Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Favorite Era: 48 Hrs. (1982)

There were a lot of breakout stars in the early 80's.  Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jackson, but maybe the most impressive was the rise of Eddie Murphy as a comedy juggernaut.  He joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in the hideously bad sixth season and was the lone spark of hope that season.  By 1982, however, he, along with Joe Piscopo was the only thing keeping the show on the air.  Ferociously funny,  he had a huge array of great characters that had the audience rolling in the aisles and at home.

In 1982, he made his film debut with this early Joel Silver outing, a nicely violent, funny buddy film co-starring Nick Nolte and directed by Walter Hill.  Nolte is San Francisco cop Jack Cates who gets involved in a shootout with escaped con Albert Ganz (James Remar) and his accomplice Billy Bear (Sonny Landham) that ends with two fellow officers dead.  He finds a way to catch Ganz in the form of Reggie Hammond (Murphy), a former associate he stole some money from.  Getting Hammond out of prison for 48 hours, they go after the villain, bickering and fighting all the way.

It's 96 minutes of gloriously violent, funny, politically incorrect entertainment.  Let's take a closer look.
  • James Horner's music sets the tone nicely in the beginning.  Horner really had a great 1982 with this film and Star Trek II.  Two great movies, two entirely different sounds.
  • The escape scene that opens the film is typically well done bit of action from Hill who has always been good at this sort of rough and tough movie.  James Remar makes for a good bad guy and as usual, Sonny Landham is solid support.
  • Nick Nolte is just fantastic as Cates.  Grumpy, sarcastic, drinks like a fish, pretty much the typical slob movie cop in the early 80's.  Also rather typical (for this sort of movie at least) is his relationship with Elaine (Annette O'Toole) which is strained to say the least as neither one of them is exactly what you could call 'likable'.  In fact, the role is pretty thankless and just is there to show Cates has a slightly soft side to him.  On the bright side, at least she isn't shoehorned into the plot as someone to be rescued at the end.
  • One thing against the movie is that as good as it is, it does have to be said that there isn't one single female character in the movie remotely likable.
  • David Patrick Kelly is a favorite of mine.  He's done quite a few films with Joel Silver and here he plays Luther, an associate of Ganz and shockingly enough one of the more likable roles on Kelly's resume.
  • The shootout in which Cates loses his gun and two of his fellow officers are killed is quite good.  One of the great things about Walter Hill is that his movies generally feature gun battles with the sound effects ramped up to deafening levels.
  • Kind of amusing to have Brion James here considering the rather out there twist in the second movie where he turns out to be the bad guy.  It adds another level to watching this film, but the sequel still stinks.
  • Frank McCrae is also amusing as the requisite pissed off boss, though the real priceless moment is one I'll get into later.
  • 25 minutes in and Eddie Murphy is finally introduced, sitting in a cell loudly screeching "Roxanne" by The Police.  It's a funny intro and right away Murphy is on a role.  The chemistry he has with Nolte is fantastic and the sheer amount of racially charged banter is nothing short of astonishing.  Like I said, the film is very politically incorrect.
  • At around 40 minutes we get, and I don't think I'm being too hyperbolic here, the single most important scene in Eddie Murphy's career.  Watching him intimidate the hell out of an entire redneck bar all by himself is a thing of foul-mouthed beauty.  It's not the funniest thing the man has done, but it's certainly the most memorable.
  • The fist fight that follows a few minutes later is another highlight.
  • As much as I enjoy the film, I could get rich if I had a thousand dollars for every time Cates is stalled by one of his fellow officers.  It gets a little old after the first three times.
  • The subplot of Reggie trying to get laid is an entertaining one as it gives Murphy a chance to be as hilariously crude as humanly possible.
  • The car vs. bus shootout is another nice one, though how one finds an almost empty couple of blocks in downtown San Francisco is a mystery for the ages.
  • After Ganz gets away, we are treated to the usual "cop gets chewed out by his boss" scene though there is something very special and amusing about it for me.  I love seeing edited for television versions of films simply for the dubbing choices that are made when the language gets a little too salty for primetime.  Here, at one point Hal McCrae drops the "N-bomb" while referring to Reggie twice.  In the edited for TV version, that's switched to 'convict', making Jack's tired "Oh crap" reaction funnier than it should be.
  • The film ends with a nicely done shootout and an equally nice bonding moment between Cates and Reggie.
48 Hrs. is a solid buddy movie that ended up not only setting the template for pretty much every buddy movie for the next thirty years but also helped make Eddie Murphy a mega-star.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.