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

Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

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

The "Lethal Weapon" Films - Part 4
Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
d. Richard Donner, 127 minutes

Film Plot Summary

The fourth installment in the franchise began with the two LAPD Sargeants: Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) summoned to a city street scene on a rainy night where an unidentified man ("Who's this joker?") - a "human tank" wearing silver-colored flame retardant clothing and a helmet, was using a flamethrower (with a napalm tank on his back) and an assault rifle to destroy a trophy shop. Riggs quipped: "A spokesman for the NRA?" The man also set fire to palm trees and cars lining the street. Typically, the two cops bickered with each other about whether to get involved, or who should take cover. As they cowered beneath their bullet-pock-marked police car, Murtaugh revealed to his partner that his girlfriend - Internal Affairs Sgt. Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) was pregnant: "I wasn't supposed to tell you this, but Lorna's pregnant. You're gonna be a father...She was afraid to tell you." As other police cars and a helicopter arrived for support, and a few more cars were set on fire, Riggs also informed Murtaugh of a secret about his own daughter Rianne (Traci Wolfe): "Rianne's pregnant. You're gonna be a grandfather." He was stunned about his unmarried daughter's pregnancy. Riggs' strategy in their situation had Murtaugh flee in his red undies ("cute shorts"), and flap his arms to distract the man, as he shot the valve off the napalm tank. As he had hoped, the propulsion from the broken valve on the tank sent the flaming man crashing into an exploding Union 76 gasoline truck, that blew into the air and landed on their police car.

The title card for the next scene stated: "ALMOST NINE MONTHS LATER." Murtaugh, Riggs, and private investigator "gumshoe" Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) were on Murtaugh's fishing boat named Code 7 in the LA harbor. Riggs was not married to Lorna, but they were living together and about to have a baby - he responded to Murtaugh: "Rianne's not married either, you know." He was still recalling his long-time marriage and commitment to his deceased wife, who was tragically killed in a car accident ("She's dead 'cause I'm a cop") - he admitted: "I'm not finished with that yet." Even though the baby was due in a few days, he disclosed that he and Lorna hadn't discussed marriage. Suddenly, their vessel nearly collided with a larger Chinese freighter (the Jin Long Hsiang), and they alerted the Coast Guard. As they followed in pursuit, their boat became a target of the freighter and Riggs returned gunfire that set flammable barrels ablaze at the rear of the freighter. The three stopped a few crew members who were attempting to escape in a lifeboat. Riggs boarded the vessel as it ran aground and killed the remaining crew members. Meanwhile, the fishing boat was hit by one of the flaming barrels and sank. Adrift in the water, Leo and Murtaugh, who were threatened by a shark (the one that they had caught earlier), managed to swim to the lifeboat. In the hold of the freighter, Riggs discovered that it was carrying human cargo - Chinese to be sold as cheap slave labor. [The illegal immigrants had been locked in the hold for 6 weeks with only one toilet and very little food - and each had paid "35 grand" for the voyage - to be worked off "from the snakeheads, the smugglers."]

A smuggling ring was operating to bring Chinese immigrants into the country - provided with illegal visas through the services of corrupt State Department official Mr. Proody (Jack Kehler). His contact was crime lord "Uncle" Benny Chan (Kim Chan) (known for saying "Bloody marvelous") - and problems arose when their latest cargo freighter had been impounded by the Coast Guard ("a small delivery problem"). After Proody drove away, and was greedily counting his stack of bills at a railroad crossing, a car behind him pushed his vehicle onto the tracks and he was killed by an oncoming train.

During the investigation, an unsympathetic Coast Guard official complained about the costly and illegal smuggling of slave labor: "Cost you and me a goddamn fortune." One of the illegals, executed by a crew member during the trip, was carried away on a stretcher: "They pop one every boatload. Shows the rest what'll happen if they run off or don't pay." At the lA harbor, Riggs and Murtaugh met up with young, "serious," and "overzealous" detective Lee Butters (Chris Rock) who worked in their same office - he noticed the dead man: "I just hate to see bad things happen to good folk." As he was leaving, Murtaugh found a group of nine Chinese immigrants hidden under a tarp in the lifeboat.

