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Hero Overview

You are not trying to draw a psycho pension! You really are crazy!
~ Just after Murtaugh prevents Riggs from shooting himself

Martin Riggs is a Homicide Detective for the LAPD and one of the two (later, three) main protagonists of the Lethal Weapon film series along with his best friend/partner Sergeant Roger Murtaugh and their close friend/sidekick Leo Getz. He is portrayed by Mel Gibson in all four films of the series, Gibson also portrayed William Wallace in Braveheart, which he also directed, Max Rockatansky in the Mad Max trilogy, Rocky Rhodes in Chicken Run, Thomas Craven in Edge of Darkness, Graham Hess in Signs and John Smith in Pocahontas.

Clayne Crawford played Riggs in the TV series.

Early life

Riggs joined the U.S. Army at age 19, eventually becoming a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, receiving specialized training in weaponry and hand-to-hand combat. These skills would later serve him well when he became a police officer. Most of Riggs' time in special forces was in Vietnam, where he served as an assassin under the CIA's "Phoenix Project" directive; while his ability as a trained killer would later plague his conscience, he thought of it as "...the only thing I was ever really good at."

Later in Riggs' life, he became a Police Officer and married a woman named Victoria Lynn, and it is implied by Riggs himself that she was one of the only things, with the other being his occupation as a Cop, that kept his life together. However, in 1984, after 11 years of marriage Victoria Lynn, is killed in a seemingly tragic car accident, sending him into a deep depression. Driven to the brink with grief and anger, he regularly puts himself (and anyone else near him) in harm's way, secretly hoping someone will put him out of his misery, something he has been unable to do himself. This total disregard for his safety gives him an edge over his enemies, turning him into and register him as a "lethal weapon".

Military career

Riggs joined the U.S. Army at age 19, eventually becoming a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, receiving specialized training in weaponry and hand-to-hand combat. These skills would later serve him well when he became a police officer. Most of Riggs' time in special forces was in Vietnam, where he served as an assassin under the CIA's "Phoenix Project" directive; while his ability as a trained killer would later plague his conscience, he thought of it as "...the only thing I was ever really good at."

Death of his wife

In 1984, Victoria Lynn, Riggs' wife of an 11-years marriage, dies in a car accident, sending him into a deep depression. Driven to the brink with grief and anger, he regularly puts himself (and anyone else near him) in harm's way, secretly hoping someone will put him out of his misery, something he has been unable to do himself. This total disregard for his safety gives him an edge over his enemies, turning him into a "Lethal Weapon". By the end of the first movie, he has resolved these suicidal thoughts. In the second film, it is revealed that his wife's death was actually a murder attempt on Martin himself, gone wrong.[3]

As a cop

In Lethal Weapon, Riggs is transferred from the narcotics division to the homicide division after a shooting incident. He is partnered with fellow detective sergeant Roger Murtaugh in hopes that the older, more conservative veteran will keep him in line. After a rough start, the two become good friends and practically family, even though Riggs always gets on Murtaugh's nerves. By the end of this film, the two have worked together to rescue Murtaugh's daughter, who had been kidnapped by drug lords and military mercenaries.

In Lethal Weapon 2, Riggs discovers some shocking details about his wife's death. It is revealed that the South African crime lord Arjen Rudd that he and Murtaugh are pursuing had, in fact, ordered his death in 1984, but his enforcer, Pieter Vordstedt, killed Victoria by mistake and, to cover their error, made the murder look like an automobile accident. After avenging the deaths of his wife and Rika Van Den Haas (whom Riggs had briefly become involved with romantically before she too was murdered by Rudd and his minions), he is able to finally put his demons to rest and move on with his life.

His badge reads: Detective LAPD (not Detective Sgt) badge number 5893.

He met Sgt. Lorna Cole (played by Rene Russo), an internal affairs officer, in Lethal Weapon 3 during an investigation into the disappearance of weapons from L.A.P.D. impound. The two found themselves to be equals in temperament and attitude (not to mention that Lorna is shown to be a fan of The Three Stooges, like Riggs), and worked closely together after a stolen impound gun was found to be involved in a shooting incident where Murtaugh was forced to kill a friend of his son's in self-defense. The two ended up falling in love and moved in together after the end of the film.

In Lethal Weapon 4, Riggs and Cole are still living together, and Cole is pregnant with their first child, but they have dodged the issue of marriage. Both Riggs and Murtaugh are promoted to Captain by the fourth film in order to keep them out of trouble, but by the end of the movie, their status is returned to Sergeant after the city has been self-insured. At the end of the film, Riggs visits his first wife Vicky's grave and appears to still be grieving her until Leo Getz arrives and helps him find closure by essentially telling him that Lorna wouldn't be a better wife than Victoria, only different. Touched by Leo's advice, Riggs lets her know that even though he's going to marry Lorna, which she would've wanted anyways for him, that he'll always love her and always have her in his heart. At the hospital, just before Lorna is about to give birth, Riggs marries her in which the small ceremony is done by a Rabbi. The same day at the same hospital, Murtaugh's eldest daughter, Rianne, is giving birth as well. Afterward, both Cole and Rianne's children are in the hospital's nursery together.

