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The Movie Hole

Dark Similarities: "L.A. Confidential" and "Lethal Weapon 2"

JJ Mortimer

Sometimes in cinema, even amongst films I love with a passion, there exist glaring errors that can only be due to producer intervention.  Two films in question have, in my opinion, the same glaring error, and also happen to be films inside my Top 20 Favorite Films list:  "L.A. Confidential" (a noir police/detective story that is superior, in my opinion, to "Chinatown") and "Lethal Weapon 2" (one of the rare action sequels that again, in my opinion, is superior to its predecessor).  

Both films distinctively have two endings:  One ending where something personal is resolved with a major character (his story having come full circle within the confines of their arc and resolve), but inherently bleak and dark with the sounds of police arriving in the distance.  In this ending, the specific character's future is unresolved, but it doesn't matter because HIS STORY and purpose for who HE IS has already been resolved.

The second ending is the tacked-on "Hollywood producer saw money and more intern blowjobs under the desk from the success of a more upbeat outcome and potential future sequels" ending.  In this continued conclusion, we find the hero's future intact and SAFE, and a character that was initially considered deceased is actually alive and well, in the warm company of the other character whom he has been closely related to for the duration of the film.  Whatever occurred after the first ending from this point on is just frosting on top of an already beautiful and delicious cake.  Only this frosting tastes more like fondant than frosting.  It's deceptive in nature, and takes away the edge that the film may already have had or was working toward, but failed to achieve based solely on a simple decision of "character immortality for a brighter future."

Here's the thing - though I consider both secondary endings to be errors in the narrative, I still enjoy them and there are days where I prefer them; but, settled deep in the back of my mind, I secretly want to close my eyes and pretend that when Lt. Ed Exley raises his badge to the coming entourage of squad cars (with us also knowing that his partner in arms is dead in the other room), and when Sgt. Murtaugh runs to the fallen body of his bullet-riddled partner, that both films would carefully have faded to black.  

And this is one of the most well-composed "potentially final" shots of any Hollywood film of the past twenty years.

And this is one of the most well-composed "potentially final" shots of any Hollywood film of the past twenty years.

In films, characters die.  Characters SHOULD die; let them burn out instead of fade away, as the saying goes.  What truly immortalizes a film character is in how well they fulfill their resolve, and their story arc is completed.  To break those bonds and go beyond that moment is careless and pandering to an audience that EXPECTS films to play it safe.  To cheat a film character's demise is often in err.  To kill, or fulfill, is more often divine.

In retrospect, this well-written scene between two buds shouldn't really ever have happened.  Six bullets through the chest tends to hinder the ability to laugh, talk, cry, or bullshit around.

In retrospect, this well-written scene between two buds shouldn't really ever have happened.  Six bullets through the chest tends to hinder the ability to laugh, talk, cry, or bullshit around.

In films, characters die.  Characters SHOULD die; let them burn out instead of fade away, as the saying goes.  What truly immortalizes a film character is in how well they fulfill their resolve, and their story arc is completed.  To break those bonds and go beyond that moment is careless and pandering to an audience that EXPECTS films to play it safe.  To cheat a film character's demise is often in err.  To kill, or fulfill, is more often divine.