Martin Riggs

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Detective Martin Riggs
Lethal Weapon character
First appearance Film: Lethal Weapon (1987)
Television: "Pilot"
Last appearance Film: Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
Created by Shane Black
Portrayed by Mel Gibson (films)[1]
Clayne Crawford (television)
Aliases Mad Cop, Chaos
Gender Male
Occupation Police Detective
Title Sergeant
Patrolman (Lethal Weapon 3)
Captain (Lethal Weapon 4)
Detective (TV Series)
Spouse(s) Victoria Lynn Riggs (deceased) (films)
Lorna Cole Riggs (films)
Miranda Riggs (deceased) (television)
Children 1 unnamed son
1 stillborn son (television)
Religion Christian
Nationality American

Martin Riggs is a fictional character from the Lethal Weapon franchise. He is played in all four films by Mel Gibson.[2] On March 10, 2016, it was announced that Riggs would be played by Clayne Crawford in the pilot for the new Fox Television drama series.[3]

Originally a member of the Los Angeles Police Department's Narcotics Division, upon being reassigned to the Homicide Division, Riggs is partnered up with aging sergeant Roger Murtaugh. Riggs and Murtaugh remain partners throughout the film series.


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's time in special forces was in Vietnam, where he served as an assassin under the CIA's "Phoenix Project". The first time he became a killer when he shot a man to death with a sniper rifle from a distance in Laos, 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."


In 1984, Riggs's wife, Victoria Lynn, dies in a car accident, sending him into a deep depression. Driven by grief to the brink of suicide, he regularly puts himself (and anyone else near him) in harm's way, hoping someone will put him out of his misery. This total disregard for his own life makes him literally fearless, turning him into a "Lethal Weapon". By the end of the first movie, however, he has resolved to keep living. In the second film, it is revealed that Victoria was actually murdered during an attempt on Riggs's life.[4]

In the films[edit]

In Lethal Weapon, Riggs is transferred from the narcotics division to the homicide division after a shooting incident. He is partnered with Detective Sergeant Roger Murtaugh in hopes that the older, more conservative veteran will keep him in line.[5] After a rough start, the two become good friends, even though Riggs always gets on Murtaugh's nerves. By the end of the first film, the two have worked together to rescue Murtaugh's daughter, who had been kidnapped by drug lords and military mercenaries.[6]

In Lethal Weapon 2, Riggs discovers that the South African crime lord, Arjen Rudd, whom he and Murtaugh are pursuing ordered Riggs's death in 1984. Rudd's enforcer, Pieter Vorstedt, killed Victoria Riggs by mistake and made the murder look like an automobile accident to cover up their involvement. 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 move on with his life. Meanwhile, Riggs and Murtaugh are assigned to protect a comical federal witness, Leo Getz (played by Joe Pesci) whom they ultimately become close friends with.

He meets 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 make an immediate connection and work closely together to clear Murtaugh's name after he is forced to kill his son's friend in self-defense. Riggs and Cole become romantically involved and move 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 are demoted back to sergeants at the end of the film . Leo helps Riggs finally makes peace with his wife's death; Riggs marries Cole while she is giving birth to his son.

Television series[edit]

In a March 10, 2016 newspaper article, the plot for the television pilot is as follows: "when Texas cop and former Navy SEAL Martin Riggs...suffers the loss of his wife and baby, he moves to Los Angeles to start anew. There, he gets partnered with LAPD detective Roger Murtaugh...who, having recently suffered a "minor" heart attack, must avoid any stress in his life."[3]


Throughout all four films, Riggs has used martial arts, including 52 blocks, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Capoeira, Judo, Eskrima, And Boxing (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 (which is fitted with Crimson Trace laser grips in the fourth film), 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 9×19mm (Luger) firepower.[7] 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 only 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. 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 is shown to be humorous towards his friends Murtaugh and Getz. He mainly antagonizes Getz in ways like pulling Getz's nose after Getz asks if his nose was bleeding (Riggs had inadvertently punched Getz in an attempt by Arjen Rudd and his henchmen) and he apologizes about the incident and pulls his nose, hurting him more or dooming him to a needless rectal exam after getting shot in the arm after the attempted arrest of former LAPD lieutenant Jack Travis.

Riggs has a loose shoulder which can dislocate easily. He can reset it by slamming it into a wall or other hard objects, although doing so is very painful 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 owns a Sheltie named Sam who is seen in all four films. 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.

Riggs prefers driving GMC trucks, and owns a different GMC truck in every film.[citation needed]


Critics have given the character a positive reception.[8][9][10] 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.[11][12][13][14][15]


  1. ^ "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire. Retrieved September 10, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Top 25 Movie Franchises of All Time: #22". IGN. November 27, 2006. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Goldberg, Lesley (March 10, 2016). "Fox's 'Lethal Weapon' finds its Mel Gibson". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 11, 2016. 
  4. ^ "The Passion of the Mel". IGN. Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  5. ^ Maslin, Janet (1987-03-06). "FILM: 'LETHAL WEAPON,' A THRILLER WITH GIBSON". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  6. ^ Wilmington, Michael (1989-07-07). "MOVIE REVIEW : A Lethal 'Weapon 2". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-05-09. 
  7. ^ Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie - Eric Lichtenfeld - Google Books. 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  8. ^ Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie - Eric Lichtenfeld - Google Books. 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  9. ^ The Masculinity Studies Reader - Rachel Adams, David Savran - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  10. ^ Film as Religion: Myths, Morals, and Rituals - John Lyden - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Screening Scripture: Intertextual Connections Between Scripture and Film - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  13. ^ High Contrast: Race and Gender in Contemporary Hollywood Films - Sharon Willis - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  14. ^ The Masculinity Studies Reader - Rachel Adams, David Savran - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  15. ^ American Masculinity Under Clinton: Popular Media And the Nineties "Crisis ... - Brenton J. Malin - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-07.