the scale of violence needed to motivate these real psychos. In fact the essentially moral archetypes in LW were just the emotional fix a kid vulnerable to bad role models needed in order to remember which direction was north, so you didn’t become one of the psychos in order to survive. Movies like this were food for the soul of kids in need of a compass. They help to motivate you to fight back and stop being prey, but never become the predator.

To folk with a better class of problems these movies and others like them may look like dumb, macho text glorifying violence. But to others these heroes that fight violence with violence is like having someone on your side - a big brother saying fight back if you need to, don’t be scared. When the closing credits role and those kids go back to their crumby lives they take some of the vicarious confidence and fight with them - and they need it.

So if I care to eulogise about such a movie, which I’m fond of, on this site dedicated to one of modern cultures original unsanitized heroes surviving in a violent world, it’d be lovely to do so without being made to feel like I’m endorsing real world violence. You made some good points, but there’s other perspectives.


I would venture to say that there is probably a way that a Lethal Weapon film could be made in today’s climate that could actually speak to what is happening right now while also maintaining what brings people to the films. How, I don’t know, but given the acting talents of Glover and Gibson, as long as the script was up to par, I would have faith that they would do something other than what would, now, come across as incredibly tone deaf.


First, I was not trying to make you or anyone else feel a particular way, and I do not believe that you are endorsing violence.

Okay–I honestly do not get what role humor plays (it must be my lesbian side. “That’s not funny.” See.). Does the humor in LW have a mitigating effect on the violence?

I do not want to align LW with real life violence in the sense of direct causality. What I want to talk about is what possible effects–if any–the consumption of depictions of violence has.

First, I hope you know my posts and style well enough to realize that I do not rely on suggestion. I say straight out what I believe. Second, I do not believe in movies, books, music, or other artworks being banned.

But there are legitimate questions to be asked about what effects depictions of violence have on people who consume them. We know from studies that desensitization does occur, and that violent images can become associated with the pleasure centers of the brain. Does this lead to a decrease in empathy or a rise in aggressive behaviors? These questions remain unanswered as there are studies in the affirmative on both sides. (And what if it could be definitively proven that the consumption of depictions of violence leads to a rise in aggressive behaviors? Should they be banned like indoor smoking or asbestos insulation due to the proven harm they can cause?)

I do not think that the LW films set out to glorify violence. The problem stems from the fact that almost anything and everything filmed with a modicum of talent/craft becomes glorified (especially when cinematic realism is the operating principle. Abstraction engenders distance/alienation/confusion in most audiences, and is, therefore, avoided. People want increasing realism in art–look at the rise of immersive experiences. But for art to be art does it not require some distance/abstraction, however subtle/mild it may be? Can a totally realistic presentation be considered a work of art? Or at some point does it cross over into craft? If the dialogue on the screen is what I hear on the street, then all that is required is a tape reorder and a sensitive microphone. No imagination involved.).

Since a filmmaker wants to keep eyeballs on the screen, he creates pleasing/beautiful images–images which share their beauty with what is being depicted. It is the catch-22 of film-making–to keep the audience’s attention you must supply pleasure, but as a result everything depicted becomes associated with pleasure.

The greatest artists have addressed this issue with regard to violence, Alfred Hitchcock among them. He created the template of pleasurable violence with the shower scene in PSYCHO–an amazing depiction of the murder of a woman. The editing, the music, the mise en scene–all work together to create a paradigmatic sequence. And yet he moves away from this technique in subsequent films. In TORN CURTAIN, he depicts how difficult it is to murder a person–no music score, great editing, but not the propulsive cutting of PSYCHO.

In FRENZY he goes even further–aligning his audience with the terror and pain of the victim–for me it is the most difficult scene of violence to watch in all of cinema. Later in the film, as a second murder is about to take place, the camera pulls back and retreats down a staircase, as if saying “This cannot be shown.” But the examples of TORN CURTAIN and FRENZY are not the ones filmmakers picked up on. PSYCHO became the template, and the aestheticization of cinematic violence was underway.

