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Lethal Weapon is one of the greatest action franchises of all time, but there’s still a lot that needs to be resolved with Riggs and Murtaugh. While Lethal Weapon 5 has been stuck in development hell for years, Richard Donner seems intent on making it a reality. Since this is likely his last shot to end the series, they need to learn from past mistakes and end the series well. Here are some ways Lethal Weapon 5 can do just that.
Shane Black Should Write The Script
Lethal Weapon is Shane Black’s brainchild that made $120 million worldwide and launched three sequels over the course of two decades. He knows these characters; he knows the buddy cop genre. Sadly, his Lethal Weapon 2 script was mostly scrapped and rewritten. He never returned to the franchise.
With movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, Shane Black is great at writing dark, buddy cop comedies. If you want a dark end to Lethal Weapon, and if you want to get Lethal Weapon fans excited again, he’s the logical choice.
Unfortunately, while Shane Black wrote a treatment for a Lethal Weapon 5, Richard Donner said in the past that he wants to use a script by Channing Gibson, who also wrote Lethal Weapon 4.
Address Societal Issues
Lethal Weapon has a history of addressing society’s ills, like illegal drugs, weapons proliferation, South African Apartheid, and human trafficking. It only makes sense that the last in the series would continue this trend, possibly addressing things like Black Lives Matter, the death of George Floyd, and calls to defund the police.
This definitely would put Riggs and Murtaugh in the hot seat. While they usually have their heart in the right place, they have both skirted the rule book and taken justice into their own hands numerous times, abusing their power as a means to an end. The tension and conflict practically writes itself.
The temptation might be to ignore this stuff, but I think it presents an opportunity to address it, instead, especially since Lethal Weapon has set a precedent in the past tackling tough topics.
Don’t Pass The Baton To A Younger Duo
When characters grow older, the cliché is to hand things off to a younger hero. It felt like they were trying to do this in Lethal Weapon 4 with Chris Rock, but it just didn't work; Chris Rock was mostly a distraction. So, to have an effective ending, they shouldn’t even try it with Lethal Weapon 5.
First, passing the baton on to a younger team would be, like Lethal Weapon 4, a distraction and potentially overshadow Riggs and Murtaugh. Also, for a finale, it puts too many cops in the squad car, which can make the story feel overcrowded with a scattered focus. Lastly, it would inevitably feel like a “set up” movie rather than a concrete end to Riggs and Murtaugh's story.
Focus Entirely On Riggs And Murtaugh In Their Old Age
Right now, Mel Gibson is 64 and Danny Glover is 74. They’re much older than when they last appeared on screen. But, this is okay; it works with the theme of Murtaugh complaining about being old. Focusing on Riggs and Murtaugh in their old age is the only way to go. Where have they been all this time, how has that shaped who they are now, and what antagonist will put pressure on that relationship? They might think they’ve gotten old, but I think fans would come to see them for one more outing.
Besides, “Geriaction” movies have been a hot genre lately. From The Expendables to Taken to Logan, there’s an audience for watching elders hunt down bad guys and execute justice. It’s not too far-fetched to watch Riggs and Murtaugh do the same.
Murtaugh Needs To Retire For Good
Lethal Weapon fans know Murtaugh almost retired in Lethal Weapon 3 and has been saying he’s “too old for this shit” for a long time. Yet, he’s always getting pulled back into the heat.
With Lethal Weapon 5, the irony should be that he was forced into retirement but suddenly pulled back into the game by Riggs. Riggs and Murtaugh have gone on rogue missions before, so It wouldn’t be a stretch to have Murtaugh help him out.
Still, at the end of the movie, Murtaugh should retire for good. The man deserves a little peace and quiet after all he’s been through.
Throw The Old Formula Out The Window
A big problem with the Lethal Weapon franchise is that each installment leans more on a formula rather than telling a fresh story. By Lethal Weapon 4, it was clear the writers ran out of ideas. They kept using a silly opener, a plethora of car chase scenes, silly gags at Murtaugh’s expense, and one-note bad guys. I think they can do better and overcome these tropes.
If they want to effectively end the Lethal Weapon franchise, they should start with a clean slate and tell a fresh story that doesn’t rely on a gag every other scene and has real, rounded villains. Make the story dangerous again and throw in plenty of twists and turns that we aren’t expecting. It’s the last movie; they might as well swing for the fences.
Make It A Dark Swan Song
Funny enough, Lethal Weapon was always meant to be much darker than what we got. Shane Black’s scripts for Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2 were either modified or totally rewritten because they were deemed “too dark” by Richard Donner. Still, Richard Donner apparently wants a darker tone for the last movie.
In my mind, it should try to strike a tone similar to what James Mangold did with Logan. That movie handled old man Charlies Xavier and old man Logan with incredible class. It knew it was going to be a swan song to Logan and it stuck to that idea like glue.
Lethal Weapon 5 should keep its iconic charm, charisma, and humor intact, but still lean into the dark, swan song it’s meant to be. It’s the only thing that truly makes sense.
End It On Christmas
Lethal Weapon opens in a very strange way—with “Jingle Bell Rock” playing over the opening credits. They never revisit this in future movies, turning instead to the typical noir saxophone music it's widely known for over the credits. The Christmas music at the beginning of Lethal Weapon is what makes it so great. It sets the Christmas themed tone from the start, fully embracing its role as an unconventional Christmas movie.
To bookend the series, they would be remiss if they didn’t end the franchise on Christmas. Plus, if Lethal Weapon 5 ends dark (and it should), throwing in a little “Jingle Bells” when the end credits roll would be the perfect chef’s kiss.
Riggs Should Die At The End
I love Riggs. I think he’s a complicated, multi-faceted character. But, he was always meant to die, even back in Lethal Weapon 2. I think, then, that he should die at the end of Lethal Weapon 5.
When we first meet Riggs, he’s suicidal because of the death of his wife and is living in a dirty trailer on the beach. The only purpose he has is the job. But, as the series continues, he slowly heals, gets adopted into Murtaugh’s family, finds love again, and becomes a father. His life turns around.
In Lethal Weapon 5, Riggs should be in a good place with an overall peaceful life and no desire to die as he did in the first Lethal Weapon. His purpose isn’t the job anymore. With that setup, it would be a bitter pill to swallow when Riggs dies at the end, but also a fitting end for a hero with as troubled a history as he does.
Unlike Murtaugh, Riggs’ character should go out with a bang. Maybe he saves Murtaugh in a shoot-out? Or he sacrifices himself to kill the bad guy? Whatever the case, it seems fitting, especially in a dark Lethal Weapon 5, for Riggs to die.
Richard Donner has a unique opportunity to bring back Mel Gibson and Danny Glover to wrap up the Lethal Weapon franchise right. It would be a mistake to double down on the old formula and to continue to do what they did in Lethal Weapon 3 and 4. I think these are just a handful of ways he could end the Lethal Weapon franchise well, but what do you think? What did I miss? Let us know in the comments.