Detective David Chase (Jeff Fahey) should not be mistaken for the creator of The Sopranos. Instead, he is an eccentric and tough Chicago policeman, the type of cop who appears to have seen Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon one too many times. His superiors send Detective Chase and his partner to keep an eye on a strike occurring outside of a water purification plant. Chase, however, is less interested in the strike and more interested in hitting on Melissa (Carrie-Ann Moss), who works at the plant.
Before you can say Die Hard All Over Again, a band of terrorists led by Montessi (Kim Coates) seizes control of the plant. Montessi threatens to poison all of Chicago’s drinking water but, what the authorities don’t realize, is that the attack is really just a distraction, designed to keep everyone from noticing Mr. Turner (Gary Busey) and his men running off with a bunch of stolen government bonds. Since Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, and even Jean-Claude Van Damme were busy, it is up to Jeff Fahey to save the water, the money, and the day!
A Die Hard rip-off starring Gary Busey, Kim Coates, and Jeff Fahey does not actually have to be any good. All the movie has to do is let those three actors do their thing and it will be watchable. That is certainly the case with Lethal Tender, which is entertaining even if it is, ultimately, just another predictable Die Hard ripoff. Jeff Fahey does okay as the hero but Lethal Tender belongs to the villains. This was made in the days when Gary Busey playing crazy was still enjoyable instead of just sad. Realizing that he was going to have to compete with Busey’s legendary ability to overact, Coates chews every piece of scenery that he can get his hands on. Launching a major terrorist strike to cover up a simple robbery might seem like overkill but watching Busey and Coates compete to see who can steal the most scenes is so much fun that it really doesn’t matter that Chicago’s drinking water might get poisoned as a result of their shenanigans.
For fans of Busey and Coates, Lethal Tender is required viewing. For everyone else, it’s the most successful attempt ever made to transport the plot of Die Hard to a water filtration plant.