Action/buddy movies were at their height during the 80s and 90s. Film series like Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon were hugely successful. This is one of the films that kicked the genre off. As it was originally released in 1982 48 Hrs. will seem somewhat dated and less politically correct than what we’ve become accustomed to in the year 2011.
This was stand-up comedian Eddie Murphy’s film debut. Looking back on a lot of Eddie Murphy’s early stuff I find that most of it is racist and sexist. When I rewatched his hit stand-up film Delirious recently instead of finding it as funny as I previously had I was oftentimes offended rather than amused. I say this only to lead into a warning that 48 Hrs. for those who enjoyed it when it was first released that seeing it again with today’s eyes and sensibilities might change that.
After a cop shooting, Detective Jack Cates (Nick Nolte – Cape Fear, The Thin Red Line) is the only survivor. Determined to find and capture the men behind it he has Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy – Dreamgirls, Norbit) released from jail for 48 hours. Reggie was formerly the partner of the criminals, Albert Ganz (James Remar – from television’s Dexter) and Billy Bear (Sonny Landham – Predator, Poltergeist).
Jack and Reggie get along like oil and water, so that is making them working together a little difficult. It gets so bad that they even get physical with one another. What comes out is that Reggie has $500,000 stashed in the trunk of a car and is anxious to get to it as Ganz and Billy are also after it. It becomes a race against time to see if they can capture the two criminals before their 48 hours is up.
The charisma that Eddie Murphy possesses is on full display in this film. He is cocky without being overly arrogant. In other words, it works for him. His role and the dialogue in the film highlight his natural talents well. The chemistry he has with Nick Nolte, who plays the cranky, alcoholic cop, is good and they play off of each other well. Nolte is the straight man so he underplays everything and allows Murphy to shine in his first role.
Director Walter Hill (Red Heat, Brewster’s Millions) does a good job juggling the comedy and action sequences. He keeps the story fairly linear and simple. Also brings his characters to the screen warts and all allowing them to be seen a “real” people with flaws.