Murtaugh is still the family man. Riggs is still the daredevil, but now he counts the odds before bucking them. This time, they must protect an accountant who has laundered a half billion dollars in narcotics money. He leads them to a murderous syndicate with ties to a foreign power. Along the way, there's a six-story plummet from a window, a booby-trapped toilet, an underwater escape, and more.
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This film is a lot more focused than the first. There’s a better understanding of storytelling in which character is revealed and developed through the events of the plot instead of done separately.
The Story: The story begins right as the film does, which is something that really didn’t happen in the first film. And this time, the villains seem more menacing. In fact, the villains seem almost Bond-like. But that is beside the fact that the plot now reveals character instead of showcasing it. As we learn more about the crime syndicate we learn more about the characters, both good and bad. But the greatest thing about this plot is the originality that comes from the antagonist plot lines. There is no “finding the bad guy” or “getting the evidence” needed. The heroes know what they need to do against whom and where. The problem? Faults in US Government diplomatic law. Now that my friends, creates unique situations for these great characters to act within. Still continuing on with the buddy cop tone, but creating an engaging film.
Acting: Credit would normally go to Mel Gibson for stealing the film, but in this case, he’s knocked to second tier. While his character is abruptly crazier than he was in the first film (actually he was suicidal, not crazy), he still falls short of Joe Pesci’s “Leo”. The neurotic whining combined with a specific tick that Pesci adds puts some more life into the film as he’s the wild card this go around.
Directing: Richard Donner seems to have found his tone with this film. It’s not overly 80’s like the first film, but seems to be a nice balanced mesh between the 80’s and 90’s styles. The pacing and acting all combine together to make a timeless film in the end.
Cinematography: The action is opened up a bit more in this film. I attribute that on a bigger budget after the success of the first installment.
Production Design: late 80’s / early 90’s. Really can’t be described much different than that. There is no style to the production design instead that it’s based from the times it was shot.
Editing: Much better. There’s a pace to this film and there’s definitely a focus on building emotional tension in scenes and just a general focus from one scene to the next. This helps the plot and character revelation / arcs become much more clear to the viewer making the film that much more enjoyable.
Score: Much like the first film, has the same old style during the action scenes but the film still maintains the styles of music with the saxophone from the first film. It’s a nice continuation that makes people who have seen the first feel more comfortable with the film and have a sense of personal identification aside from the returning actors.
Special Effects: late 80’s? Real things blow up yet again.
In closing: This is one of those films that should be listed as “sequels that surpass the originals.” The plot and characterization is well blended, there’s not an overabundance of style, the action delivers, the plot escalates and the villains are hateful and intimidating. The comedy also helps bring a nice breath of fresh air to the films long length. In short, this is the heart of the franchise.