Looking back on Eddie Murphy’s career, it can be difficult to remember a time when he wasn’t a household name, when he wasn’t a gigantic draw wherever his project was being released. While there are projects that don’t connect, there are even more that did, culminating in a filmography that’s one cinematic classic after another: Beverly Hills Cop series, the Coming to America films, Trading Places (1983), Shrek (2001), and plenty more. Joining the Paramount Presents boutique label from Paramount Pictures are two Eddie Murphy films co-starring Nick Nolte: 48 Hrs. (1982) and Another 48 Hrs. (1990), the former being his first major theatrical role and the latter releasing on Blu-ray for the first time. Remastered from 4K film transfers, this pair of Walter Hill-directed (The Warriors) crime dramedies includes a deep dive by Hill himself on each release to enable any longtime fan or new observer to gain more intimate knowledge of the making of this action classic.
San Francisco cop Jack Cates (Nolte) is on the hunt for escaped convict and cop killer Albert Ganz (James Remar) and the best lead he has is Ganz’s former partner Reggie Hammond (Murphy), a man with six months left on a three-year bid. Given 48 hours to borrow Reggie, the two hit places high and low in search of Ganz before he blows town. Jack doesn’t trust Reggie and Reggie doesn’t trust Jack, so it all becomes a question of whether they want to capture Ganz more than they hate each other. Sometime later, the unlikely partners would once more have 48 hours together, but this time it’s to track down the person responsible for putting a hit on Reggie: the shadowy Iceman. This time around, Jack is under investigation from Internal Affairs, so the same tricks won’t get the job done. Thankfully, Reggie’s learned a thing or two and is able to take command. But will it be enough to take down Iceman before his hit team takes them out?
There’ve been buddy cop comedies before 48 Hrs. and have been after, but there’s something about it which resonated with audiences in 1982 and continues to do so today. Maybe it’s the effortlessness of Nolte, commanding each scene with ease, making the rough-and-tumble nature of Jack strangely endearing. Maybe it’s the youthful energy of Murphy, not quite as comfortable in front of the camera as he will be for Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Coming to America (1988), or Harlem Knights (1989), but you could see the spark of something great within the performance, something electric. Could be the score from James Horner (Commando/Braveheart) which gives it a slick, noir feel, Rich Waite’s (Marked for Death) cinematography which felt natural and heightened in equal measure, or Hill’s direction which made the most unlikely pair iconic. All of these things make the first film reverberate through time, keeping its hold on its status as a classic.
Personally, watching both films for the first time, it was difficult to remain engaged if only because of the depiction of Jack. I can think of plenty of other copaganda films — Lethal Weapon, Last Action Hero, Bad Boys — and the leads are almost always depicted as good cops who bend the rules to get the bad guy. In 48 Hrs., Jack is the kind of cop who’ve trump up charges just to hold someone and both he and the booking officer would make jokes about it. He’s the kind of cop who, whether he believes it or not, will say the more ignorant, racist comments in order to keep Reggie (and others) on the defensive in order to get what he needs. Interestingly, Hill touches on this briefly in the “Filmmaker Focus” featurette included on the 48 Hrs. release, but never takes a stance as to whether Jack does believe these things he says. As one of the writers of the script, it’d be nice to know if Hill thinks of Jack as a racist on a power trip or not. It’s one thing for Remar’s Ganz to denigrate Sonny Landham’s Billy Bear, even if as a ruse, Ganz is a thief and a killer, making his use of slurs not too far a smear of Ganz’s character. But Jack is a cop — good at his job or not. Ideally he shouldn’t be engaged in similar behavior. Yes, the pressure is on. Yes, it was his friend Ganz killed, and yes, Ganz is running around with Jack’s gun, but does he really have to call Reggie a “spear chucker”? Films are time capsules of the era in which they were made and, while it may have made sense then, I’m not so sure it does now. Even as Jack and Reggie work themselves out and find common ground, there’s something about Jack which remains that is disquieting. As presented, he seems like the kind of cop who would plant evidence on a bad guy just to get him off the streets, which creates a moral quandary as to whether he should be a cop at all. Don’t forget, technically Jack forges the 48 hour leave approval in order to work with Reggie. Is this ok because he’s the hero of the story or is it not ok in any context? Where do we draw the line?
