Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Annette O'Toole, Frank McRae, James Remar, David Patrick Kelly, Sonny Landham, Brion James, Kerry Sherman, Jonathan Banks, James Keane, Tara King, Greta Blackburn, Margot Rose, Denise Crosby
Written by: Roger Spottiswoode, Walter Hill, Larry Gross, Steven E. de Souza, Jeb Stuart
Directed by: Walter Hill
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 96
Date: 12/08/1982
IMDB

48 Hrs. (1982)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Finest 'Hours'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I saw Walter Hill's 48 Hrs. many times on tape and on cable back in the early 1980s. It's amazing how well it holds up, but perhaps even more amazing that it works at all. It had the colossal task of introducing the popular stand-up comedian Eddie Murphy to movie audiences, but not in a comedy. Instead, he appears within the context of a very tough cop drama. Yet thanks to a combination of writers, Murphy's riffing, his great chemistry with co-star Nick Nolte, and Hill's tough, uncompromising direction, it somehow all came together.

Nolte plays a San Francisco cop, Jack Cates, on the trail of a dangerous killer, Ganz (James Remar), who has -- in addition to his other villainous activities -- murdered Cates's partner. When Ganz disappears, Cates goes to Ganz's former partner, Reggie Hammond (Murphy), who is serving three years in prison. Ganz is given permission to release Reggie from prison for 48 hours to help find Ganz. Annette O'Toole plays Cates' beautiful, troubled love interest.

It's a highly improbably scenario, to start, but Hill muscles his way through it, raising the stakes with nasty violence and explosive bad guys. David Patrick Kelly -- who had been in Hill's The Warriors -- is especially memorable as a vicious small-time thug called Luther.

However, it's Murphy's show; he was the box office draw, and very few customers came away disappointed. Murphy wiggles his appealing comic persona into every sequence, unflappable and selfish, eager for all the attention. His highlight is in the redneck bar sequence, when his fast-talking wit renders everyone else defeated and speechless.

48 Hrs. was Hill's biggest hit until, oddly, the sequel, Another 48 Hrs. (1990).

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