48 Hrs. (1982)
48 Hrs. (1982)

Genre: Action Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: December 8th, 1982 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Walter Hill Actors: Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Annette O’Toole, Frank McRae, James Remar, David Patrick Kelly, Sonny Landham, Brion James, Jonathan Banks, Greta Blackburn, Margot Rose, Denise Crosby

 


 

A

s a group of convicts work on a railroad line, a Native American stranger in a light blue truck pulls up, asking for water for his overheating vehicle. One of the prisoners picks a fight with the newcomer and the two roll down an embankment before opening fire on the guards, revealing their carefully orchestrated prison break. They hightail it out of the desert and back into the city, where a killing spree begins.

The escaped criminal is Albert Ganz (James Remar), an incredibly ruthless armed robber, partnered with remorseless, towering East Bay murderer Billy Bear (Sonny Landham) – and their first target is Luther (David Patrick Kelly), a former associate who owes Ganz some money. When police detectives Algren (Jonathan Banks) and Vanzant (James Keane) attempt to apprehend them at a hotel, grumpy, growling, mumbling, San Francisco cop Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) casually comes to their assistance. In an unexpected shootout, the bad guys get away and only Jack escapes with his life. To assist in tracking down the homicidal maniacs, Cates reluctantly releases and recruits imprisoned ex-gang member Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) for two days, hoping the inmate can clue him in on the motives behind Ganz’ rampage. “We ain’t partners!”

Nolte is either overly dramatic or under-emotional in his deliveries (he’s somewhat realistic but mostly dislikable), while Murphy plays Murphy, with his fast-talking, foul-mouthed, high-pitched wisecracks flowing continuously – pausing infrequently even just for a breath. He seems to genuinely enjoy harassing people, under the guise of an officer. The two trade cynical, nasty, occasionally racist remarks and repartee that isn’t nearly as funny as it is crass, though a few lines effectively make use of repetition and wit. Overall, the tone is something akin to a mean-spirited “Beverly Hills Cop” (though that picture wouldn’t reach cinemas for another two years).

Cates revels in throwing around his gun and badge, engaging in rough interrogations, drinking on the job, fistfighting for no reason, acting impulsively, and breaking the law if it gets results – and if it doesn’t, he’s not particularly worried. According to his askew philosophy on combating crime, bullshit and experience is all it takes to be proficient in thwarting crooks; but those qualities certainly don’t help in communicating with superiors, associates, and his girlfriend (Annette O’Toole). With gun battles, on-foot pursuits, car chases, half-a-million in cash, an amusing assortment of locations to demolish, Frank McRae as a perpetually shouting police chief, and repeated getaways by the villains (all supplemented by James Horner’s wide-ranging but always fitting music), the film manages consistent action, comedy, and suspense. The two leads form an entirely watchable partnership amidst a generally competent crime thriller (there’s still a bit of luck and coincidence in their maneuvering) that predates the likes of buddy cop series “Lethal Weapon” (and, to a lesser degree, “Die Hard 2”). “48 Hrs.” would find critical and commercial success immediately, as well as a sequel, also directed by Walter Hill, eight years later.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10