Strangely, with Another 48 Hrs., the film doesn’t so much reform Jack as it makes him more-or-less a civilian via temporary suspension. He’s still up to his old tricks by telling half-truths and manipulating situations, but, in the sequel, Reggie is given more control and focus. The whole film is basically a weaker facsimile of the first, swapping out the bad guys and motivations, but it hits all the same beats: Jack and Reggie fight (literally and physically) with each other, the money from the first film remains a major factor in the second, a Ganz factors in (Andrew Divoff as brother Cherry), there’s a club scene, and a final gun fight standoff. The beats may sound different, but the rhythm remains the same. In the “Filmmaker Focus” bonus feature, Hill states, “Our job here is contradictory. It’s to make it as much like the previous film as possible, and to be different. You had to account in some way for where the characters were. You can’t meet for the first time twice. But I think a lot of people missed that.” It can be difficult delivering a sequel after a huge success in an initial outing. The task is monumental and few really stick the landing. Personally, my own current biases removed regarding the cast, Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) is the rare sequel which not only moves the story forward from the first, but delivers a better one. Another 48 Hrs. is literally the same movie with slightly different scenes and stunts. If you were to show Another to someone without them having seen the first one, they’d still understand everything they need to know via context and dialogue. That’s certainly a plus for any sequel, but when you watch them back-to-back as I did in preparation for this review, they are so similar that they become a bore. Which is a shame given the fantastic chemistry between the Nolte and Murphy and the strong work from the supporting cast.
But you didn’t come to this looking for any kind of teardown on a beloved franchise and I mean no ill-will, it’s just important to consider the films as they existed in their making and as they exist now. What is their place in a society when police officers are literally trying to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to prevent citizens from uploading recordings of themselves engaging with civilians? Should we be rooting for Jake this whole time? Should we applaud Reggie for the minor bits of violence he gets away with taking on the racists at the cowboy bar in 48 Hrs. or against the woman who ripped off a patron in Another? There’s certainly a great deal humorous in both films and the action is remarkable for the time, but society is far more aware of law enforcement corruption or its casual comfort with inconveniencing (at best) or potentially injuring (at worst) minority members of the community. If you think that Beverly Hills Cop lacks a similar thoughtfulness, you should rewatch it and pay attention to the soundtrack while you do. The way the cops treat Foley before learning he’s a cop, plus the song “Don’t Get Stopped in Beverly Hills” by Shalamar, make it clear that the filmmakers understand the social dynamics.
All this said, if you are keen to pick-up either of the films, the Paramount Presents remasters are the best options to do so, not just because this is the first time Another is releasing on Blu-ray, but because, like the others in the Paramount Presents line, the remasters are top notch. It’s more noticeable in 48 Hrs. over the sequel, but there’s a clarity and vibrancy to the look and sound that makes it feel fresh. If you watch the accompanying featurettes (something I recommend whether a new fan or old), you’ll see original footage with its slightly muted tones and heavy grain. When reviewers say a remaster or restoration is like watching a brand-new film, it’s because of examples like these. To look at the original versus the remaster/restoration and see more life, more energy, more vigor feels like a revelation. There’s a moment in 48 Hrs. as it builds toward the final gunfight where Jack and Reggie individually make their way into the same alley and I was immediately struck by how beautiful it was in composition. Neon blues and purples from nearby street signs piercing the night, offering some visibility amid the cover of darkness, as the two men made their respective way toward Ganz: fucking sexy, y’all. In addition to the remaster, the Blu-rays include a digital copy of the film, a slipcover featuring a miniposter from the film, and a clear case in order to feature scenes from the films on the inside of the case.
If all of that sounds exciting to you and if the idea of revisiting a Nolte classic that also serves as the kickstarter for Murphy’s extraordinary career is appealing, then the decision of picking up theses remasters is an easy one. Perhaps because I came to them so late, having only seen portions and never the full films until literally July 2021, these feel like a once-and-done. Even still, I cannot deny the chemistry of the leads and that I’d be keen to see them work together again. Maybe not as these characters or, perhaps, as more evolved versions of these characters, but I would see Nolte and Murphy work together again. What’s lovely is learning via the Filmmaker Focus featurettes that their chemistry was just as strong off-screen and on.
48 Hrs. Special Features
- Filmmaker Focus: Director Walter Hill on 48 Hrs. (19:08)
- Space Kid—original 1966 animated short, which makes an appearance in the film (5:32)
- Theatrical Trailer
Another 48 Hrs. Special Features
- Filmmaker Focus: Director Walter Hill on Another 48 Hrs. (14:35)
- Theatrical Trailer
Both available on Blu-ray and digital July 6th, 2021.