48 Hrs. - 1982
48Hrs. is co-written and directed by Walter Hill, best known for his writer and producer work in the Alien Franchise. Hill’s writing partners included Larry Gross, who would go on to write 90’s Another 48Hrs. and 99’s True Crime, and Roger Spottiswoode, who would go on to direct 89’s Turner & Hooch and 97’s Tomorrow Never Dies. Roger Ebert coined the term “Wunza Movie”, meaning a movie where you can describe the duo as “One’s a _____”. In this case the story is one’s a hard-nose cop who doesn’t play by the rules (Nick Nolte) and one’s a wisecracking convict (Eddie Murphy), and they join forces to track down a killer.
This movie is often called the originator of the buddy cop comedy genre. It was later followed-up by the Beverly Hills Cop Franchise, Lethal Weapon Franchise and the Rush Hour Franchise (just to mention a few). What makes this movie a stand-out from the ones I mentioned, outside of one of this duo not being a cop, is the race tension between the leads. Audiences connected in how raw and natural the leads interacted with one another throughout the movie and how they gain each other’s respect despite their differences in the beginning.
Walter Hill created a great balance between the comedy and the action. Not only that, he also created a balance between the dry humor of Nolte and the upbeat clever humor of Murphy. The action in this movie is great, always benefiting (like all the movies from this years) from practical effects and the use of blood squibs to accentuate each gun-wound. My favorite sequence is when Nolte and Murphy finally come to blows and have a fight that has to be stopped by the police. We get a well-choreographed fight that gets bookended by jokes of superiority from Murphy and Nolte, favoring the action but never forgetting its comedic elements.
Quick note: This is one of the first movies Joel Silver produced in his career. He would go on to produce, among many other movies, the Lethal Weapon Franchise, Die Hard Franchise, Matrix Franchise and Predator Franchise, just to name a few. Nothing constructive to add, just impressed.
48 Hrs. marks the first starting role for Eddie Murphy. He plays Reggie Hammond, a convict taken out on parole to help track down a killer he used to work with in the past. He oozed pure charisma and confidence throughout the entire movie. Nobody but Murphy can deliver the following line with a straight face and make everyone laugh, “I've been in prison for three years. My dick gets hard if the wind blows.” Murphy had been rising to stardom thanks to his first year as a cast member on SNL and he was catapulted to the spotlight after this debut. He was nominated at the Golden Globes for this role and would letter be asked to guest-host SNL, even though he was still in the cast. After 48Hrs, Murphy got mountains of successful scripts thrown at him. He basically did what Chevy Chase wished he had done with his SNL fame, building a movie career on the back of this performance. His best scene, and the one Ebert said was the one that made him a star, is when he takes over the all-white country bar. He commanded respect and controlled the entire room with his persona. Enjoy below.
Watching this movie made me realize how much I miss Nick Nolte. Here he plays Jack Cates, a cop trying to do his job by any means necessary. He doesn’t care if you like him or not; he is trying to stop a killer and your feelings are the last thing on his mind. Nolte mastered this persona to the point that it came natural to him. Many before him and after him have done this character, but Nolte is special and beyond enjoyable to watch.
Quick note: Frank McRae plays the yelling, outraged police commissioner - the very same character he would later play as a satirical version in the highly underrated The Last Action Hero.
48Hrs. is one of the better action comedies ever made and it holds up beautifully to this day. Having two bright and shining stars as its leads in Murphy and Nolte only helps to elevate the script and the direction from Hill. Nolte and Murphy’s chemistry is why I love movies.
48Hrs. is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. HE. HE. HE.
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