48 Hrs. (1982) – Review

3 1/2 Stars


Walter Hill’s 48 Hrs. is a modern classic most fondly remembered for being the impressive film debut of Eddie Murphy. The comic genius of Murphy aside, this is a violent crime thriller with atmospheric cinematography by Ric Waite, a rousing score from James Horner and top notch direction from Hill. Many point to this as the beginning of the ‘Buddy Cop’ sub genre and even the ‘High Concept’ film; each are valid arguments. However unlike the hundreds of sub-par imitations and variations that followed in its wake, 48 Hrs. is well written and acted.

Working from a polished script penned by Hill, Roger Spotiswoode, Larry Gross and Steven E. de Souza the story flows with such ease that what is essentially a Dirty Harry rehash becomes something special. Nick Nolte is sullen San Francisco detective Jack Cates, a man forced to furlough a convict (Murphy) for two days in order to catch a pair of cop-killers. Murphy steals scene after scene with his comedic timing and charm (something that would evade him in later years). As the straight-man, Nolte isn’t the butt of jokes, yet rather a revenge bent cop on the trail of murders with a wisecracking, foul mouthed convict.

Watching 48 Hrs. nearly 30 years after its initial theatrical release was a little startling at times. There is an uncommon amount of racial slurs and police brutality throughout the film. It’s hard to believe the script would be commissioned today, and that would be a loss. The other thing that becomes abundantly clear is how influential this picture was on films in the ensuing time since. Chris Tucker has literally made a career making subpar versions of this over and over.

Director: Walter Hill
Stars: Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Annette O’Toole

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