Spend 96 Hrs the fast way with Walter Hill, Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte
New on Blu-ray this week, both 48 Hrs. (1982) and its sequel Another 48 Hrs. (1990) are the latest releases in the Paramount Presents collection (which has been notably doing a pretty great job of releasing and re-releasing Eddie Murphy films on the format).
The films effectively mix drama, violent action, and subtle comedy, and between the pairing you can get a sense of Eddie Murphy both at the beginning of his career and as a full-fledged superstar.
Between them, the films have a number of terrific character actors and “great faces” including Annette O’Toole, David Patrick Kelly, Bernie Casey, Brion James, Frank McRae, Jonathan Banks, Peter Jason, Kevin Tighe, Ed O’Ross, and Ted Markland.
The film that not only made Eddie Murphy a movie star, but also introduced one of the action genre’s most entertaining producers, Joel Silver.
When an escaped prisoner and his pal who springed him (James Remar and Sonny Landham) are connected to a string of murders in San Francisco, grizzled cop Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) tracks down a lead on their former associate, Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) to get a jump on the baddies. Reggie’s in prison but is equally interested in stopping the kill list (he’s probably on it), so the pair reluctantly agree to a 48-hour release in order for the convict to aid in the investigation.
Though Murphy’s character in the film isn’t a cop, the film’s dynamic fits it comfortably into the “buddy cop” subgenre. Cates and Hammond are polar opposites and clearly don’t like each other, which is played up for both laughs and drama. While the pair eventually settles into a place of friendship and mutual respect, it’s only after nearly two days fraught with contention and distrust.
Throughout the film, Hammond often assumes the role of Cates’ partner, either outright pretending to be a cop or simply letting people believe that he is. Perhaps the film’s best highlight is a hilarious scene in which he interrogates the patrons of a honky-tonk bar, who clearly do not want him there, quipping that there’s a new sheriff in town.
Walter Hill has spoken about his desire to explore racial dynamics and tension in 48 Hrs, and it’s certainly one of the most eye-opening and ugly aspects of the film — especially in hindsight. Cates is openly denigrating toward Hammond for much of the film, even using racist language. He later explains that he didn’t mean it and was just applying the craft of his trade to get inside Hammond’s head, but we all know that’s simply not OK. Hammond says as much, and Cates acknowledges his agreement. Still, we’re kind of left wondering how much of Cates’ attitude was representative of internalized racism, and it begs the same question about the police in general (even Cates’ chief, who is black, uses the n-word in a derogatory manner).
Murphy was already a successful comedian on SNL, but his casting in 48 Hrs — through a lucky connection to director Walter Hill — showed that he could hold his own not only as a comic, but as an actor as well. With an even mix of action, comedy, and drama, it proved to be a terrific announcement of a new talent.
ANOTHER 48 HRS.
The landscape was quite different when the sequel Another 48 Hrs began production. Since his motion picture debut in 48 Hrs, Eddie Murphy went from the second billed lead to one of the biggest stars in the world, with Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop 1 & 2, and Coming to America under his belt.
The sequel puts a spin on the dynamic — Murphy’s Hammond is a free man, fresh out of prison after serving an extended sentence, while Nolte’s Cates is under temporary suspension pending a major investigation from Internal Affairs. They’re forced to pair up again as both are being targeted for death by a criminal biker gang, and in particular brother of the villain they put down in the first film — though Cates suspects “The Iceman”, a shadowy criminal boss he’s been tracking leads on, is pulling the strings (the other cops don’t acknowledge that such a figure exists, and it’s one of the reasons Cates is under internal investigation).
There’s an unfortunate sense of backtracking which initially puts Cates and Hammond at odds again. Hammond’s been in prison serving an extended sentence, and is annoyed that Cates has not only never visited him, but that when he finally does, it’s to rope him into another job. Doubtlessly this contention was intended to try to replicate the dynamic of the first film, but I feel like it would’ve been more fun to just watch them hit the ground running instead of backtrack the progress they’ve made (you can always introduce new conflicts into the story organically).
The sequel is clearly more ambitious in the action department, serving up intense and violent sequences of both chases and gunplay. One particularly extraordinary stunt involves a bus flipping multiple times and crashing into a truck with devastating effect.
I also give it props for a surprise ending that’s actually surprising.
48 Hrs. and Another 48 Hrs. are new on Blu-ray this week from the Paramount Presents Line. 48 Hrs. was previously released on Blu-ray, but this marks the sequel’s debut on the format. Surprisingly, Paramount opted to give the films their own separate editions rather than a combined double feature or boxed set.
Being released to the Paramount Presents series indicates a few characteristics common to that line: The Blu-ray packages include attractive gatefold slipcovers over clear cases, and digital copies are also included. The consecutive spine numbers are 19 and 20 (so you OCD types need not worry about them being divided). The films feature new transfers sourced from 4K restorations. That begs a couple questions: Paramount has already sprung for the 4K restoration, so why not release a 4K UHD edition? Or are those coming later as a deliberately planned double dip?
Special Features and Extras — 48 Hrs.
Filmmaker Focus with Walter Hill (19:08)
Hill talks about the film’s origins (which preceded his involvement), cast, and creative process.
HD Theatrical Trailer (3:03)
Space Kid short (5:31)
The full, restored version of a 60s cartoon which makes an appearance in the film, watched by James Remar’s character in the hotel scene. The cartoon is restored and in high definition, and looks really great. While not relevant to understanding the film, it’s a whimsical and appreciated bonus.
Special Features and Extras — Another 48 Hrs.
Filmmaker Focus with Walter Hill (14:35)
Hill talks about the sequel’s development, Eddie Murphy’s rise to superstardom and its impact on the film, and why he chose to do it (mainly to prevent anyone else from doing it).
Theatrical Trailer (1:31) —
4:3 matted SD
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system.