Riggs returned home (an oceanside trailer with a wooden porch and expanded addition) to a very-pregnant Lorna and their two dogs (Sam the collie, and the rottweiler), and explained why he was late - Roger's boat sank and there were: "Gunfights, explosions, sharks. The usual." She asked: "Does trouble just go looking for you?" He brought up the long-avoided topic of marriage, and she was surprised: "Do you want to get married?" They both agreed they didn't [although later, she expressed that she did, but didn't want to exert pressure on him ("I'll take you any way I can get you")]. Riggs persuaded Lorna to divulge that Murtaugh's daughter Rianne was secretly married to another cop (Roger had expressly forbidden Rianne to date cops) who was the father of her baby, but "she's too afraid to tell Roger." Riggs asked: "Who's the lucky soon-to-be-dead son-in-law?" - she told him it was Sgt. Lee Butters. Riggs immediately understood Butters' kiss-ass behavior lately: "No wonder he's been sucking up to Rog," but promised not to tell the secret to his partner.

Lorna and Riggs stopped at Murtaugh's house - alertly suspicious when they saw camping gear in the living room, and smelled Chinese food. Murtaugh admitted he had illegally taken in an entire Chinese family led by English-speaking father Hong (Eddy Ko) - rescued from the lifeboat. Murtaugh defended himself: "The way I see it, those are slave ships out there and I'm freeing no one did for my ancestors...This is my chance to do something and to do it right."

In the office of LAPD Captain Ed Murphy (Steve Kahan), he mentioned to his aging detectives that they were "dinosaurs headed for extinction," soon to be replaced by younger cops with "psychology degrees," such as Butters: "Times have gotta change." The two partners, due to problems with the department acquiring insurance (and to keep them off the streets and out of trouble), were promoted to Captain status. Afterwards, overly-friendly Butters was one of the first to tell Murtaugh how 'inspiring' he was. Riggs played up the idea that Butters really liked Murtaugh, causing his fearful buddy to question whether it was a romantic, homosexual attraction. The department's psychologist, Dr. Stephanie Woods (Mary Ellen Trainor), wouldn't take Riggs' serious request for counseling and his mention of the word 'marriage', thinking he was only ridiculing her - "something to get a rise out of me." When she insisted her precious time was "reserved for police officers with real needs and real problems," he embarrassed her in front of colleagues by implying she was begging to go out with him.

The homicide case of the murdered immigrant on the freighter, investigated by detectives in the Asian Org. Crime Task Force, led them to long-time, drug-running crime boss "Uncle" Benny Chan, who owned a nightclub and restaurants in Chinatown. The freighter was registered to a dummy Indonesian corporation. Riggs invited Butters to join them as backup when visiting Chan, telling Murtaugh and hinting: "You might learn to love him...Like a" They forced their way into Uncle Benny's office behind a two-way mirror in his Chinese restaurant, and asked the crime lord about the boatload of illegals that went aground. Murtaugh speculated: "Some snakehead lost big money. 400 people at 35 grand. Fourteen million." The case was under police jurisdiction, as well as the INS, because of three bodies, yet Uncle Benny denied any knowledge. They met his stern-faced, martial-arts skilled enforcer Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li), then as they left broke the two-way mirror, and set off the restaurant's fire sprinklers. And they also engaged in a foot/bicycle pursuit through a shopping area, restaurant, and rooftop after two Chinese criminals - one of whom (who was later discovered to be the "shooter" using a gun with bullets that matched slugs in the bodies on the freighter) was strangled afterwards on a rooftop by Ku.

After returning home, Murtaugh spoke to Hong, and learned that his uncle, an artist in China, had paid for his passage to America (for a "chance to make good life"). Hong had only been able to leave a message with his uncle - unwittingly revealing his whereabouts.

The next scene was set at Guang San Prison, Guangxi Province, in China, where four Chinese prisoners were released - they were known as Four Fathers (or Hong Kong Triad overlords), including Fan Wong (Raymond Woy), Li Lum Chung (Francois Chau), Michael Sing Ku (Conan Lee) and James Wing Chow (James Wing Woo). The four were given fake US passports, and flown by private jet from Peking, China to Los Angeles, CA.

