48 Hours

star2 star1 star1

Director: Walter Hill

Writers: Walter Hill, Roger Spottiswoode, Larry Gross, Steven E. de Souz

Main Cast:
Jack Cates – Nick Nolte
Reggie Hammond – Eddie Murphy
Elaine – Annette O’Toole
Haden – Frank McRae
Ganz – James Remar
Luther – David Patrick Kelly
Billy Bear – Sonny Landham

Running time: 96 Minutes

Rating: R

Year of Release: 1982 

Not a very popular place with the brothers”


        48 Hrs. stands at a threshold, a point between the more down to earth hard edged cop dramas of the Seventies and the over-the-top action films of the Eighties. It’s a hodge-podge of what has worked and what will work.       


        The characters are also caught between being down to earth enough to be almost real, and cliché enough to not be. For example, Nick Nolte’s Jack Cates is the outsider cop we are all familiar with seeing. He grumbles, is always pissed off, will always file a report “in the morning”, and starts the day with a cigarette and alcohol in his coffee (no clichés there at all). But he’s also slightly overweight, carries a mostly down to earth personality, and brings an honest casualness to the role that enables us to believe that he might be an actual cop. In other words, he comes off as human. He's is definitely a precursor to the muscle-bound action figures that would come to the fore in the 80's, with their ripped bodies, martial arts prowess, and superhuman stunts.


        Evil criminal Ganz (James Remar) has just busted out of jail and now he wants the cash that he and his other partners in crime once took. It’s “the kind of money that doesn’t get reported stolen.” One of the people in the gang was Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy), who was sent to jail when Ganz ratted him out. Upon his breakout, Ganz steals the wrong credit card, and Nolte, while on a routine bust for the original owner of the card, gets thrown into the chase. The only way Nolte can get some leads is to talk to Murphy who informs Nolte that the only way he’ll help him is if he gets him out of jail, which Nolte does, but only for 48 hours. And there's your title!


        Eddie Murphy plays Reggie Hammond in his first big screen role. And although he is funny, I think it was a smart move to start his film career with a movie that was a bit more dramatic, rather than go for a straight comedy. It enables us to see that when tasked, he has a wider range than one would expect. One, of course, needs to ignore the complete squandering of that opportunity that he has since taken. The surprising thing is that he handles the roll well, crafting a character that is streetwise, funny, and believable. It isn’t Eddie Murphy playing a “street-wise crook”, but a person who has interests and motivations of his own that he is looking out for. But don’t get me wrong, Murphy is hilarious in his constant refusal to take anything seriously, as he tries to get what’s his without letting Nolte know what’s going on.


        On the less realistic side is the character of Ganz (James Remar). Remar plays the character cold, bloodthirsty, and psychotic, and he plays him well. But that is all that he is; a savage sociopath. As one character puts it, “I just think he likes killing cops more than he does getting laid.” There’s not much to him besides the money that he’s after.


        48 Hrs. is a great cop thriller, well executed, and not ridiculously over the top. It has two strong actors in the lead roles and both are well grounded. While the movie clearly belongs to Murphy, who is particularly entertaining when, pretending to be a cop, he bluffs his way into a country-western bar, Nolte, who is the straight man to Murphy, never becomes overshadowed by his co-star and is clearly the authority figure that carries the film.


        If you haven’t seen it, make sure you take the time to rent this cop thriller classic.


        48 Hours fun in under 2 hours.



(2001. Reviewed by Frederick Holbrook)


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