More likely they were emulating the violence that had been inflicted on them–passing on their patrimony. Screen violence and the enjoyment they experienced in its pleasurable depiction might have played an enhancing role.

And you and maybe four other people were smart enough to recognize these moral archetypes–the recognition of which provided the distance to be less affected by the inevitably glorified violence. The distancing you achieved by responding to the film archetypally furnished the distance which is a prerequisite for the claim of tragedy (which makes more sense now. With respect, in your earlier post the claim of tragedy for LW came out of the blue, and was not as well-supported as it is here).

As I said at the beginning of this post, I do not think you are endorsing real world violence. Also, from my reading of your posts, I very much doubt anyone can make odd_jobbies feel anything odd_jobbies does not wish to feel. You have a nuanced and personal take on LW films (much like mine on DAF. Not many people love Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint as I do). From the LW films you were able to take away vicarious confidence which is great (I received something similar from Kidd and Wint). But what about viewers who experience a vicarious pleasure in the violence (or a vicarious sense of shame from Kidd and Wint and their cinematic treatment)?


I think we were arriving at this from a more general, not so violence-specific Lethal Weapon angle. Namely that the depiction of police work outside the code of conduct is something problematic that’s been constantly glorified by modern entertainment. Is this something we could imagine being addressed differently in the future? Are there perhaps already good examples?

One I would immediately think of are the Rebus novels that sometimes thematise the limits of police work and how going beyond them tends to come back to bite you. Others would seem to be the Luther series and, more recently, Line of Duty. Are such deviations from the template going in the right direction?


Exactly. And the question concerned how a LW movie in particular could work today when that series did glorify a manic cop dragging his black partner in situations in which both became trigger-happy (or at least trigger-friendly) avengers above the law.

Now, for its time LW did prove courage to put a black cop into a leading role, depicting him as an ageing family man who actually befriended the suicidal time bomb-partner, manageing to give him new hope and life perspective.

To have a world wide audience embrace that during the late 80‘s and 90‘s was a major feat, even if that sounds alarmingly shallow today. One has to remember that the only other black cop in a leading role had been portrayed by Eddie Murphy.

Both, however, do cater to a white comfort zone: Murphy as a funny comedian, Glover as a traditional family values conservative.

Today both stereotypes would not work anymore, I believe. The characters of LW have no more interesting stories to tell, unless you depict them as disillusioned and unfriended. And that‘s not what a mainstream audience would pay to see. Also, Gibson has ruined his reputation so thoroughly that the recent accusations will prevent WB from casting him in LW again.

Up to the excellent Beverly Hills Cop there’s only Poitier’s Virgil Tibbs trilogy, Yaphet Kotto in Across 110th Street, and Austin Stoker in one of my favourite movies Assault on Precinct 13 which stand out. There’s also Tubbs from Miami Vice; second fiddle to Crocket, but still a lead. There certainly was a dearth of serious roles for black police.

This is one of the reasons i said if they’re going to do another, it shouldn’t be a safe, comfort zone rehash of LWs 3 & 4, but go the serious, gritty route, truer to the tone of the first movie.

Logan shows that audiences can handle a grittier note if it provides a satisfying coda to once beloved characters that had been served poorly by successive movies. And a revenge theme doesn’t mean amoral when the context is a system failing to deliver justice. That’s a theme very present.

A really great series! Rather than presenting good guy/bad guy stereotypes almost every single character is a spectrum of greys. That in itself is a great mirror to the human condition. We need stories that show ‘good guys’ finding it difficult to see the line between right and wrong when things get complex, because real life is always, without fail a complex experience. That kind of antihero helps us look at the conflicts in ourselves from another perspective.

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Same here.

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Absolutely - I should have been more precise and said: in 80´s blockbuster movies.

But is that realistic? Especially with Gibson being the poster boy for an outed closet racist?