Movie Review: 48 Hrs. (1982)
“The boys are back in town. Nick Nolte is a cop. Eddie Murphy is a convict. They couldn’t have liked each other less. They couldn’t have needed each other more.”
48 Hrs. (1982)
Director: Walter Hill
Cast: Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Annette O’Toole
Synopsis: A hard-nosed cop reluctantly teams up with a wise-cracking criminal temporarily paroled to him, in order to track down a killer.
48 Hrs. is the kind of movie Hollywood doesn’t make anymore. Not because tastes have changed, or technological advances have left it looking outmoded, but because it’s the kind of movie Hollywood is simply too afraid to make anymore. The 48 (coincidental, apparently) uses of the F-word, the brutal, bruising fistfight, the racial abuse spouted by Nick Nolte’s (Gangster Squad, The Ridiculous 6) gruff police detective Jack Cates before he and his black prisoner Reggie Hammond (a debuting Eddie Murphy – Beverly Hills Cop, Meet Dave) inevitably become best buds – all of this would have the studio accountants performing their calculations and deciding that the risk would be too great, the likely rating excluding too much of the potential audience, the financial return too low. It’s a shame, because, although it looks a little dated at times, after 30 years 48 Hrs. effortlessly stands the test of time – even though it’s probably one of those films that grows better in one’s memory than it does on the screen.
Nolte’s Jack Cates is tasked with finding escaped convict Albert Ganz (James Remar) and his accomplice Billy Bear (Sonny Landham) after they kill a couple of his colleagues in a shoot-out at which Cates is present, and then steal his gun. Cates gets Ganz’s former partner Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) a 48hr release from prison so that he can help him track down Ganz. The pair’s relationship is initially abrasive, but as they draw closer to their quarry a mutual respect and admiration slowly develops.
48 Hrs. was one of the first mismatched buddy movies, and as is so often the case with trend-setting movies, it was also one of the best. The chemistry between Nolte and Murphy is immediately established, and while the passing of time has made the trajectory of their relationship fairly predictable, their trading of insults and put-downs – and that ferocious fist fight – at least makes the journey enjoyable. Director Walter Hill keeps the action sequences coming at regular intervals, which is probably just as well because action was what he was best at by a long shot: the women in 48 Hrs. are strictly incidental to the plot, with poor Annette O’Toole, playing the long-suffering girlfriend of the semi-alcoholic Cates, largely reduced to playing her scenes on the phone.
Eddie Murphy would have made an impression with his debut in 48 Hrs. without that memorable scene in which he intimidates an entire bar full of cowboy rednecks, but that moment alone probably ensured his A-list status. A couple of years later he would have probably played it a lot differently – louder and brasher – dominating the scene and probably diminishing its quality, but he was still a novice here, still prepared to following his director’s instructions without question, and he‘s all the better for it. Nolte gives a typically gruff performance which suits his character down to the ground, while James Remar as the man they’re after gives an agreeably sleazy performance.
(Reviewed 6th June 2012)