In the police locker room after sparring in a boxing ring with a younger opponent named Gomez, Riggs admitted that he faked an injury to end the fight, and then confided the truth of his accelerating age to Murtaugh. His buddy voiced their mutual concerns: "You're getting too old for this s--t...Can't beat the clock, Riggs." Riggs added: "Murphy's right. We're dinosaurs." Murtaugh advised him to "accept it, like I do." Riggs was resistant: "I'm not too old for this s--t...We're not too old for this s--t." They kept repeating, in unison: "We're not too old for this s--t." During their next hook-up with Leo and Butters in the office, they listened as both ranted about expensive cell-phones and how poor the reception was: "They f--k you with cell phones. That's what it is. They're f--kin' you with the cell phone. They love when you get cut off. Ya know why, huh? You know why? Because when you call back, which they know you're gonna do, they charge you for that f--kin' first minute again at that high rate." As a semi-serious joke, the two detectives hired Leo to follow Uncle Benny around.

When Murtaugh returned home with Riggs during the work day, he found that his own family members (including his wife Trish (Darlene Love), and the two pregnant ladies Lorna and Rianne) were being held hostage by Ku, and Hong's family had already been driven away. Riggs and Lorna were able to reverse the tables on Ku's gang-members and briefly fight back, but eventually, Ku's lightning-fast martial arts abilities subdued the two cops and everyone was tied up with tape. The house was set on fire, and they were left to die inside. Hong's young grandson Ping (Steven Lam), who had hidden himself, freed them with a pair of scissors, and they escaped the flames through the front living room window.

A police helicopter spotted one the gang's vehicles (a black Mercedes) on a freeway, and Riggs and Murtaugh gave chase in Rianne's car. Riggs climbed into a long mobile home frame (with plastic siding) being hauled on a truck, where he fought one of the gang members from the car - as he asked: "Where's the Hongs?" But he couldn't learn their whereabouts before the thug was run over and killed during the extended struggle amidst busy freeway traffic. [The duo then crashed their car through two sides of a glass-sided building - and miraculously ended up back on the freeway behind the second suspect - before the thug was rammed and killed in his car by opposing traffic.]

Uncle Benny's enforcer Ku proceeded to a restricted US Customs Zone holding area, where he met with a corrupt Chinese General (Dana Lee) who demanded funds. He was in the midst of negotiations for the release of the four Chinese prisoners, one of whom was his brother. While following after Uncle Benny, PI Getz had determined that the crime lord was having dentistry work done, and so he plotted to impersonate a patient with a painful, emergency dental problem. As Getz was operated upon by the distracted dentist in another office, Riggs, Murtaugh, and Butters used nitrous oxide (laughing gas) on Uncle Benny to extract from him the location of the Hongs (whose "uncle paid you big to get 'em out of China"). Benny revealed the word Renminbi and "Time for Four Fathers!" (and "Buy Four Fathers back at Four Fathers' Store"), although they mis-interpreted his statement as "Time for Forefathers!" They all engaged in a laughing fit from the effects of the nitrous, and Riggs inadvertently revealed that Butters was really Roger's son-in-law, rather than a homosexual (Butters: "Your baby is having my baby") - without an expected angry reaction from Roger. Benny reacted: "Bloody marvelous."

Meanwhile, Hong was summoned to speak to Ku, who was running a major counterfeit Chinese money operation in a warehouse. There, Hong met with his elder uncle - who had been forced to work for Ku as an engraver/artist on the counterfeit printing plates. Ku informed Hong that his uncle's job served "as payment for bringing you to America - your uncle's working for us." Ku then mercilessly killed Hong, and threatened to kill other family members if the uncle wouldn't cooperate and finish his work: "Finish now or watch the others die." A detective in the Asian Task Force translated the term "renminbi" into "people's money" or Chinese currency, and identified Ku as a ruthless member of the Chinese Triad, but didn't know anything about the reference to "forefathers" (or ancestors).

Once the printing plates were completed, the counterfeit money was printed, and Ku strangled Uncle Benny. More Chinese thugs attempted to kill Riggs, Ping, and Lorna waiting in their car at a railroad crossing, but this time their plan backfired. Murtaugh learned that Hong had been murdered, as well as Uncle Benny and Hong's uncle. Murtaugh hypothesized that bringing over the uncle's family was the way the engraver was paid to do the job, and the "funny money" from the warehouse was to be used to purchase back Uncle Benny's 'forefathers' - or as a Chinese detective corrected, "Four Fathers - these guys were the top guys in the old Hong Kong Triad...These guys disappeared from prison...Reds jailed them when they took over Hong Kong." On a hunch, the cops proceeded to LA Harbor, an area known as a foreign trade zone, where "shady deals" with the Chinese military often occurred, especially deals involving a "corrupt Chinese general." The Triad was buying the release of the Four Fathers from the general - with counterfeited money.

