The Action Mutant…
lists “Fuck You!” as one of his favorite bedtime stories.
review by Joe Burrows
Picture this: A cocksure 19 year old comedian is just debuting on Saturday Night Live. The entire cast had just been overhauled and it only took a number of episodes before it would happen again. But he survived because producers knew something was special about the guy. Who would have guessed two years later, he’d make $1 million for his first movie role in a Walter Hill action comedy and become a household name for life? And who would have guessed Nick Nolte would have turned into that burnout with the bad hair in that infamous mug-shot? And that Eddie Murphy would be swimming in money from doing countless animated films and becoming a family film whore? Ah, let’s revisit when times were much more innocent…
The Plot, as it was:
Nick Nolte plays Jack Cates, a drunken husk of a detective that can’t seem to go five minutes without irritating someone with his raspy demeanor (namely his girlfriend, played by Annette O’Toole). During what seems like a routine case of credit card fraud, Cates and two other cops (Jonathan Banks & James Keane) are ambushed by Ganz & Billy Bear (James Remar & Sonny Landham), two convicts that just busted out of jail. The two cops are murdered (one by Cates’ own gun, which Ganz steals) and Cates wants to exact revenge. He enlists the only member of Ganz’s former gang that’s still in prison to help him, a smooth talking sharpie named Reggie Hammond (Murphy). Cates gets Hammond for (you guessed it) 48 hours to find Ganz. Of course, Hammond manages to grind at Cates on every turn, constantly talking about wanting to get laid (he’s been in jail for 2 ½ years) and playing angles to benefit him best. And Hammond doesn’t seem to care for Cates at all, seeing as Cates doesn’t like him being a convict and calling him “watermelon” and such. It sounds like there’s a new sheriff in town…and his name is Reggie Hammond!
Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
This movie was made 25 years ago and it still stands the test of time. It was practically the film to cement the “cop/buddy” subgenre and hasn’t been done much better since then (you could argue the Lethal Weapon series one-upped it but the racial undercurrent was never really tackled as it was here). The plot isn’t really anything new but the real fun is in seeing the two leads’ chemistry as they snap at each other with wicked ferocity. Nolte is at his acerbic best, playing a cop who feels he has all the answers but doesn’t have the patience to back up his thoughts. This was a star vehicle for Murphy and he takes advantage like you wouldn’t believe. His character is all charisma and bluster and Murphy pulls out all stops with the role. Of course, the scene that cemented him in popular American consciousness is the scene in the redneck bar. Within five minutes of that scene, Murphy portrays what Hammond is all about: talking tough and loud and ultimately getting his way through persistence. That scene is extremely quotable, (“I don’t like white people…I hate rednecks. You people are rednecks, which means I’m enjoying this shit!”) along with many others, many having to do with the two leads putting each other down. It may be politically incorrect (Cates’ branding Reggie as “nigger”, “watermelon” and “spear chucker” wouldn’t fly today) but the dialogue offers extra bite in a subgenre that has become all too tepid. As an aside, James Remar makes for a memorably evil heavy, as his glower stare is enough to convey what he’s about. Frank McRae begins his seemingly endless tenure as the “shouting police chief” and David Patrick Kelly continues his 80s run as “nervous, edgy hood that gets pummeled” (this time around as Luther, which was his name in Walter Hill’s previous The Warriors).
Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- R.D. Call (State of Grace, Last Man Standing) is a Duty Sergeant.
Body Count/Violence: 9. As much as Woo likes guns, he a least throws in a death by knife or something on occasion. Hill must have been the NRA’s favorite director at some point because every death is by searing hot lead, with some blood to go around. There is also a fine car/bus chase and a classic fistfight between Jack and Reggie.
Sexuality/Nudity: Greta Blackburn and Denise Crosby show some breasts, with Blackburn showing her ass as well. Crosby and Margot Rose are also in skimpy panties during their majority of screen time. There is also a stripper with Silver Star pasties on in the redneck bar scene. Classy!
Language/Dialogue: Murphy wasted no time in this department, matching his co-star in the profanity and racial insult departments. Hammond also talks about sex when he’s not shouting Jack. Coincidentally, the F word is uttered 48 times.
How bad was it?:
How does universally revered work for you? Of course, there was the occasional critic that can’t give an action/comedy film an even break but those were few and far between. Most people seemed to love this film and (especially) Murphy’s performance.
Did it make the studio’s day?:
Though no numbers exist on its budget, I’m sure Paramount was very happy with 48 Hrs. Opening on 12/10/82, the film opened in 3rd place (despite misconceptions, 48 Hrs. never reached #1 at the box office) behind The Toy and Airplane II: The Sequel! However, it was only opened on 850 screens, and it took in about $500 more per average screen than the two films ahead of it (which were both on 1,000+ screens). This began an amazing 20 week run for the film, with all but 3 of those weeks spent in the top 10! By the time 48 Hrs. was pulled from theaters on 4/24/83, it had grossed $78.9 million, ranking as 1982’s 7th highest grossing film.
Entertainment value: *****/*****
Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.