Martin Riggs

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Detective Martin Riggs
First appearance Lethal Weapon
Created by Shane Black
Portrayed by Mel Gibson [1]
Aliases Mad Cop
Gender Male
Occupation Police Officer
Title Sergeant
Captain (Lethal Weapon 4)
Spouse(s) Victoria Lynn Riggs (deceased)
Lorna Cole Riggs
Children 1 unnamed son
Relatives Roger Murtaugh
Leo Getz
Captain Ed Murphy
Rika Van Den Haas (deceased)
Lee Butters
Sam (his dog)
Religion christian
Nationality American

Martin Riggs (born October 16, 1949)[citation needed] is a fictional LAPD detective and protagonist from the Lethal Weapon franchise. He is played in all four films by Mel Gibson.[2]

Upon being reassigned to the homicide Division he is partnered up with aging sergeant Roger Murtaugh. Riggs' partnership with Murtaugh proves to be valuable in Riggs' recovery, not only from alcohol, but his repression and depression from his wife's death. He becomes a close friend to both Sergeant Murtaugh and his family.


Military career[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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 Vorstedt, 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.

Lorna Cole[edit]

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 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. At the end of the film, Riggs makes peace with his first wife Vickey and marries Cole, while she is giving birth; at the same time which is done by a Rabbi, Murtaugh's eldest daughter, Rianne, is giving birth as well, and Cole's and Rianne's children are in the hospital's nursery together.


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.

Other traits[edit]

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 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. 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. 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 a drug operation in, 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 Getz. After Getz was shot while pursuing rogue cop-turned-gun runner Jack Travis at a hockey game in Lethal Weapon 3, Riggs added proctology to Getz's medical chart, dooming him to a needless rectal exam. In Lethal Weapon 4 where he is annoyed by Leo Getz 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.

GMC Trucks[edit]

Riggs prefers driving GMC trucks, and owns a different GMC truck in every film. All four trucks are navy-blue. In the first film, he drives a 1985 GMC 3500 crew cab dually. In the second film, he drives a 1989 GMC Sierra 3500 club cab dually. In the third film, he drives a 1991 GMC 3500 dually, which looks identical to the one in the second film. In the fourth film, he drives a 1999 GMC Sierra 1500 Z71 club cab.

The Three Stooges[edit]

Riggs is also a fan of The Three Stooges and is sometimes known to imitate Curly while taunting his enemies.He discovered in Lethal Weapon 3 that Sgt. Lorna Cole is also a fan of The Three Stooges by finding a game featuring them in her computer.


Critics have given the character a positive reception. He is praised for his dramatic and brutal fight scene with Mr. Joshua(Gary Busey) and the sharp and clever dialogue provided by Shane Black. Martin Riggs is number 100 on Empire's list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13]


  1. ^ "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  2. ^ "Top 25 Movie Franchises of All Time: #22". IGN. Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  3. ^ "The Passion of the Mel". IGN. Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (1987-03-06). "FILM: 'LETHAL WEAPON,' A THRILLER WITH GIBSON". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  5. ^ Wilmington, Michael (1989-07-07). "MOVIE REVIEW : A Lethal 'Weapon 2". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-05-09. 
  6. ^ Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie - Eric Lichtenfeld - Google Books. 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  7. ^ Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie - Eric Lichtenfeld - Google Books. 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  8. ^ The Masculinity Studies Reader - Rachel Adams, David Savran - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  9. ^ Film as Religion: Myths, Morals, and Rituals - John Lyden - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  10. ^ Screening Scripture: Intertextual Connections Between Scripture and Film - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  11. ^ High Contrast: Race and Gender in Contemporary Hollywood Films - Sharon Willis - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  12. ^ The Masculinity Studies Reader - Rachel Adams, David Savran - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  13. ^ American Masculinity Under Clinton: Popular Media And the Nineties "Crisis ... - Brenton J. Malin - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07.