By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Annette O’Toole, James Remar, David Patrick Kelly, Sonny Landham, and Denise Crosby
Five years before Lethal Weapon, there was 48 Hours. Back in 1982, buddy/cop films had not really hit yet. And, when this film ended up grossing over $75 million at the box office, studios took notice at this new formula. However, even with gritty director Walter Hill (The Warriors) at the helm, there was no guarantee that it would work. With an as of yet unproven in film Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte (after the studio’s first choice, Mickey Rourke, turned it down) driving the ship, the film would need a smart script, involving action, and flat out funny humor to score with audiences. And, to say that 48 Hours succeeds on all these levels and more is an understatement.
First of all, the action is terrific. In fact, if you knew nothing about this movie and watched the first 20 minutes, you would think it was just a gritty action film. But, of course, this is when we are introduced to the characters we will be following. Nolte is awesome as down on his luck San Francisco cop Jack Cates. When we meet him, he is having an argument with his girlfriend (Annette O’Toole, in a sex crazed role that I, so used to seeing her in mom roles and Lana Lang in Superman III, was shocked at to say the least) in which he tells her, “I make you feel good. You make me feel good. What the hell more do you want from a guy?” Doesn’t get much more direct than that, does it? Then, after attempts to bring main baddie Albert Ganz (James Remar) are unsuccessful, Cates finds that he is going to need help with the case. To do this, he springs criminal Reggie Hammond (Murphy) and gets him for…you guessed it…48 hours.
Here is when the film really kicks it into high gear. Because, not only is the repore between Nolte and Murphy great (when Hammond complains that he’s hungry, Cates takes him to the snack machine to get a candy bar) but, while it is not as shocking today, it is uncanny to hear Cates call Hammond ‘watermelon’ and ‘spear chucker’. However, here is when the film’s smartness comes in. Because, underneath all the insults (which Cates apologizes for later), the story of taking down Ganz and Billy Bear (Predator’s Sonny Landham) kicks in and some nicely choreographed action also takes place. Also, while the highlight of this movie is undoubtedly Hammond’s taking over of a hillbilly bar, the way he is introduced, singing “Roxanne” from The Police in his cell, may be the best introduction of a character this side of Darth Vader. Ok, maybe not that great. But, funny nonetheless.
In conclusion, if you are looking for just the right combination of nicely choreographed action and funny comedy, then 48 Hours is your ticket. Also, it is great seeing the at the time funny as can be Murphy get his chops in this, his big screen debut. Laced with some great shoot outs (the one from the bus is a highlight to me) and uproarious lines (Cates to Hammond: “Class isn’t something you buy. Look at you. You’re wearing a $500 suit and you’re still a low-life”) the film also displays the terrific directing of Hill, a fantastic action director who is really on top of his game here. Bottom line is, if you haven’t yet, see this movie. And, if you have already, see it again. I bet it is even better than you remember.
4 out of 5