Saturday, January 05, 2008

Lethal Weapon vs. Heroes in Hard Times

The first character we meet in Lethal Weapon is Danny Glover’s Detective Sergeant Roger Murtaugh, who appears to be a rather affluent, happily married with children in a large home, dealing with life in a positive manner and celebrating his birthday. Queue Mel Gibson’s character, Detective Sergeant Martin Riggs, a depressed alcoholic living in a trailer mourning the death of his wife. These characters had been talked about almost excessively in Neal King’s book, Heroes in Hard Times, so much in fact that before I even watched the movie, I had a pretty good feel for both of them. However, through out the entire movie, I had trouble deciding who was the hero and who was the sidekick in King’s book. One reason being the fact that both Glover and Gibson’s characters seemed to share the spotlight through out the movie. We get to know both of them in a very intimate fashion, see them working together and both stepping into the line of fire. However, Gibson’s character does act the hero part according to King’s description of how a hero acts in a cop movie; depressed often to the point of suicide, loved one dead or gone, no money and dealing with the stresses of the world in a rather extreme manner. Glover’s character could be considered the sidekick according to King because instead of killing people, he instead shoots them in the knee, and the ability to have a happy home life instead of something destructive. While I understand the reasons for King qualifying Gibson’s character as the hero and Glover’s as the sidekick, but I disagree based on the simple fact that it is established in the scene right before when Glover yells “Gun!” and then attempts to tackle Gibson that Glover is a higher ranking officer. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of King’s categorizing the differences between the hero and the side kick in Lethal Weapon.


Blogger Brad T said...

I agree with your point about questioning who the hero is. I think King found a pattern among the cop movies he studied in which the heroes shared the same suicidal traits that Riggs displays. However, Lethal Weapon might be unique in the amount of attention it gives to Murtaugh, and in the fact that it does not clearly define Riggs as a main character. In other words, Riggs is cut out to be King's definition of the hero, but the filmmakers did not necessarily (sp?) intend for him to be the main character. Maybe.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Vladigogo said...

Does rank play a role in the hero/sidekick designations? I really don't know the answer and wonder how much films play along the hierarchical power lines as a means of defining who our hero is.

7:06 PM  

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