When Riggs, Murtaugh, and Butters confronted the general and Ku in the foreign trade zone, and the general learned that the money was counterfeit, he angrily executed three of the Four Fathers. Ku responded by shooting and killing the general, and a massive gunfight broke out between the cops, the other Triad gang members, and the private army of the general. After Butters was injured protecting Murtaugh from another thug's shots, Murtaugh aimed at Ku (who was facing off against Riggs), but he missed and instead lethally wounded the fourth Four Father - Ku's older brother. On the LA Harbor pier in the pouring rain, the skilled and swift-kicking and punching Ku, now "really pissed," fought against both Riggs and Murtaugh (who were out of ammunition) in the exciting conclusion. Ku ended up impaled by Murtaugh through his mid-section with a piece of rebar, and propelled into the water with Riggs when a section of the concrete pier collapsed. Ku was shot by Riggs with a semi-automatic after a fierce struggle in the water. Although Murtaugh was knocked unconscious, he revived soon enough to dive underwater and save his buddy Riggs from drowning, when a larger section of the pier crumbled and pinned him.

At his ex-wife's gravesite, a recuperating and bruised Riggs apologized to Vicki for not visiting regularly, and to speak about his relationship with Lorna - telling how he loved her and wanted to make her happy, but admitting not knowing what to do about marriage. Leo Getz arrived, telling a sad story about his pet frog Froggy, his sole childhood friend and confidant. When Leo remembered how he had accidentally run over his frog with his bicycle, he was heartbroken. The lesson of the tale was that he had found that Roger and Riggs had become a family for him: "You're not better friends than Froggy. You're just different." At that moment, Riggs' pager beeped signaling that Lorna was in labor at the hospital and about to deliver. Riggs interpreted Getz' helpful words as coming from a "strange angel" - but admitted to Vicki: "I got the message." He held up their wedding ring: "I'll always have this. Always have you." They rushed to the hospital together, where Lorna claimed she wasn't ready, and that she wanted to delay the baby's coming: "My legs are staying closed." When Riggs came to her side, she insisted on being married immediately: "I want to be a wife before I'm a mother...I just lied." To her shock, Riggs assented and then proposed, but she further insisted that they must have a ceremony: "I am getting married or there is no baby." Leo grabbed a passing Rabbi Gelb (Richard Libertini) and they unofficially exchanged vows, without a license, before the birth. Lorna was satisfied: "I just want to hear the words."

Later, at the baby viewing area, both Riggs and Murtaugh (with Butters) viewed their respective babies. Captain Murphy reinstated the two cops as Sargeants, and informed them that the Hongs had been granted asylum in the US, without fear of deportation. Both families were photographed together, including Leo, in the hospital hallway - the picture became a freeze-frame, and one of many photographs in a scrapbook of family photos, during the end credits, accompanied by the playing of the song Why Can't We Be Friends?, (sung by War). In addition to screenshots from this film were other behind-the-scenes production photos from all four films in the franchise.

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

With no Academy Awards-Oscar nominations.

With a production budget of $140 million (the most expensive film in the series), and box-office gross receipts of $130 million (domestic) and $285 million (worldwide).

With the tagline: "The Gang's All Here."

Sgt. Martin Riggs
(Mel Gibson)

Sgt. Roger Murtaugh
(Danny Glover)

Sgt. Lorna Cole
(Rene Russo)

Rianne Murtaugh-Butters
(Traci Wolfe)

Lee Butters
(Chris Rock)

Leo Getz
(Joe Pesci)

Capt. Ed Murphy
(Steve Kahan)

Dr. Stephanie Woods
(Mary Ellen Trainor)

"Uncle" Benny Chan
(Kim Chan)

Mr. Proody
(Jack Kehler)

Wah Sing Ku
(Jet Li)

(Eddy Ko)

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