As promised, here it is. As I write this it’s 12 July, and it’s “Amazon Prime Day.” I made a quick check of what’s new on Amazon Prime Video, and there it was: 48 Hrs., starring Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy. It’s from all the way back in 1982 out of Paramount pictures, and superbly directed by Walter Hill. It’s Murphy’s pièce de résistance, his film debut, and what cemented him as a top box office draw.
I’m sure I first noticed this on something like HBO, and when I clicked it on I thought I had the wrong TV schedule. For a rough and tumble crime (comedy) thriller, this one has a positively bucolic opening. Check this scene and see if it doesn’t positively shout Wyoming!
Cows are munching the prairie grass, and horses are being horsey. A prison work gang is inching along a rail line, picks and shovels flying, dust swirling. You do not want to do the slam in this district.
The drama unfolds. A derelict pickup truck rattles over the horizon, heading for the railroad crossing. You don’t realize it, but mayhem is coming.
The truck is driven by Billy Bear (Sonny Landham), partner in crime with Albert Ganz (James Remar), working the prison gang. Ganz picks a fight with Billy, tossing racial slurs. When the two grapple in a mud puddle they both come up with pistols and proceed to gun down the guards. They make their escape, leaving two dead behind. This is only the beginning of a crime spree.
Meanwhile, San Francisco Police Inspector Jack Cates (Nolte) is having the start of a bad day. After a night of fine sex with his lady friend Elaine Marshall (Annette O’Toole), he exhibits his zero bedside manner and leaves her place in a foul mood. Notable quote:
If you let me come over to your place once in a while you could put on a clean shirt in the morning.
What makes you think I have a clean shirt?
Throughout the next 48 hours Jack continues to foul up his love life with Elaine.
Meanwhile the two bad boys have been busy. They have murdered a former partner in a park and are arranging for some hookers. This leads two San Francisco cops to the sleazy hotel where the crooks have registered with a stolen credit card. Jack arrives and offers to back them up. He waits in the lobby while they go upstairs.
It does not turn out well. Billy and Ganz gun down the two cops and confront Jack in the lobby. They force Jack to surrender his pistol and use it to finish off the wounded cop.
Following the trail of dead bodies, Jack figures on Reggie Hammond (Murphy), a first time robbery convict finishing out a four-year stint. Jack springs Reggie for 48 hours to help run down the case. Hence the title.
Reggie displays impressive street smarts, as he slams Luther (David Patrick Kelly), a one-time partner in crime, with a car door after Luther takes a shot at Jack and tries to split. Luther is holding $500,000 of Reggie’s money, previously stolen from some drug dealers who were loathe to report the crime to the police. Billy and Ganz want the money.
The Jack and Reggie partnership is stormy to tempestuous. Insults are hurled. blows are exchanged. As Reggie’s prowess begins to manifest, mutual respect grows.
Reggie suggests they visit a cowboy bar, where Billy used to work. Don’t know how I happened to pick this screen shot.
This is crazy. Everybody is wearing hats. It’s the middle of San Francisco, California, and just about everybody in the joint, even the stripper, is wearing a cowboy hat. It reminds me of my high school class reunion. The hats, not the stripper.
Reggie pretends to be a cop and cows the cowboy clientèle. As they depart, Reggie announces to the rhinestone cowboys, “There’s a new sheriff in town.”
Lots of action follows, but I’m not retelling the plot. Time is up, and Jack is taking Reggie back to the clink. Then they think of two women friends of the crooks, and decide to pay another visit. It pays off. Reggie gets the drop on Billy, and ices him when Billy goes for his knife. Then Ganz grabs Reggie in a darkened Chinatown alley, with the intent of luring Jack out so he can finish the job he started at the first shootout. Quick with a trigger, Jack plugs Ganz multiple times and takes his own gun back. End of plot.
Yes, I find humor in a crowd of tough guys in San Francisco crowded into a club and all wearing cowboy hats. Indoors and at night. I have heard there are strange things that go on in San Francisco nightclubs.
Eddie Murphy is arrogance personified. This performance locked him as the king of brass balls and the personification of cool. The sequel, Another 48 Hrs., is a rehash of the same idea, by then a bit shopworn. Murphy sprang fresh again in Beverly Hills Cop, displaying the same brashness and well.
My favorite Nick Nolte movie is Teachers, which came out two years later. A review if I can find a copy.