Skip to main content

Not a very popular place with the brothers.


48 Hrs.
(1982)

As big screen debuts go, Eddie Murphy’s must be the one to beat. He arrives as a fully-formed star, and his performance as Reggie Hammond is deceptively confident. As the passing decades have proved, success on SNL is no guarantee of a sure-thing acting career. Murphy’s an instant natural, though. Yet he adopts a less out-and-out comic persona than in Beverly Hills Cop a couple of years later.  He’s able to fit seamlessly into Walter Hill’s supercharged cop action and isn’t at all out of place trading insults with “proper” actor Nick Nolte. Could you imagine Chevy Chase doing the same? It’s the banter, and unlikely chemistry, between Murphy and Nolte that ensure 48 Hrs. is still worth a look, but there's not much else to it.

Credit where it’s due, though. This film launched the whole buddy cop movie cycle and established any number of careers, not just Murphy’s. Walter Hill’s career was beginning to take off, but 48 Hrs. gave it a huge shot in the arm. Known for his eclectic explorations of masculinity, his ‘70s filmography saw him working with Charles Bronson before helming the little-seen existential crime thriller The Driver. Then he scored a minor hit with The Warriors, a movie that would quickly achieve enormous cult status. His follow-ups, western The Long Riders and the Deliverance-esque Southern Comfort, also did reasonable business. Post-48 Hrs. he attempted his boldest experiment, the rather flaccid mythic rock action flick Streets of Fire, before losing his way completely with a remake of the comedy Brewster’s Millions (a big hit, however). Mostly he stuck to his male-centric action oeuvre, but his only really big subsequent hit was the weak cash grab of Another 48 Hrs. in 1990.

Just a glance at the main production credits is a who’s who of some of the main players of the next decade. Joel Silver’s first big film as producer, he (and sometime co-producer Lawrence Gordon; 48 Hrs. was his idea) would quickly vault to the throne as reigning monarch of Hollywood action movies (Simpson and Bruckheimer would ultimately contest this claim). Co-writer Roger Spottiswoode was developing a hit-and-miss directorial career (it would continue in this vein). Steven E. De Souza had slogged it out in TV for the best part of the ‘70s; this was his big movie break and he’d become a regular on Silver productions (most notably Die Hard). Composer James Horner was beginning to make his mark also (this came out the same year as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).

But, for all the four screenplay credits (also Hill and Larry Gross), the plot is paper-thin. Crazy James Remar breaks out of a chain gang and, as any unfiltered psychopath does, gleefully blows away anyone who hinders his quest for the loot from a drug deal gone wrong. Nolte’s cop Jack Cates reluctantly releases Murphy’s con Reggie from prison for 48 hours, on the understanding that the latter will help him find Remar.

The project had been around for several years, with Clint Eastwood and Richard Pryor mooted. Other names included Mickey Rourke, Kris Kristofferson, Jeff Bridges and Gregory Hines. When Murphy got the part he pressed for a change of his character name “Willie Biggs” to something that was less of a “Hollywood, made-up, black guy’s name”; he said the charge could still be levelled at first name of the compromise, Reggie Hammond. Even when 48 Hrs. finally got off the ground, the problems weren’t over. Paramount got very antsy that the film was too violent, that Murphy wasn’t funny enough, etc.

Everything rests on the love-hate relationship between Nolte and Murphy, and it more than scores in that department. There's an abundance of eyebrow-raising casual racism from Cates, and bruisingly casual macho sexism from everyone. The signature scene of Murphy in a redneck bar is still a lot of fun (“I’m your worst fuckin’ nightmare, man. I’m a nigger with a badge…”), but the script falls short as far as the cop stuff goes. There's certainly no detective work, and if a cop movie is only as good as its villain then this definitely isn't one of the all times greats. Remar’s (Dexter's dad, and in some circles still best known as the guy who played Hicks for about a week in Aliens - what a claim to fame) only motivation is to act mental.

In spite of the winning banter between the leads, perhaps the most fun is to be had in playing "spot the supporting actor and the things they’ve gone on to do"; Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks is in there, who I suddenly retrospectively recognise with hair – he also appears in Gremlins. Favourite rent-a-thug Brion James plays a cop. Predator's Sonny Landham breaks out Remar. Twin Peaks actors David Patrick Kelly and Chris Mulkey play a lowlife and a patrolman respectively. Denise Crosby wields a baseball bat at Murphy in a pre-Star Trek: The Next Generation part. Best of all is Frank McRae, who delivers more laughs than Murphy and Nolte combined, as the latter’s splenetic captain. He would memorably riff on it in Schwarzenegger’s meta-action vehicle Last Action Hero.

Walter Hill ensures the action scenes are a big and sinewy, but in a very mannered post-Peckinpah style. You could drive a fleet of trucks through the spaces between the explosive gunfire, and Nolte's final takedown is a pure Royale with Cheese moment.

The end result is equal cop movie cliché and witty banter; Murphy and Nolte propel the piece now as surely as they did when it was first released, but the steroidal bombast of the action has become rather quaint and dated.

***

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Imagine a plant that could think... Think!

