Ladies and gentlemen, this week I thought it would be fun to take a look at one of the first ”buddy cop movies”… one of the most successful ones… and certainly one of the best of the lot! It also happens to be the feature film debut of a gentleman named Eddie Murphy! Yes… I am, of course, talking about 48 HRS.
It was directed by Walter Hill, who’s also given us The Warriors, Extreme Prejudice and Streets of Fire, to name a couple of titles. It’s an action-comedy, but the comedy isn’t the laugh out loud type; at least not all the time. It’s more of a subtle type of comedy, which works very well here. It feels more natural, if you know what I mean! The action in 48 HRS isn’t over the top either, but don’t get me wrong though, because there’s plenty of it and it’s actually pretty violent. So much so, that the Swedish censors cut the movie down by three and a half minutes!
The movie opens on a gang of convicts working on a dirt road, when a Native American arrives and asks for water for his pick-up truck’s overheating radiator. One of the convicts, Albert Ganz, played by James Remar (The Warriors, The Long Riders) starts insulting him and they end up in a fistfight in the dirt. It’s a staged fight though and the Native American (Billy Bear), played by Sonny Landham (Predator, Firewalker), hands Ganz a gun, and they shoot a couple of the guards before driving off into the sunset… erm, driving off in the truck, I mean!
Later, in San Francisco, Ganz and Billy Bear are cornered in a hotel by Detective Jack Cates and two of his fellow officers, and a shoot-out ensues, ending with two dead cops; one of them shot with Jack’s own gun. Jack Cates is played by Nick Nolte, whom I’m sure you’ll recognize from movies like The Deep or Cape Fear (1991), for instance. You might also recognize Jonathan Banks in the role of Detective Algren; he’s been in Beverly Hills Cop and in the TV show The Gangster Chronicles as Dutch Schultz, to name a handful. He’s not in 48 HRS for long though! He’s actually the one getting shot with Cates’ gun!
Ganz and Billy Bear are after $500.000 in cash, that was stolen a couple of years back, when a drug deal went bad. The money is hidden, so they go to pay one of their old “pals” a visit, to make him give them the money. Luther, played by David Patrick Kelly (Commando, The Crow), tells them he can’t get to the cash until after the weekend, when the place it’s hidden at, opens again! In order to be sure of Luther’s co-operation they kidnap his girlfriend as collateral for the $500.000.
Cates, who has no leads on Ganz, turns to one of his other associates who’s currently in prison, and gets him out on a 48 hour leave… hence the title of the movie! His name is Reggie Hammond and is played brilliantly by Eddie Murphy (Beverly Hills Cop, Metro). As I stated earlier, this was his big screen debut and he absolutely nails it in 48 HRS.
Actually… both Mr. Nolte and Mr. Murphy are perfect here! The interaction between the two is a joy to watch, and some of it was apparently improvised! I have no idea if that’s true or not, but the dialogue and banter between them feels very natural. Over the course of the movie you can see the respect and friendship growing, and because of it feeling natural, it doesn’t seem as farfetched as you would first think.
Don’t get me wrong, although these two shines in their roles, the rest of the cast is pretty impressive too. Apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned we also see Annette O’Toole (Cat People, Superman III) as Cates’ patient girlfriend, and Brion James (Blade Runner, Tango & Cash) as Detective Ben Kehoe. In smaller roles you might recognize Frank McRae (Licence To Kill, Last Action Hero) as Captain Haden, Denise Crosby (Pet Sematary, Star Trek: The Next Generation) as Sally, and Peter Jason (They Live, Johnny Handsome) as the cowboy bartender in Torchy’s.
In a “blink and you’ll miss him” part as a police officer, we have Chris Mulkey… you know, from The Hidden and the TV-show Twin Peaks, for instance.
At first, Reggie has no intention of telling Cates about the money and that that might be what Ganz is after, but when he finally do tell him, they start following Luther around! This leads to a gunfight and a chase involving Ganz and Billy Bear in a stolen bus, and Cates crashing his car through a car dealer’s showroom window. Ganz and Billy gets away, and following a scolding from hell, from Cates’ Captain, our two mismatched friends are almost ready to give up! Almost!
I think we first watched this in the theater, but I honestly can’t remember! I mean, it HAS been more than 30 years, you know! (Yikes!) We did watch it on VHS though! A lot! And yes… in case you haven’t figured it out by now… I love this movie! I love everything about it! The story, the characters and the wonderful dialogue… and don’t even get me started on the awesome score, which was done by James Horner. And to top it all, we get to hear one of my all time favorite songs, The Boys Are Back In Town performed by The BusBoys! They actually appear in the movie too, as the band playing in the scene that takes place inside the club named Vroman’s.
Well, my friends… I, once again, find myself ending on a musical note, so until next time… the comment section below is, as always, all yours!