The troubled life of Martin Riggs has now come to a full circle and is about to enter into a new chapter: Now a parent and a reason to live for and be afraid.

Weapons

Throughout all four films, Riggs has used martial arts, including Kali, Tai-Chi, Shotokan Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Wing Chun, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Capoeira, Boxing, and Muay Thai (leading Murtaugh to jokingly suggest that Riggs himself be registered as a "lethal weapon", hence the title of the first film) and a Beretta 92F (assume FS) pistol as his signature weapon, though he will often commandeer an H&K MP5 sub-machine gun or AK-47 assault rifle from a vanquished foe if more firepower is needed, and also briefly used a Heckler & Koch PSG1 sniper rifle in the first film, for ranges exceeded by accurate 9x19mm (Luger) firepower.[6] Riggs has previously claimed to have killed a target in Laos from a distance of 1000 yards "with a rifle shot in high wind," something he claims 8 to 10 people in the world could have accomplished.

Characteristics

Riggs lives in a travel trailer on a beach along the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles. His original one was destroyed by the South Africans during Lethal Weapon 2, but he escaped along with Rika Van Den Haas, who was also there at the time. He has a new trailer rebuilt in with a house built by Mickey McGee in deleted scenes (restored in a director's cut) in Lethal Weapon 3 and still lives there with Lorna Cole in Lethal Weapon 4.

Riggs has a loose shoulder which can dislocate easily. How he developed the issue is unknown, but it could possibly be a battle injury from his times during the war in Vietnam. He is able to dislocate, then re-set it at will by slamming it into a wall or other hard objects, although doing so is very painful for him more than dislocating it. He sometimes demonstrates this as a trick, but it has also proven quite useful for him. It helps him escape execution by the South Africans in Lethal Weapon 2 when he is able to escape a straitjacket while tied up underwater.

Riggs also loves dogs and cats. He owns a Sheltie named Sam who is seen in all four films (and escaped the trailer attack in the second film). He refused to kill a Rottweiler that was defending an arms trafficking operation in Lethal Weapon 3, saying, "I can't shoot a dog. People okay, but not dogs." He instead befriended and rescued the Rottweiler, and still keeps him as a pet along with Sam in the fourth film.

It isn't unlike Riggs to be comedic. He particularly enjoys antagonizing Leo. After Leo was shot while pursuing rogue cop-turned-gun runner Jack Travis at a hockey game in Lethal Weapon 3, Riggs added "proctology" to Leo's medical chart, dooming him to a needless and unnecessary rectal exam. In Lethal Weapon 4, where he is annoyed by Leo ranting about cell phones charging you for the first minute after you make a call and get cut off, Riggs calls Leo on his cell phone and asks him to "investigate his privates", charging Leo 3 dollars for a phone call.

Trivia

  • Before Mel Gibson was cast as Riggs, the actors considered were Bruce Willis, Christopher Reeve, William Hurt, Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Willem Dafoe, Bryan Brown, Nicolas Cage, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, Rutger Hauer, Michael Keaton, Kevin Kline, Christopher Lambert, Al Pachino, Liam Neeson, Michael Madsen, Michael Nouri, Dennis Quaid, Sean Penn, William Peterson, Eric Roberts, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Selleck, Charlie Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze and John Travolta.
  • Clayne Crawford declined playing Martin Riggs a number of times before finally reading the script and deciding he'd take the part.
  • The scene in Lethal Weapon where Riggs is contemplating suicide, there is an actual bullet blank in the chamber which Mel Gibson was pointing at his head, thinking that it would allow for a greater sense of portraying the scene realistically and dramatically.
  • Mel Gibson was only thirty when Lethal Weapon was filmed, although his character Riggs was supposed to be thirty-eight, funny as that was Clayne Crawford's age when the Pilot episode aired.
  • Riggs' military background changes for the TV series from the film version. In films, Riggs (Mel Gibson) is a former U.S. Army Special Forces Sniper (i.e. "Green Beret"). In the TV series, Clayne Crawford's Riggs character is a former Navy SEAL.
  • In Shane Black's original Lethal Weapon script, Riggs was also a much different character and lot more mentally unstable. For example, in the original version of the scene where he kills a sniper who is shooting at the kids, instead of using his gun, Riggs uses a rocket launcher to blow up the sniper after he shot and killed several kids. In another part of the script, he also uses Shuriken (throwing Ninja stars) to wound one of the villains, and then tortures him for information.
  • Advertisements for the Lethal Weapon TV series credited Clayne Crawford as "Introducing Clayne Crawford" (a credit usually reserved for actors making a debut) even though Crawford had his first onscreen credit in 1997 (in an episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and has multiple credits per year, every year, since the early 2000s.
  • While many aspects of the characters and the story lines have been subtly altered between the films and the series, the one constant is the death of Riggs' wife. In both the films and the series, it is established that she was killed in a car accident while Riggs was on the job. And in both mediums, it is later revealed that she was actually murdered.
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