48 Hours (1982)

In my journey of catching up on films that I never saw the first time around, I decided to watch 48 Hours, the 1982 action / cop / comedy film directed by Walter Hill, and famously starring Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy (in his first feature film role.) It also features James Remar, Annette O’Toole, and hilarious Frank McRae as the always yelling mad police captain trope. And can I be honest in admitting that I was quite surprised to find Denise Crosby in this film? Didn’t know she did films in the 80’s.

In case you haven’t seen the film, or it has been a while, Nick Nolte plays a maverick, tough guy, seemingly alcoholic, SFPD officer Jack Cates. After chasing down a pair of criminals, he is the only survivor of a cop shooting. In order to catch this pair of murderers, he springs prison convict Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) from jail for 48 hours. Hammond is oddly motivated to help, as they were all in the same gang. The killer (James Remar) is searching for his stash of cash. Cates and Hammond who have the Black-white, cop-crook thing to work out, have a lot of issues, but make a surprisingly good pair partners as the story develops, and as they navigate through San Francisco looking for their suspects.

I had assumed that both Cates and Hammond got along together through this film, but I was wrong. They spend most of the film sparring against each other, as Cates doesn’t trust Hammond. In fact, I was a bit taken back by Cates’ level of racist insults throughout the film against his partner. I suppose I simply wasn’t expecting it, but I think it added to the grittiness of the film. Interesting film. Lots of dialogue, lots of action.

Let me tell you what I didn’t get though. I know this was an 1980’s era action film, and no one ever accused this era of films to be the most realistic. Normally when someone high profile like these two killers are out bumping off people in a city, there would be a lot of police officers working in a task force of some kind. Yet these two guys go like a pair of lone wolves (?) or two guys on an island or I don’t know. These two guys did everything by themselves, including trying to catch these guys in crowded city locations. No backup? No coordination with other units? I don’t know if this is how it used to be, or if this is pure Hollywood fantasy, but this wouldn’t fly nowadays.


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