“I’ll be home for tea later mum.”
The following contains heavy spoilers for all Lethal Weapon films – even the ones that haven’t been made yet.
I’ve been thinking a lot about villains recently. It’s hardly surprising, really. If it’s not megalomaniacal Australian billionaires and their goldfish brained kids, it’s Norwegian dickheads in neoprene. You can’t even bury your head in fiction and hope to escape the tide of evil. Well you probably could, but not if the beach was made up of the Lethal Weapon films.
The Lethal Weapon films do villains brilliantly. So much so, in fact, that when experienced as a back-to-back 8-hour odyssey, amongst seeing Danny Glover’s character age from 55 to 126 like one of those BBC stop-motion nature documentaries, and Gibson becoming less and less mental as his mullet retracts into his bug-eyed bonce* you realise that the films are a microcosm of cinematic evil-doing, containing every hallmark of villainy, both real and fictitious.
To make myself feel better about watching loads of Lethal Weapon films – and despite the fact I also gleaned some valuable secondary information (such as the average of retirement from the LAPD is ‘Never’) – I’ve decided to share my information in this important thesis. Now before I go too far I should also explain that examples of villainy from part 3 are, like the film itself, only there to make the numbers up, and/or point out how to do villainy wrong. Indeed, ‘Jack Travis’ as a villain is absolute arse-candle.
Anyway, for someone who probably can’t get to sleep’s pleasure, here are the key components of villainy, as evidenced by the Lethal Weapon saga…
This one’s something of a no-brainer. Of course they’re greedy: every single one of them. However, since we’re dealing with the Lethal Weapon saga and not Tarkovsky’s The Mirror, it’s entirely possible that some fans are currently enjoying a Road to Damascus moment. Enjoy it boys, it’s going to continue for a few miles yet.
Snarky digressions aside, if the ruthless pursuit of money suggests low moral fibre then what does the existence of Lethal Weapon 3 suggest? It didn’t offer anything that we hadn’t seen before (save for a crap villain – looking at you Jack Travis). It’s entirely possible that Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are genuinely evil, or kind of stupid. I think I’ve just blown my own mind. Read the next bit and I’ll catch up with you later…
No one is more widely familiar to US audiences as a ‘wrong-un’ than someone who can’t even speak the President’s American. This is most keenly displayed in ‘Weapon 2′ where all the knob-heads speak Afrikaans, including, memorably, Joss Ackland who finally fulfils his career-long ambition for the world’s most ridiculous pronunciation of ‘immunity’.
An early scene features our heroes – and most of the LAPD – listening to the villains converse over the radio with complete bafflement. What language is that…alien? No, my friends, that language is evil.
Strange accents take a break until part 4 where they come back with both guns blazing. Weapon 4 deals with Chinese triads and faintly ridiculous accents. Early on a Chinese family turn-up but before they can be shot/impaled with surfboards they reveal themselves to be sympathetic victims of the real-villain: a walking oriental caracature called Uncle Benny.
With his long eyebrows, buckteeth and hilarious inability to pronounce his ‘Rs’, Uncle Benny is possibly the least well-drawn portrayal of an oriental since John Wayne played Genghis Khan. And like most funny speaking characters in the Weapon series – and pretty much everyone else – he gets a well-deserved presentation ceremony for his own arse.
Oriental realism, Lethal Weapon style.
Odd fashion choices
Not a raison-d’être as such, more of a troubling indicator of villainy. It seems evil people are too preoccupied with wrongdoing to think about their accoutrements, or their distorted view runs to their choice of apparel. Either way, the most evil people normally look pretty fucking stupid.
Perhaps the best example of this is in Weapon 2. By walking round with what appears to be greased evil on the top of his melon, Pieter Vorstedt clearly exudes villainy. However, by revealing that he killed Mel Gibson’s wife – and therefore is the source of his mental anguish, not to mention his ‘Weapon-ness’ – he is quite possibly the most evil character in the series.
Note: If you followed this hallmark to a tee you may be confused when watching the Lethal Weapon series in the present day – especially when you see Mel Gibson’s sunglasses and hair. May I remind you that he is not evil – at least in the films.
This complements an already apparent streak of evil, like a rotten cherry on top of a mouldy cake. Gary Busey’s Mr Joshua is clearly insane, but what makes him much more memorable – aside from being Gary Busey and therefore one of the most incredible lunatics to breathe air – is the fact that he appears to enjoy receiving pain.
