The next Lethal Weapon film, Lethal Finale, will be the final entry in the 34-year-old blockbuster franchise and in it, the villain will have to accomplish the impossible: match the genius badassery of both Mel Gibson and Danny Glover and top Jet Li’s menacing performance 20-something years prior. Perhaps that’s exactly the kind of impossible mission for an actor like Tom Cruise to take on?
Warner Bros. appears to be thinking along those lines. If celebrity insider Daniel Richtman is to be believed, executives are prepared to go all out with one final ace up their sleeves: beloved A-lister Tom Cruise as the franchise’s most formidable adversary yet. If the rumor does hold water, Lethal Finale will be Cruise’s sixth villainous role since playing ill-tempered Scott Rudin proxy Les Grossman in 2008’s Tropic Thunder. The Mission Impossible star hardly ever plays the bad guy, but if cast, Lethal Weapon might just be his most memorable yet. Besides, Lethal Finale is going to be Richard Donner’s last time directing, and there’s no better actor to see Donner, Riggs, and Murtaugh off than fellow action vet Tom Cruise. The last Lethal Weapon is currently in active development, with Lethal Weapon 4’s Channing Gibson in charge of the script. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover will be reprising the parts of Sergeants Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, with Donner back in the director’s chair. The man who once made Superman a household name directed every single Lethal Weapon movie since its conception in 1987. The first movie’s screenwriter, Shane Black (Iron Man 3), was originally tied to direct, with Chuck Mondry (Jekyll) co-writing.
Lethal Weapon has witnessed its fair share of miscreants, each decisively more foreboding than the last. These characters are fun, and may appeal to an actor like Tom Cruise. A hard-nosed Vietnam War-era general with several trained hitmen under his payroll. A disreputable politician with a private militia. A narco with all the experience and reach of a former police lieutenant. And a remorseless Triad member with an army of kung fu practitioners. The franchise hit an all-time high when it cast Singaporean action star Jet Li in the part of the villain (Lethal Weapon 4) and no film could possibly get any more hard-ass than that. Hong Kong fight choreography in a Hollywood movie? It had been exactly 20 years since the last big-screen collab (Game of Death starring Bruce Lee), making Lethal Weapon 4 unquestionably unprecedented for its time. And it continues to hold up more than two decades later.
If Tom Cruise does take on a role as the villain for the series, he’ll be going against two well-established characters. Not counting the reboot television series, Lethal Weapon tells the story of grizzled LAPD cops Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), who develop an enduring friendship during the events of the first Lethal Weapon. Riggs was introduced to audiences as a suicidal former narcotics cop still grieving his wife’s untimely passing; Murtaugh is a wisened veteran of the force and Riggs’s new partner. The two don’t get along at first, but after several crazy near-misses, soon learn to trust each other. Riggs looks out for Murtaugh’s family while faking his death; in return, Murtaugh manages to save Riggs from himself. The rest of the series pits the iconic duo against forces more petrifying than each other, coming out victorious every single time. The franchise predates most hard-boiled action thrillers that have come to define the genre, and has effectively set the tone for many buddy cops and hard action movies to come, including Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible series.
The multi-awarded Jack Reacher star is currently filming Mission Impossible 7 in the United Kingdom, alongside an ensemble cast composed of Ving Rhames, Henry Czerny, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Angela Bassett, Frederick Schmidt, Hayley Atwell, Pom Klementieff, Shea Whigham, Esai Morales, Rob Delaney, Charles Parnell, Indira Varma, Mark Gatiss, and Cary Elwes. Tom Cruise last graced theaters reprising the role of Ethan Hunt in the previous Mission Impossible, Mission Impossible – Fallout. The next Cruise movie to come out is the long-awaited sequel to 1986’s Top Gun. The 58-year-old recently returned to the role that made his career — the now-Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. Top Gun: Maverick releases worldwide on November 19.