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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

dream cast: hypothetical ‘Lethal Weapon’ remake

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to remake an 80s classic TV show or movie with an all-new cast. This week: Lethal Weapon, the 1987 flick that — along with Die Hard the next year — kicked off a new ethos in action movies of more humor, more violence, and more FX.

(If you have a suggestion for an 80s TV show or movie we should play with, feel free to email me.)
The original cast featured Mel Gibson as LAPD sergeant Martin Riggs, griefstricken over his wife’s death and more than a little crazy with it (though he was probably always something of a loose cannon) and Danny Glover as Sergeant Roger Murtaugh, solid family man, looking forward to retirement, and not at all interested in getting killed on one of this last days on the job.

A remake could go in lots of different ways… in fact, it would probably have to. What made Lethal Weapon so unique 20 years ago is what every action movie has been copying since then, so a straight-up remake would be pointless: it would look like every other action movie we see these days. So we could do a retro throwback — the 80s are long enough ago now that they’re starting to look a little funny — and do it as a more overt comedy. How about this: We do a behind-the-scenes making-of metacomedy, sort of like Tropic Thunder meets, well, Lethal Weapon:

Sergeant Martin Riggs: Ewan McGregor as “Ewan McGregor” as “Martin Riggs”
Sergeant Roger Murtaugh: Samuel L. Jackson as “Samuel L. Jackson” as “Roger Murtaugh”

And so part of the joke becomes that the actors are the complete opposite of the characters they’re playing.

Or else we set our new Lethal Weapon today, and let it be funny and violent and over the top, but we switch the genders — it’s a female cop who’s nuts, and a female cop about to retire:

Sergeant Martina Riggs: Angelina Jolie
Sergeant Raya Murtaugh: Alfre Woodard

How would you remake Lethal Weapon?

Meet Martin Riggs again for the first time:

Who knew there was a whole opening scene that got cut from the movie?


MPAA: rated R


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  • JoshDM

    Riggs: Sean William Scott (Stiffler from American Pie)
    Murtaugh: Cuba Gooding Jr.

  • PaulW

    I wouldn’t do a satiric “movie-within-a-movie” remake, it’s been tried for like Bewitched and doesn’t really work well. Action movies, for all the camp and inanity that goes into making them, have to be taken straight.

    The story would most likely be updated: Riggs a recent vet of the Afghan war of 2001-02, and Murtaugh a vet of the first Gulf war (1991).

    You’re right about the gender role reversal working, although just for Riggs, make Murtaugh an honest male cop but still unnerved with working with a woman who’s more violent and unstable than most guys he’s teamed with.
    Riggs: Ali Larter
    Murtaugh: Avery Brooks
    the harried Captain who yells at them all the time: Jackie Chan
    Murtaugh’s bi-curious daughter: Megan Fox

  • AlanM

    Riggs: Paul Giamatti
    Murtaugh: Chris Tucker

    Hmm, actually Giamatti might be too much of a fire-cracker for that role. How about Dustin Hoffman? Nick Cage?

    Wait, I have this all wrong. If we were remaking it today it would be animated:

    Riggs: Buzz Lightyear (Jesse’s gone, but he’ll never forget her)
    Murtaugh: Wall-E (his job is to rid the streets of garbage – the two-legged kind)
    The Captain: Mike Wazowski
    Mr. Joshua (aka Gary Busey): Syndrome
    The woman who commits suicide at the beginning: Violet Parr

    Why are you all looking at me like that?

  • Hdj

    Hey AlanM the problem with Chris Tucker playing black cop partner is , hes done that with rush hour

    Heres my line up

    Riggs: Dane Cook
    Murtaugh: Andre Benjamin

  • MaryAnn

    I wouldn’t do a satiric “movie-within-a-movie” remake, it’s been tried for like Bewitched and doesn’t really work well.

    No, *Bewitched* didn’t work well. If we threw out a concept or a genre merely because it had been done poorly in the past, no movies would ever get made.

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