Classic Review – 48 Hrs. (1982)

Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy make a terrific duo in Walter Hill's 48 Hrs.

Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy make a terrific duo in Walter Hill’s 48 Hrs.

48 Hrs.

Directed by Walter Hill

Starring Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Annette O’Toole

Review by Jordan

An often used expression is ‘stick to what you know,’ and it seems that action director Walter Hill has stuck closely to this thought his entire career. He has made some true classics of genre film-making, most ahead of their time, but throughout each of his works is a high level of testosterone; male characters thrown into hazardous scenarios with other men and fighting against the odds – with the occasional female thrown into the mix as a bi-character to help establish the personality of the lead.

Don’t get me wrong though; this isn’t a complaint. Hill has made too many brilliantly cool, re-watchable movies to list here, and co-wrote/produced a little sci-fi franchise by the name of Alien, but the apex of his long career in my opinion is in the form of three classics made in four years: The Warriors (1979), Southern Comfort (1981) and the hugely influential yet now rarely spoken of 48 Hrs. (1982).

Introducing the world to the now commonplace “buddy cop” routine, 48 Hrs. pits grizzled veteran detective Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) and quick-talking, smooth-moving, temporarily-released-from-prison criminal Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) against ruthless cop killer Albert Ganz (James Remar – previously seen in The Warriors), who is in search of a stolen sum of money of which Hammond knows the location. The skeleton of the plot may sound familiar and even the sub-genre itself to all Lethal Weapon fans, but where this one truly shines is in the chemistry of it’s two leads and the cracking dialogue they share.

At first Hammond is reluctant to help, with his release from prison (where he can belt out Roxanne while listening to it on a Walkman) only a few months away and a non-surprising distaste for angry white detectives, and the common hostility between he and Cates is an absolute comic goldmine, made even richer through Eddie Murphy’s enthusiastic yet nuanced performance. 48Hrs. was his first feature film, and once he asserts himself in a redneck bar surrounded by angry patrons, pretending to be “the new sheriff in town,” it becomes immediately clear to see why at one point he was the most bankable comedic actor on the planet.  Nolte too is terrific, his character bogged down by put-upon prejudice and with regrettably little time for his long-suffering girl (Annette O’Toole – a very fine actress who is relegated to being little more than Hill’s token female gesture here) who throughout the 2 days undergoes an ever-so slight transformation before eventually forming an authentic, and hard earned partnership with his new friend.

An influential, exciting and seriously entertaining action comedy, the great Walter Hill’s third masterpiece can best be anticipated through use of it’s original tagline:

When a tough cop has a cool convict as a partner and a killer to catch, a lot of funny things can happen in…

48 hrs poster

4.5 neglected girlfriends out of 5

9 responses to “Classic Review – 48 Hrs. (1982)

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