July 24, 1989 12:00 PM

Mel Gibson, Danny Glover

The original was not exactly a model of realistic drama, but this sequel, with both the jokes and violence flying much faster and with considerably more fury, approaches a comic-book level of fantasy. If you don’t mind your comic books being filled with incessant shootings, explosions, knifings, drownings, stranglings, car crashes, fires and the use of automatic nail drivers as weapons, it’s a lot of fun.

It’s still a buddy-buddy situation, with Gibson as a borderline-psycho cop and Glover as his family-man partner. Chasing South African drug merchants operating out of Los Angeles, Gibson and Glover carry their relationship to new heights when Glover is trapped on the toilet seat in his home after he realizes that a bomb will go off if he stands up. (A similar gimmick was used, to equal effectiveness, in Elmore Leonard’s 1988 novel Freaky Deaky.) Gibson becomes a human plumber’s helper as he comes to the rescue and Glover looks solemnly in his eyes and asks, “Am I going to die on the toilet?” It’s to the credit of director Richard Donner and screenwriter Jeffrey Boam that they could (and would) devise a scene like this, and it speaks well for Gibson and Glover that they pull it off with such finesse.

Glover probably wins the film on points. That’s partly because he seems so human, partly because he has some nice lines and as a black has poetic justice on his side when he goes after the drug dealers (who are all white and blatant racists). After Gibson points out that South Africa is the home of the Krugerrand, for instance, Glover adds drily, “Yeah, among other things.”

If this sort of repartee sounds familiar, you may have heard a few lines seeping through the megaplex wall from a screen next door. Boam wrote Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade too, and the same bantering bravado punctuates both films. Boam also included in a nifty bit of comic relief in the form of a twerpy federal witness whom Gibson and Glover are detailed to protect. Played by Joe (Raging Bull) Pesci, the witness is a model of nervy energy. At one point he lectures his guardians on how dumb they are because they don’t know how to launder money. Then he explains how to do it, leans back smugly and says, “Am I an innovator? Am I a genius?”

Joss (White Mischief) Ackland, as the drug ring leader, is appropriately malevolent, and Patsy Kensit, a 21-year-old Englishwoman with a delicate, Michelle Pfeiffer—like look, convincingly portrays a woman Gibson goes bonkers over.

Donner (Superman, the original Lethal Weapon) keeps the car chases, fights, shootouts and general blast-furnace mood moving along. This is smart, since the plausibility of events is frequently strained—South African helicopters seem to have established air superiority over Los Angeles, for one thing. Anyway, this is a cheer-them-on film, full of bad guys getting their comeuppances. Here are a black guy and a white guy who know how to do the right thing. (R)

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