48 Hrs. (1982) Directed by Walter Hill. With Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, James Remar, Sonny Landham and Annette O Toole.
Walter Hill’s 48Hrs is perhaps most notable for boasting the first big screen appearance of stand-up comic turned A-list movie star, Eddie Murphy. Co-written by Hill with three other writers, one of which is Die Hard writer, Steven E. de Souza, the film is clumsy, noisy and entirely predictable for the duration of its 96-minute run.
The story is a simple twist on the buddy-cop thriller; two contrasting personalities thrown together to chase bad guys and crack wise. Murphy is a convict given a 48 Hr release from prison to help ‘cop’ Nick Nolte catch some bad guys.
These films tend to stand and fall based on the chemistry shared between the seemingly reluctant leads. The more they rub-up against each other, the better for us. On this level, 48 Hrs manages to be some fun. Murphy is a born scene-stealer and the moment he arrives on screen things get a big lift. His comic talent brushes up against a scabrous (and questionably racist) Nick Nolte, who spends most of the film fighting, shouting, drinking and firing his gun.
Like much of Walter Hill’s work, it revels far too happily in the joy of masculinity. Women are treated as second-rate human beings; sexy hookers, angry lesbians, pissy girlfriends. It renders many of his films one-dimensional and frankly boring. The men too are pigs – interested in sex (“trim”as Murphy calls it) and themselves, all the while demonstrating textbook emotional reticence.
The bad guys too are about as stock as they come. James Remar and Sonny Landham play a pair of violent prison escapees for Nolte and Murphy to chase. The script isn’t geared towards spending any time fleshing them out, serving us the bare minimum insight into why these guys are so angry and pissed off. It’s this kind of one-note characterisation that further saps our interest, as we’re expected to accept gunfire and testosterone as a substitute for any kind of real human touch.
Without the star power of Eddie Murphy, 48 Hrs would be nothing. He (just) keeps it afloat with his upbeat energy and cheeky charm. The film constructed around him is a lazy, often stupid trudge through the already worn clichés of the genre. 2.5/5