(Second viewing, On DVD, November 2017) I first saw Lethal Weapon 3 on VHS in the mid-nineties, and while I still remembered a few things (the armour-piercing climactic shootout, the great “let’s compare scars” romantic scene), I had forgotten much along the way. (I do remember much of the promotional chatter surrounding the film and its sequences involving the destruction of a construction project, and the co-optation of a planned building demolition.) In retrospect, Lethal Weapon 3 still marks a transition between the buddy-cop movies of the late-1980s and the overblown action movies of the mid-1990s. The Lethal Weapon series straddle both, of course, and watching this third instalment is like plunging back in a sadly neglected subgenre: Sunny Californian action with plenty of laughs, dubious moral foundations and an overall sense of conscious excess. I miss those kinds of movies where every stunt is an attempt to be even bolder and bigger than the previous one (although Lethal Weapon 3 has its best action sequences well before the climax). I miss the banter between charismatic leads such as Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. (Most of all, I miss the time when you could watch Mel Gibson and not have to account for his personal issues.) I miss the anything-goes nature of plotting where just standing on the street could lead the characters to an armoured car heist and then on to a corruption scandal within the LAPD (and a hockey game sequence because why not?). What I don’t miss is the casual police brutality played for laughs and some of the coincidental nature of the plotting. Still, Lethal Weapon 3 generally works. Including Renee Russo as a true romantic partner for Mel Gibson’s character is a welcome development, and even Joe Pesci is acceptably annoying. While the result isn’t much more than a competent example of the subgenre, it holds up compared to other movies of the series, and the kind of film it intends to be.
(Netflix Streaming, November 2015) The concept of the anti-hero is retooled with vigour in Nightcrawler, thanks to a terrific collaboration between writer/director Dan Gilroy and another exceptional performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Taking place in modern Los Angeles (now illuminated at night by bright-white LED streetlamps) where competing news stations are literally out for blood, Nightcrawler is first and foremost the character study of a modern sociopath, one whose ambition is fueled by personal-growth Internet sites, a complete lack of morals and a world that gleefully applauds the result of his efforts. Gyllenhaal is phenomenal in the lead hustler role, portraying a deeply wrong character with almost-complete detachment: the film’s best scene is a “simple” dinner date in which a human relationships is dissected to its most self-interested axioms. Otherwise, much of the film is spent in the streets of Los Angeles at night, chasing accidents and selling video footage to the highest bidder. It’s a nightmarish but well-executed film, Gilroy showing talent at his first directorial effort –and showcasing his wife Renee Russo in one of the best roles she’s had in years. There’s quite a bit of depth in the way Nightcrawler also engages with issues of degenerate capitalism, social voyeurism and media fearmongering. It’s quite a film, but also quite an experience in how it refuses to see things from outside its lead character’s perspective. Don’t be surprised if you want to shower after watching it.