Film Advent Calendar – Day 20: Lethal Weapon (1987)

It’s the final part of our Film Advent Calendar mini sub-section: The King of Christmas Trilogy. Shane Black is known for his hard-hitting action films peppered with witty dialogue, but also which tend to be set around the festive season. Lethal Weapon is regarded as his finest moment and an action classic, but folk often forget it’s also packed with Christmas cheer. So with that in mind, Aaron asks:

What makes a Christmas film?

It’s a question that’s been thrown around for many years and there still isn’t (and probably never will be) a definitive answer. There are people who argue that films such as Die Hard and Gremlins aren’t Christmas films but I’d say they were perfect examples of what I believe a Christmas film to be; a film set at Christmas focusing on building/fixing relationships with family and friends, eventually bringing everyone closer together with rekindled warmth and happiness.

This is why Lethal Weapon is my day 20 pick. It’s a film often brushed aside and ignored in the ‘is it a Christmas flick’ debate but it for me captures Christmas perfectly. Mad, crazy, surprises around the corner, and a warmth and caring for family and friends.

Granted from the outside it may not seem the perfect festive movie, but bear with me.

The film, for those unaware concerns Riggs (an unhinged wildcard of a cop who likes doing things his way) and Murtaugh (a cop ready to retire who follows everything by the book). They become partners and are at each other’s throats right away. But as the stakes build they must learn to work together to stop a madman on the loose.

Yes, there’s lots of stunningly filmed action and amazing set pieces, culminating in one of my favourite fight sequences, but one of the big running themes throughout the film is family. Murtaugh wants more time with his, especially around Christmas and Riggs…well Riggs has no real family and is on a course for self-destruction. He’s lost in the world but Murtaugh begins to see him as family and vice versa. As their relationship builds so does their bond.

The acting is phenomenal with Mel Gibson giving one of his greatest performances as the unhinged Riggs. it is acting at its finest. The craziness plays off the amazingly straight-laced performance by the equally great Danny Glover. They both work perfectly together and are probably the best example of the buddy cop duo that was popular at the time.

The Christmas theme runs throughout as both setting and plot device, with some great action moments as well as some much more tender ones about loving family and friends, while also remembering those we’ve lost.

It’s a near perfect film in my eyes and one that’s a phenomenal watch no matter how many times you’ve seen it. This is helped by some great direction and a mindblowing script. The pacing is spot on and you never find yourself looking a the time wondering when the film will end. Humour-wise the film hits every single time and it just rounds off the relationship between the two stars.

Sure there’s more action and death in it then other festive faves like The Santa Clause or The Snowman but it also provides a much deeper multilateral experience. It’s a definite must watch.


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