Similarly Joss ‘e-muhn-a-tee’ Ackland’s greasy diplomat’s evil accoutrement is a ‘rape-glare’ that he points at Patsy Kensit, suggesting a fairly extreme set of horizontal interests. He also seems to walk around with his passport in his hand and, of course, there’s the aforementioned verbal inflection.
For perspective, Weapon 3’s villain Jack Travis enjoys attending ice hockey games…and probably playing on his computer and reading. Man, fuck Jack Travis.
Evil is a combination of many things. Someone who’s is purely motivated by financial gain isn’t necessarily evil, just a bit of a dick. Likewise, someone who dresses like a bit of knob may not be a poorly-styled embodiment of evil. But when you combine each aspect, and round it off with ‘a thing’, you’re left with someone who probably deserves to get beaten half to death on a retiring policeman’s lawn.
* If there are any scientists out there who have explored the relationship between mullets and mental illness I would be most grateful for a copy of your findings.
“Wads wid dis fackin tie bizness?”
The original Predator is the very definition of a guilty pleasure. Unlike most 80s action cinema it falls somewhere between genre transcending classic and Internet meme, depending on who you’re talking to, how well you know them and how much you’ve had to drink.
If Predator’s legacy could be defined by anything it’s as the go-to film for anytime you’re suitably inebriated, staring at a big black rectangle in the company of your fellow man and simply feel like dusting off that Y chromosome. Or alternatively, when you simply can’t be bothered to watch your Tarkovsky boxset for the 100th time.
So the upcoming release of Predators is kind of a big deal; it’s like Twilight for people who can grow facial hair, Sex and the City for those that don’t try to hide their facial hair, or Episode 1 for those whose tears have long since been absorbed by facial hair.
Basically, if facial hair worked on a pH indicator scale then the release of Predators would be a piece of litmus paper and the end result would be yellow, or blue, or whatever a chemist might deem the most exciting colour.
But with excitement comes apprehension. And understandably so, what they’ve done to the Predator in the remaining years makes what happened to ‘Chim’ Hopper’s men in the jungles of Central America look remarkably civilised.
First up they pitched him against Danny Glover, who was by then already well known for trying to ruin action films by being old. Then they added Gary Busey to the mix, an actor who’s so far through the looking glass, he makes the story of a giant sociopathic alien hunting a gang of Aswad gone Asbad Jamaican psychos in a war torn Los Angeles of the future seem like one of Alan Bennett’s scripts for Talking Heads that didn’t make the grade because it was too realistic. And if that wasn’t humiliating enough, they featured a scene where the Predator was ‘hilariously’ twatted by an old woman with a broom.
Is it any wonder they gave up acting for over a decade?
Then came the Aliens Vs Predator films, whose most notable achievement was making people who declared AvP 1 as: “the worst piece of fucking shit I’ve ever seen” revise their statements by the time of the almost biblically shit part 2 starting stinking up cinemas. Incidentally, it was also around this time that people began to look forward to the Mayan prophecies of 2012 (if not Roland Emmerich’s film – lulz) and Al Gore switched off Powerpoint and began to look at videos of amusing cats on Youtube.
But now we have Predators, the announcement of which was met by almost universal derision from its target audience. I mean, Predator was an embarrassingly simple premise executed to perfection (minus Carl Weather’s comedy magic arm), so to follow up with 1 disappointment and 2 outright abortions is proof that if Satan is real, he’s no longer encouraging misguided people to smoke loaded shotguns, he’s out there convincing them to give Paul WS Anderson work (that’s also assuming PWS Anderson isn’t actually Satan himself, which wouldn’t exactly be reaching).
By that rationale the fact that Predators looks pretty damn good could well be proof that not only does God exist, but he (‘she’, ‘it’ or whatever you might call a nebulous gas) is marking his (or hers, its or whatever a gas does) appearance with winning lottery tickets, a fourth series of Deadwood and a mass-smiting of the Radio 1 building and anyone who’s appeared on All Star Family Fortunes (the Vernon Kaye version – Les Dennis has suffered enough).
Of course I’m going by a trailer so accusations of hyperbole wouldn’t be completely unfounded. But in this day and age, when a sequel to ‘Went the Day Well?’ would probably be called ‘Yes’, you’ve got to have hope. And even if it is crap, at least we’ll always have Predator.
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