1987. Directed by Richard Donner.
The film that redefined the action genre for the late 80's and 90's, Lethal Weapon is a buddy cop paradox, focusing on family, friendship, and healing rather than bullets, boobs, and explosions.
The Lethal Weapon is Martin Riggs, played by Mel Gibson. He's a recently widowed suicide-risk who is partnered with the recently aged 50 veteran Roger Murtaugh, played by the great Danny Glover. What begins as an odd paring, quickly transforms into a brotherhood and an important post Vietnam deconstruction of the take no prisoners American action hero.
This is the story of a broken man and an aging family man who both experience awakenings due to their bond. It would be easy to talk about the film's iconic attributes: Shane Black's amazing script is a treasure, coupled with Michael Kamen's unforgettable score, and Stephen Goldblatt's steady, all encompassing cinematography. However, I think this film is a whole lot more.
Gary Busey delivers one of his best performances as the evil mercenary Joshua, the final destination of a Riggs gone bad. His juxtaposition from Riggs, (while both are true believers in oblivion) is so important, so visceral that you are immediately drawn into their macho rivalry, which culminates in one of the best final one on one showdowns in action film history.
The film constantly walks the line between humorous shoot em up and serious, dark psychological commentary and it's this constant ebb and flow that allows Lethal Weapon to deliver a singular experience.
Followed by several sequels that each diminished the magic of the first, Richard Donner outdid himself with this film. It's touching, almost heartbreaking in one second and then unflinchingly violent and unforgiving in the next. The club scene exit at the start of the final act is a perfect example of how the characters of Riggs and Murtaugh have both become Lethal Weapons, embracing their pasts, but also clinging to the present and fighting for their families, both by blood and by the badge.
Lethal Weapon set the bar for cop action films being more than visual foreplay and it still resonates today. Highly recommend.