Sunday 3 December 2023

48 Hrs. (1982)


Off-List: 48 timer

The second off-List movie of 1982 is “48 Hrs.”. This is one of those movies I would have watched quite a few times back in the eighties, but probably not since, so finding it on the list of eligible 1982 movies, I thought it was time to revisit it. Also, Eddie Murphy had quite a streak in the eighties and those movies are generally worth watching.

Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) is a police inspector in San Francisco who, somewhat coincidentally gets involved in a shootout between escaped convict Albert Gantz (James Remar) and Billy Bear (Sonny Landham) and two of Cates’ colleagues. Both policemen are killed and now Cates wants to hunt them down. To help him Cates seek out Ganz former partner Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) who has six months left of a three-year sentence. Turns out Hammond is more than willing to get Ganz busted.

Cates and Hammond are a very unlikely duo. There is very little sympathy between them and absolutely no trust. A fist fight and a number of near misses with Bear and Ganz change that to a grudging respect as they both prove very resourceful.

“48 Hrs.” is considered the founder of the buddy-cop genre, a genre that became immensely successful throughout the eighties and nineties. At least quantitatively if not qualitatively. It created a format that has been copied and imitated ad infinitum. You would have a white and a black guy, a wild one and a lawful one, a screaming police chief (preferably black) and a case that is about to explode and probably does. If the policemen do not lose the badge it is a close call. The duo will intensely dislike each other, but through the dangers of the case they will learn to trust and respect each other. Did I forget anything? Oh, there will always be some girl/wife/daughter trouble, something about job vs. paying attention to the home front.

We all know these clichés and they all come from this movie. “48 Hrs.” did not invent the police movie and some of those tropes were established at the time it was released, but the format was definitely set by this movie. That means, watching it now, forty years later, it feels dated and predictable, almost comically so, and it is easy to forget that “48 Hrs.” is not a recipe movie, but the movie that made the recipe. For this reason, I did not enjoy it as much as I remember, which is, honestly, unfair of me.

Nolte is almost comically gruff and tough. A bit of an alcohol problem and fighting with everybody including wife, boss and colleagues and driving around is a car that is both too big and too trashed. Murphy is, well, Murphy. He is not pulling out all his guns as he would later in “Beverly Hills Cop” but there is enough of his roguishness to make him both sleek and amusing. His introduction, singing Police’ “Roxanne” in prison sets a high bar which he cannot quite reach for the rest of the movie, with the possible exception of him busting a country and western bar.

As we have come to expect from Buddy-cop cop movies, there is a lot of action. Shootouts, car chases, hostage scenarios and really badass villains. “48 Hrs.” is fine of all these accounts and would still be if we had not become accustomed to even wilder fare. One can argue there is a special charm here, but Nolte is not my favorite actor, and his performance is just a tad too hammy to win me over.

Still, “48 Hrs.” must get credit for being first and considering how may tropes it fathered I find it rather surprising it is not on the List. For this reason (some may argue only for this reason) it is a must-see movie.    


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