The Avengers 4.12: Man-Eater of Surrey Green
Most remarked upon for Robert Banks-Stewart having “ripped it off” for 1976 Doctor Who story The Seeds of Doom, although, I’ve never been wholly convinced. Yes, there are significant similarities – an eccentric lady making who knows her botany, a wealthy businessman living in a stately home with an affinity for vegetation, an alien plant that takes possession of humans, a very violent henchman and a climax involving a now oversized specimen turning very nasty… Okay, maybe they’re onto something there… – but The Seeds of Doom is really good, while Man-Eater of Surrey Green is just… okay.

This isn't fun, it's scary and disgusting.

It (2017)
(SPOILERS) Imagine how pleased I was to learn that an E Nesbitt adaptation had rocketed to the top of the US charts, evidently using a truncated version of its original title, much like John Carter of Mars. Imagine my disappointment on rushing to the cinema and seeing not a Psammead in sight. Can anyone explain why It is doing such phenomenal business? It isn’t the Stephen King brand, which regular does middling-at-best box office. Is it the nostalgia factor (‘50s repurposed as the ‘80s, so tapping into the Stranger Things thing, complete with purloined cast member)? Or maybe that it is, for the most part, a “classier” horror movie, one that puts its characters first (at least for the first act or so), and so invites audiences who might otherwise shun such fare? Perhaps there is no clear and outright reason, and it’s rather a confluence of circumstances. Certainly, as a (mostly) non-horror buff, I was impressed by how well It tackled pretty much everything that wasn’t the hor…

You better watch what you say about my car. She's real sensitive.

Christine (1983)
(SPOILER) John Carpenter was quite open about having no particular passion to make Christine. The Thing had gone belly-up at the box office, and adapting a Stephen King seemed like a sure-fire way to make bank. Unfortunately, its reception was tepid. It may have seemed like a no-brainer – Duel’s demonic truck had put Spielberg on the map a decade earlier – but Carpenter discoveredIt was difficult to make it frightening”. More like Herbie, then. Indeed, the director is at his best in the build-up to unleashing the titular automobile, making the fudging of the third act all the more disappointing.

Don't worry about Steed, ducky. I'll see he doesn't suffer.

The Avengers 4.11: Two’s A Crowd
Oh, look. Another Steed doppelganger episode. Or is it? One might be similarly less than complimentary about Warren Mitchell dusting off his bungling Russian agent/ambassador routine (it obviously went down a storm with the producers; he previously played Keller in The Charmers and Brodny would return in The See-Through Man). Two’s A Crowd coasts on the charm of its leads and supporting performances (including Julian Glover), but it’s middling fare at best.

It could have been an accident. He decided to sip a surreptitious sup and slipped. Splash!

4.10 A Surfeit of H20
A great episode title (definitely one of the series’ top ten) with a storyline boasting all the necessary ingredients (strange deaths in a small village, eccentric supporting characters, Emma even utters the immortal “You diabolical mastermind, you!”), yet A Surfeit of H20 is unable to quite pull itself above the run of the mill.

Believe me, our world is a lot less painful than the real world.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)
(SPOILERS) I’d heard Marmite things about Tom Ford’s sophomore effort (I’ve yet to catch his debut), but they were enough to make me mildly intrigued. Unfortunately, I ended up veering towards the “I hate” polarity. Nocturnal Animals is as immaculately shot as you’d expect from a fashion designer with a meticulously unbuttoned shirt, but its self-conscious structure – almost that of a poseur – never becomes fluid in Ford’s liberal adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel, such that even its significantly stronger aspect – the film within the film (or novel within the film) – is diminished by the dour stodge that surrounds it.

Have no fear! Doc Savage is here!

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)
(SPOILERS) Forget about The Empire Strikes Back, the cliffhanger ending of Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze had me on the edge of my seat for a sequel that never came. How could they do that to us (well, me)? This was of course, in the period prior to discernment and wisdom, when I had no idea Doc Savage was a terrible movie. I mean, it is, isn’t it? Well, it isn’t a great movie, but it has a certain indolent charm, in the manner of a fair few mid-‘70s SF and fantasy fare (Logan’s Run, The Land that Time Forgot) that had no conception the genre landscape was on the cusp of irrevocable change.

Let the monsters kill each other.

Game of Thrones Season Seven
(SPOILERS) Column inches devoted to Game of Thrones, even in “respectable” publications, seems to increase exponentially with each new season, so may well reach critical mass with the final run. Groundswells of opinion duly become more evident, and as happens with many a show by somewhere around this point, if not a couple of years prior, Season Seven has seen many of the faithful turn on once hallowed storytelling, and at least in part, there’s good reason for that.

Some suggest the show has jumped the shark (or crashed the Wall); there were concerns over how much the pace increased last year, divested as it was of George RR Martin’s novels as a direct source, but this year’s succession of events make Six seem positively sluggish. I don’t think GoT has suddenly, resoundingly, lost it, and I’d argue there did need to be an increase in momentum (people are quick to forget how much moaning went on about seemingly nothing happening for long stretches of previ…

James Bond, who only has to make love to a woman and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing.