Greatest Movie Series
Franchises of All Time
The "Lethal Weapon" Films

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

Lethal Weapon Films
Lethal Weapon (1987) | Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) | Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) | Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

The "Lethal Weapon" Films - Part 3
Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)
d. Richard Donner, 118 minutes, 121 minutes (director's cut)

Film Plot Summary

The two heroes of the film series, LAPD Sergeants Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) were responding to the report of a bomb. (Murtaugh was 8 days away from retirement, in a countdown throughout the film, and fearing his retirement would be placed in jeopardy with his risk-taking partner.) A bomb device had been seen in a parked car on Parking Level 1 (in the basement) of the evacuated International Control Systems Inc. (ICSI) building. Without waiting for the bomb squad to arrive, Riggs convinced a reluctant Murtaugh to check it out with him and try to deactivate the bomb. After the two looked at it ("There's more plastic than Cher") and bickered about cutting either the red or blue wire, Riggs finally cut the red wire. His tampering accelerated the timer, forcing them to flee for their lives (with a stray cat) before the building exploded and collapsed.

The next day, the two partners were demoted to uniformed, beat-cop patrol officers, still arguing with each other over which wire was cut. Murtaugh was embarrassed that he had to wear a girdle, since his uniform had shrunk over the years. After Riggs confronted and hassled a jaywalker (Andrew Hill Newman), they noticed that two armored trucks were pulled up at the same business with the proprietor asking the first armed officer ("You're not the regular guy"). When the impersonator pulled his gun and shot one of the real officers from the second vehicle, Riggs jumped onto the back of the first truck, while Murtaugh ("I'm getting too old for this") followed in the second truck, driven by flirtatious, talkative, big-busted "Road Warrior" Delores (Delores Hall), one of the armored guards. After a lengthy chase and pursuit on crowded city streets, Riggs heaved one of the men out onto the street from the moving vehicle, and then fought his way to taking control of the wheel. When he suddenly braked, the second impersonator, suspect Billy Phelps (Mark Pellegrino), crashed through the windshield, was rendered unconscious - and arrested.

Now with only six days until Murtaugh's retirement, Riggs was doing his laundry at his partner's house, when the Murtaugh's real estate broker (representing Getz Realty), Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), drove up in his red convertible. [Getz was the protective witness from Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)]. Now a peroxide-blonde, the hyperkinetic hustler was showing the Murtaugh home to a young couple, although creating subterfuge by highlighting all the previous damage done to it (in the previous film) ("it's called full disclosure"), including the completely-replaced picture window after a drug dealer crashed his car through it and shot up the place, and the completely-remodeled upstairs bathroom after "unexpected bomb damage." The buyers were quickly scared off. Getz promised to arrange for back-dated building permits for the unapproved building of the hobby room above the garage. Riggs was given Purina dog biscuits to chew on, to prevent him from continuing his lethal smoking habit. As Riggs and Murtaugh left, they saw Murtaugh's teenaged son Nick (Damon Hines) speaking to a black friend named Darryl (Bobby Wynn), a drop-out who was associated with other gang-members.

The next scene was set at Rancho Arroyo, a Mesa Verde Construction housing development in the desert near Los Angeles, run by foreman Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson). Travis spoke to African-American associate Tyrone (Gregory Millar) about his "gold-mine" project away from the inner city. He then questioned one of his workers, Smitty (John Cenatiempo), about pulling off the failed armored truck job - claiming that it jeopardized the business when Smitty's partner Billy Phelps was apprehended. As Tyrone stood by, Smitty was knocked unconscious, thrown into wet cement being poured for a foundation, and drowned. Travis coldly said: "Now we got a relationship we can build on."

While on their way to work, Riggs and Murtaugh first stopped and parked on the street, anxious to see short-haired daughter Rianne's (Traci Wolfe) first day on a job. From a distance, Riggs saw Rianne being held at gunpoint and raced through a used car lot to jump on her attacker. He then learned that she was being filmed by a movie crew, that the gun was made of rubber, and that he had just ruined the scene. After roughing up the aggravated director (Stephen Kay), Riggs was able to convince him to re-hire Rianne (with a raise) after she had been fired.

As they suited up in their uniforms in the police locker room, Murtaugh's firearm accidentally discharged as he placed it in his holster - and Riggs took the blame for it. At the police firing range, Riggs and Murtaugh met a sharp-shooting 22 year-old rookie recruit named Edwards (Jason Rainwater). Riggs warned the other officers about a new bullet: a smooth-jacketed, .357 Magnum bullet with a pointed tip - that was able to pierce a bullet proof vest: "Armor-piercing bullets...cop-killers." The illegal bullet came from the gun of the arrested suspect - armored truck impersonator Billy Phelps, and he cautioned: "They're out there on the streets." Riggs requested that Phelps be brought down to Interrogation for questioning. At the same time, Jack Travis entered the LAPD building, presented his ID, and asked to speak to Billy Phelps.

Riggs and Murtaugh shared an elevator with tough-minded Internal Affairs ("Infernal Repairs") Sgt. Lorna Cole (Rene Russo), and were concerned to learn that she had taken over the Phelps case. Together, they discussed the reassigned case with Captain Ed Murphy (Steve Kahan), where they were accused by Herman Walters (Alan Scarfe), the Chief of Intelligence, of producing only "mayhem and chaos" (Riggs joked: "We're a double act"). However, the two were reinstated by Murphy as Detective Sargeants, and allowed to work with Cole. Meanwhile, Jack Travis entered the interrogation room and shot Phelps dead (with a silencer). As he left, he quipped: "It's a dead issue, I'm afraid." Shortly later, Riggs, Murtaugh, and Cole found him dead in the room - and Riggs wondered about Cole: "I don't think she's telling us everything." A hidden camera, recently installed six months earlier in the interrogation rooms (according to Cole), recorded the killing. Captain Murphy immediately recognized that the assassin was Lieut. Jack Edward Travis, formerly a "brutal cop" and "dirty cop" (who went AWOL), with a record of many suspensions, reprimands, and charges of misconduct. Cole announced that Riggs and Murtaugh were abruptly taken off the case the moment that Phelps "hit the floor."

Leo Getz appeared in the police office, warning Murtaugh that his house was termite-infested. Getz glanced at the surveillance video and said: "I know this guy" - he recognized Travis, then asked to be a self-appointed partner: "Do you think I could get a gun this time?" He led them to a Los Angeles Kings professional hockey game in progress, to apprehend Travis. Getz had once done a favor for Travis - acquiring prime box seats for him at ice hockey games. Riggs announced on the PA system that Travis was being sought by the LAPD. Both Getz and Riggs spotted Travis fleeing from the stands - and Getz tackled him when he ran onto the ice, but Travis escaped after shooting him. Getz had a gunshot "flesh wound" in his arm and was hospitalized, with both Riggs and Murtaugh recommending an unnecessary two-night stay to the medical personnel (and adding a proctology test - rectal exam - to his medical chart), to keep him out of their hair.

Now there were only five days until Murtaugh's retirement. During a lunch break at Fast Eddie's burger joint (to celebrate their reinstatement), while Murtaugh was cooking up "monster" burgers for them, Riggs noticed a nearby gang-member drug deal taking place across the street and in a back roadway. When he interrupted the gang to arrest them, he was knocked on the head from behind by a two-by-four wood plank, and came under fire from an automatic weapon. Murtaugh came to his rescue and returned fire, as most of the gang-members fled. Murtaugh killed the one remaining gang member through the door of an aluminum-steel sided shed - discovering to his shock after removing the sunglasses from the dead person's face, that he had shot Darryl, his son Nick's 15 year-old friend ("I know that kid"). Murtaugh was distraught, depressed, and upset, and was unable to return home to his family that evening. [For a few days, he hid out on his fishing boat at the marina's dock.] Riggs excused Murtaugh's absence and told Captain Murphy and psychologist Dr. Stephanie Woods (Mary Ellen Trainor) that he was fine.

Sgt. Cole insisted on speaking with Riggs - so he led her into the men's room (his "ore-ffice") for privacy, where she reprimanded him for purposely withholding information (his tip about Travis from Getz) from her investigation -- something that Internal Affairs required. He told her that he would help her and work with her, if she let him, and if she was more forthcoming ("We're cops. You're a cop. I'm a cop. We're both on the same side, right?...Why don't we start to act like it?"). They agreed to cooperate with each other and join forces. In Cole's office, she divulged what she already knew -- Darryl's illegal gun was a MAC-10, 9 mm converted automatic that had been used in previous hold-ups and crimes. It had been impounded and was scheduled for destruction by the LAPD six weeks earlier ("but it never got there"): "That gun and 15,000 others like it were stolen from a police storage facility before they could be destroyed." The impounded automatic guns were recirculated right back onto the street where they were sold to gang-members. Riggs' bust of Billy Phelps "stumbed onto something the department's been trying to keep a lid on." Internal Affairs was assigned to the case because they believed it was an "inside job." The criminals knew police procedures, where the confiscated automatic weapons were stored by the police department, how to get into the stockpiled warehouses, and the sorting codes on the sides of the containers. It all pointed to a cop, or ex-cop -- Travis, who was making illegal profits, and laundering the money through his desert housing project/development.

Together, they drove to the address of a warehouse that Billy Phelps had called a dozen times. Upon breaking into the office, they encountered a growling Rottweiler guard dog, but Riggs charmed the animal by using his dog biscuits to placate the dog(which he had on-hand to try and stop smoking): "I think I should try to make friends with him." In the back of the building, they witnessed an in-progress loading of 55 boxes of stolen weapons onto a truck. When Riggs was overtaken by the thugs, Cole defended him with hand-to-hand, kicking and martial arts skills. They both escaped by driving away in the truck (with the dog) filled with the crates of weapons and ammunition. Tyrone, the buyer of the shipment, phoned Travis with outrage over his aborted gun delivery and increasing cop involvement, although he was convinced to remain in the deal: "You try and back out of the deal now, I'll make certain that only your dentist can identify the body." Travis promised him more "good stuff" - necessitating another visit by Travis to the LAPD.

At Cole's place, both Riggs and Cole tended to his wounds and bruises, and began comparing old scars and bullet wounds on their bodies (similar to the scene in Jaws (1975)), as Riggs semi-stripped to his underwear to show a leg stabbing wound (from Lethal Weapon 2). When she conceded the contest, however, Riggs insisted that he had won. After they kissed lying next to each other on the floor, Riggs thought of stopping their romancing - citing a "serious ethical breach...I never made it with another sergeant before," but she told him to "Shut up" - and they eventually made love (off-screen).

Later that night, Riggs found a drunken Murtaugh (with only three days until his retirement) on his fishing boat docked at the marina (his worried daughter Rianne had visited Riggs at his trailer and requested that he locate her father). Riggs begged him to stop drinking: "Don't do this to yourself." He talked sense to Murtaugh: "That kid was a killer, all right? That wasn't a tinker toy in his hand...He would have drilled you, me, anybody that came along, all right? You had no choice." Riggs accused his pal of being a "selfish bastard" -- "What about me? Huh? We're partners, we are partners. What happens to you happens to me...When you retire, you're not just retiring you. You're retiring us!...You're the only family I've got...What am I gonna do?" Murtaugh finally apologized, realizing that the end of their partnership would 'screw up' Riggs' life too: "You know I love you, Riggs. And your problems are my problems...You help me and I'm gonna help you." Then Riggs admitted his most recent problem -- "I think maybe I slept with someone that I probably shouldn't have" -- although Murtaugh misinterpreted and thought he was referring to Rianne, it became clear he was speaking about Sgt. Cole.

The two attended Darryl's funeral, where Murtaugh (expressing his condolences) was slapped in the face by the grieving mother Mrs. Smithers (Sylvia Webb White), but the father (Danny 'Big Black' Rey) admonished with his demand: "You find the man that put the gun in my son's hand." Murtaugh went on a confrontational rampage against one of Darryl's gang leaders, accusing him of black genocide: "You fools are killing yourselves, you're killing us!" He learned the source of Darryl's gun, and then went after Tyrone - who led them to the next one in the path, one of Travis' associates -- recent parolee Hubert "Hubie" Bartholomew Smith (Pete Antico). As they restrained Hubie, five other henchmen arrived in the garage, where Riggs wanted Murtaugh to witness Cole's hand-to-hand fighting skills: "She has a gift...Backspin kick...Grabbed his clusters...My girl" and they stood and watched as she fought off their attack. She ended the fight with the quip: "This PMS is murder." Shortly later, Cole determined that all of the guys in the garage were ex-cons - all busted by the same police officer -- Travis, and all were given early paroles on the work furlough program (in a company called Mesa Verde Construction).

Getz was released from the hospital for the gunshot wound, and he ranted to his 'partners' about his awful experience, of almost having his appendix removed and a rectal exam: "They f--k you in the hospital! First, they drug you. Then they f--k you! And when they're done f--king you, along comes the insurance company and f--ks you some more! Ten dollars for a f--king aspirin that's not even covered." To shut him up, Murtaugh sent Leo on a task - to check out Mesa Verde Construction.

As he left his LAPD office, Captain Murphy was taken hostage by Travis - and driven to the LAPD storage warehouse for another raid and large theft of illegal weapons and ammunition (including thousands of rounds of armor-piercing bullets). With his authority, Murphy would smoothly help get them in and out of the facility, where computers had given them information on the location of the "good stuff." Travis told Murphy why he had traded in his badge: "Punch a clock for 30 years. Retirement. Pension. Nothing to do. Drunk at noon. Bullet in the brain by evening. Well, not for this kid! Police Department's got it all. Guns, ammo, drugs, cash. It's a one-stop shopping center, if you got the balls and the brains, there's not a f--king thing anybody can do about it!" Cole realized that someone outside of Internal Affairs had obtained unauthorized access to the computer files for the warehouse, and led them to the basement's more-secure area, where they discovered that it had already been raided. Following the bad guys' trail, they entered the under-construction LA subway system where they found Travis and his thugs loading up the guns and ammo into a truck. During an intense gunfight, Murphy was rescued after he kicked one of his captors onto an electrified third rail. Before escaping, Travis (using armor-piercing bullets) shot and killed young rookie cop Edwards who had tailed along ("Another baby," mourned Murtaugh), and had thought it was safe to take cover behind a steel barrel.

A high-speed chase ensued after Travis and the loaded truck (equipped with both rail-wheels and tires), first through the subway tunnel (Riggs hitched a ride on the front of a subway car), and then onto LA streets and the freeway - with Riggs in pursuit on a borrowed LAPD motorcycle, and Murtaugh following in Murphy's vehicle. At one point, the exhilarating chase near LAX airport was against one-way traffic (similar to a scene in To Live and Die in LA (1985)), and into a freeway construction zone. Riggs survived a crash by hanging onto ropes dangling off an unfinished section of road, and although he fell to the ground and busted through several layers of wooden platforms, he survived (with only a dislocated shoulder). Riggs was incensed: "Twice he got away. Nobody gets away from me." Getz drove up to the chase scene, after following them with a police scanner, and told them that Mesa Verde was legitimate - it was a housing project called Rancho Arroyo in the desert. Both Riggs and Murtaugh shot out Leo's car tires to prevent him from joining them. The two drove to the housing development in Captain Murphy's car, where they both vowed to "foreclose" on Travis' retirement plan, as Murtaugh brandished Darryl's gun "for the right occasion." There, they met up with Cole, and Riggs devised a "surprise" plan - to siphon gasoline from the loaded ammunition truck (exclaiming "Phewy, Exxon" when he was priming it), spill the fuel throughout all the wooden framed lots, and then set everything ablaze with a fiery explosion.

Meanwhile, a gunfight between the two sides erupted, and Travis sadistically shot and wounded Cole with more of his armor-piercing bullets ("Come on in, bitch, door's open"). Riggs feared she was dead, and then was grabbed from behind by Travis and knocked down. Murtaugh loaded Darryl's gun with armor-piercing bullets ("cop killers") he found in one of the crates, as Travis and an enraged Riggs struggled in the midst of the burning buildings. Travis prepared to run over the downed Riggs with a small backhoe loader/bulldozer - as Riggs' bullets were ineffective against the approaching machine, until Murtaugh tossed Darryl's loaded gun to Riggs and Travis was killed through the backhoe's front scoop. Travis' last words were: "Go to hell, Riggs," with the reply: "You first." Riggs released the brake to send the loader into more of the supportive burning wood frames, causing the entire structure to collapse. He then rushed to seriously-injured Lorna's side and thankfully realized she would survive, because she had worn two bullet-proof vests. As a medivac chopper was summoned and she was prepared for air-lift transport to a hospital, he told her about his love for her and his desire to be with her: "You're supposed to grow old with someone, not because of 'em, all right? I'm gonna be with you, Lorna." When he asked what she had to lose, she said she could lose him. He replied with a kiss: "Not likely....Let's live to regret this, huh?...I love you."

On Murtaugh's final day of work before his expected retirement, he was surrounded in his bathtub (as in the opening of the first film of the series) by his family and a retirement cake with candles. However, he announced that he had changed his mind about retirement: "That means I'm staying with the force" - and his family was surprisingly supportive that he would work a few more years. The only one disappointed was Leo Getz, who claimed he had finally sold the house ("this termite-infested dump"), although Murtaugh claimed they weren't moving for another ten years until his "forced retirement." In front of his house, Murtaugh happened to glimpse Rianne giving Riggs a kiss before she drove off. Riggs claimed that he didn't attend his partner's retirement party, because he knew what the outcome would be. Riggs had resumed smoking "to take my mind off my dog-biscuit problem...Well, I been chasing more cars lately and uh, you know, when I try and lick my balls, I keep falling off the couch." Riggs assured his partner that it was only a platonic kiss with Rianne, and that he was in a relationship: "I'm spoken for. I'm gonna pick Lorna up from the hospital this afternoon...We're practically, uh...well, we got a dog and everything."

During the end credits, another bomb threat was reported and Riggs and Murtaugh arrived on the scene before the bomb squad. They reprised their discussion from the film's opening about whether to get involved or not. After Riggs asked: "Was it red wire or blue..." the building exploded. Murtaugh quickly backed up to flee the scene, as Riggs said: "I hope nobody saw us." Murtaugh exclaimed: "They're gonna blame me....Ten more years of this, ten more years" - and they both repeated in unison: "I'm too old for this s--t."

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

With no Academy Awards Oscar nominations.

With a production budget of $35 million, and box-office gross receipts of $145 million (domestic) and $322 million (worldwide).

The third installment in the series wasn't critically well-received, given its excessive LA street violence at a time when the LA riots were occurring. In this formulaic film, the villain was less compelling and well-defined, although Riggs met his female love match with martial-arts kicking Lorna Cole (who was also a Three Stooges lover). But the character of Leo Getz was a superfluous add-on.

Sgt. Martin Riggs
(Mel Gibson)

Sgt. Roger Murtaugh
(Danny Glover)

Jack Edward Travis
(Stuart Wilson)

Internal Affairs
Sgt. Lorna Cole
(Rene Russo)

(Gregory Millar)

Capt. Ed Murphy
(Steve Kahan)

Leo Getz
(Joe Pesci)

Nick Murtaugh
(Damon Hines)

Rianne Murtaugh
(Traci Wolfe)

Dr. Stephanie Woods
(Mary Ellen Trainor)

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