48 Hours is a Clint Eastwood movie without Clint Eastwood in it. Instead, it’s got Nick Nolte, looking puffy and out of shape, as a bedraggled, two-fisted cop on the trail of two mad-dog killers terrorising San Francisco.
So far, so bad. But 48 Hours also has Eddie Murphy as a horny, wisecracking convict, temporarily released from San Quentin, who teams up with the cop as his reluctant partner because Nolte thinks Murphy knows how to find the killers.
The authorities give this odd couple forty-eight hours to find the hoods before Murphy has to go back to the slammer. They hate each other, but they need each other – and hereby hangs what little tale there is.
Meanwhile, 48 Hours takes you on a sleazy, breezy tour of San Francisco, something you won’t get at American Express.
The action is relentless, with much fashionably filthy macho dialogue, a lot of electric energy, some rather nasty violence, a few typical women who get brutalised and left behind in tears, and some fast-paced smash-ups in the usual assortment of moving vehicles that are standard equipment for San Francisco cop movies.
Nolte learns something about the underworld he’s been fighting from his association with the black convict; Murphy learns about the cop mentality he’s always hated by posing as one. Both get an insider’s point of view of an outsider’s world, and this is the irony we’re expected to marvel at.
Eddie Murphy manages to steal the whole movie in his film debut.
There’s a terrific scene in which Murphy takes on hostile redneck cowboys in a hillbilly bar and knocks heads together with the security of the cop’s badge for protection that is a triumph of comic social revenge.
Detective Jack Cates
Olivia M. Brown