Saturday, March 13, 2021

80's Watch: 48 Hours (1982)

Watched:  03/11/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  1st as an adult who could follow the movie
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Walter Hill!

D'aw, hell.  It's a Nick Nolte movie.

On the heels of Coming 2 America, Jamie began pondering what Eddie Murphy movies she hadn't seen, so she dialed up 48 Hours, the 1982 blockbuster starring Nick Nolte and a ready-for-stardom Eddie Murphy.   

Reviewing the movie about 40 years after the fact is a bit of a challenge.  This was in my lifetime, and I remember both the attitudes, the casual racism and names associated.  And, I did actually see this movie a couple of times as a kid, which... maybe wasn't great?  But in the 1980's, who was paying attention to what the kids were up to and we had easy access to HBO at our friends' houses.   

But, I think, as much as that it's interesting to see a movie that said "I'm Rated-R, and that means I am not aiming this movie at kids in any way.  We're going to show two characters who have their rough edges, and that's, in fact, what the movie is about."  And, in a lot of ways, it's a fascinating look at both the baked-in racism of what a character could say and do in a movie in 1982, as well as what was considered "redeemable" and assume an audience would continue to want to support a character in Nolte's Jack Cates.  

The film is full of "that guy!" appearances, including Brion James, Frank McRae, David Patrick Kelley, Jonathan Banks, Denise Crosby, and even our lead villains of James "yeah, you recognize me" Remar and Sonny "yes, that guy from Predator" Landham as our big bads.  And, Annette O'Toole as Cates' long suffering girlfriend who really can do better than this.

The film follows Cates as a central figure as Remar is busted away from a chain gang by Landham, and the two return to San Francisco to track down some money they have stashed with one of their former associates.  They wind up killing a couple of cops and Cates is both unable to stop them, and they take his gun - so it's now very personal.  Cates goes to grab Reggie Hammon (Eddie Murphy) out of San Quentin where he's doing a 3 year stretch, and for 48 hours the former associate of the cop killers can assist Cates in tracking them down.

Yeah, it's a cop dramedy, and a sort of early version of the buddy cop genre (which I just checked and wikipedia confirms).  But it's also a movie about the friends we make along the way as the two polar opposites have to work together.  

This is Murphy's first movie, but you'd never know.  The chops and confidence he had as a stage comedian in high school that brought him to SNL as a teeanger make him feel like a veteran of movies and able to hang with Nolte.  But the script doesn't do him a lot of favors - and a 2021 version of same would look wildly different.  Essentially, Murphy has to stand there and take it as both a convict and Black man as insult after insult is hurled his way with more than half the old standards of racist uncles everywhere.  And - honestly - that stuff isn't intended to be funny.  

Cates isn't supposed to be a "good guy".  He's an alcoholic and a dick, and compensates by clearing case files, so he's an okay cop.  Murphy's Hammond is, actually, an okay guy, it seems, despit ebeing the criminal of the two - even if he's more than a tad over the top is explaining it may have been a while since he's had a date.  

All in all, I think the movie still basically works in its way, and you can see how it became a template for countless other movies - and even now is usually at least part of what people go to naturally for any pair up of characters.  Examining their differences and playing off them is inherently interesting - that's not news.  And certainly movies had started playing with the idea in The Defiant Ones in '58.  Now it feels like whole cop shows are based around the interactions of diverse squadrooms.  

Nolte is actually fine/ good as Cates.  I know very little about Nick Nolte, but it doesn't seem like a stretch for him to have played a cantankerous boozer.  They do try to give Cates a little redemptive speech at the end of the movie about how "he didn't mean any of that stuff, that was to keep a prisoner in line", but...  I mean, it wasn't that hard, was it, Jack?  And that's a hell of a shitty excuse that feels like it was bolted on at the end to give the audience an out.  

What DOES hold up amazingly well is the Reggie in a Cowboy Bar scene.  That stuff is gold.

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