We ain't partners. We ain't brothers, and we ain't friends.
For the "buddy film" genre, I can't think of a better example than 1982's 48 HRS., a box office champ that made Saturday Night Live player Eddie Murphy a superstar and reignited said genre, inspiring many years of imitations. Our wiseacre duo is made up of gruff San Francisco cop Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) and a smart aleck thief named Reggie Hammond (Murphy) who is serving time. It's the ultimate odd pairing, a Point A for some golden opportunities for crackling dialogue and tough guy posturing. This being a film directed by Walter Hill, it's guaranteed.
The discourse between Nolte and Murphy is the heart of the movie. Heated, profane, colorful, salty - choose your descriptor. This being a, tee hee, family blog, I really can't reproduce too many. It's pure delirium to watch and listen to these two square off. Watching this film reminds me of what a dynamo Murphy was back when. Super sharp, quick, knowing. His scene in the redneck bar is an instant classic, a bold announcement that a star is born. Murphy really owns his role, to which he certainly brought the required youthful energy. He creates a bona-fide persona here: a likable, cocksure, and yes wildly chauvinistic young man whose traits fit perfectly in the overall attitude of the movie. Weary, cynical, unsentimental in the extreme. It's a guy's picture, with all that that usually entails, and one where women are usually drawn either as nags or whores.
Cates is hot on the trail of the psychotic Gans (James Remar), a punk who engineered a brutal escape for his partner in crime, Billy Bear (Sonny Landham) from a chain gang (in a great opening scene). Gans later wastes two of Cates' fellow officers, one of them with Cates' gun. Turns out Hammond was also in the old gang, and the perfect one to assist with the pursuit. Cates gets permission to spring Reggie from jail for 48 hours and the hunt begins. Their relationship is terse from the start. Trust and something short of camaraderie of course don't happen right away, but eventually, after many vulgar and racist exchanges - to say nothing of a lengthy fistfight - the two will form something that resembles a partnership, with a common goal - bring down a scumbag. Don't expect a hug - or even a handshake - at the end.
48 HRS. is a straightforward, three act movie that sticks closely to the Syd Mead playbook, but does everything so beautifully, so on target, you'll be reminded of how good a Hollywood movie can be. The finale is a typical cat and mouse, but the location of Chinatown adds flavor and the editing milks suspense to an admirable crescendo. Hill's direction is top notch throughout and he was among the several screenwriters, and when there are several cooks at the pot the result is usually limp - but not this time. The director packages the elements expertly, and this material is ideal for his alpha sensibilities. A rousing good time.