Monday, January 07, 2008

Lethal Weapon: Heroes in Hard Times

Not having seen the assignment until 14 hours before the class, it is safe to assume that I did not read the entire text; in fact I could not purchase them today (Sunday). So instead I have re-watched the movies and read about the text books online and have attempted to review the films with the concept of the text books in mind. The "buddy cop" subgenre are actions films with plots involving two men of very different and conflicting personalities who are forced to work together to solve a crime while learning from each other in the process. In Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop, the buddies were paired as black and white(s). Frequently, although not always, the two heroes are of different ethnicities or cultures as seen in Lethal Weapon (and Beverly Hills Cop). However, regardless of ethnicity, a central difference is the tempermant of the partners.” Martin Riggs-white cop- in Lethal Weapon and Eddie Murphy- black cop- in Beveryl Hills Cops are the “wilder”, less establishment oriented partners. Roger Murtaugh-black cop- in Lethal Weapon and Detective Rosewood in Beverly Hills Cop are the antithesis of the partners, trying to toe the line and just get through the day.
In the case of Lethal Weapon the wild partner, Riggs is the younger of the two, with the even-tempered partner having more patience and experience. These films sometimes also contain a variation on the good cop/bad cop motif, in which one partner is kinder and law-abiding, while the other is a streetwise, "old school" police officer who tends to break, or at least bend the rules. “The buddy angle” is that Riggs gets a partner, a conservative family man named Roger Murtaugh, played by Danny Glover. The two take an instant dislike for one another throughout the first 55 minutes of the movie; however it turns into mutual admiration and lifelong friendship when Glovers family is threatened. Kings depiction of the buddy cop genre discussed the hero and the sidekick. Unless one defines the hero as the one taking all of the risks, it might be hard to depict who is playing what role in Lethal weapon. Glover and Gibson’s characters had equal screen coverage, the audience gets to know both characters while on and off duty. Riggs as the risk taker appears to be the hero in most of the fight scenes (walking into the range of a sniper shooting, jumping off buildings, and killing the villian of the movie). Riggs abandon’s common sense willing to give up his life if necessary get the bad guy and get rid of the evil’s in the world. Glover’s character seems more like the sidekick because he does not shoot to kill, instead he shoots the criminals in the knee (as seen in at the drug dealers house outside by the pool), and he has a home life, a goal for retirement, and a wish to stay out of trouble, we only need to cheer for him when he gets drawn into Rigg’s hero world. In chapter four of "Heroes and Hard Times" King writes about how it is difficult for cops to have a normal family life, however Murtaugh tries to make this happen, and without a Rigg’s he might be successful.
Martin Riggs is the perfect example of the white mans guilt discussed in Kings book. Rigg’s feels guilt over his wife's death and becomes an alcoholic, chainsmoker with a death wish. The stability of Murtaughs family brings out the contrast of the lost life of Rigg’s and helps emphasize Rigg’s craziness. Murtaughs job is to supply the movie's center of gravity for Riggs; he's a family man, concerned about those gray hairs he sees in the mirror, not interested in taking unnecessary chances while Gibsons character is the perfect counterpoint, with his wild hair/clothing and his emotional misery.
As an aside, I find it interesting that both texts are published by Temple Press in Philadelphia. As a Philadelphian, I am acutely aware of the black verses white politics of the city, the day to day coverage of crimes in the city and the responses of the press to the white policeman and the black policeman as it relates to the crime- white or black. The press like the movies writer/director tell the story of the times with and without their own personal bias. The difference is that we use the movies for entertainment and an escape from the harsh realities of what COPS face daily. Perhaps knowing the movie is not real, helps mask what we would rather not believe.


Blogger Vladigogo said...

Your final comment is quite apt and one to consider. You are right. The films provide us with a fictional reality that is so much more appealing than the true reality we have and in this case the issue of race is not a frightening aspect. The black characters are there for our own good and helping us, plus they have a great sense of humor.

9:28 PM  

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