VOD film review: 48 Hrs
Ivan Radford | On 14, Jan 2020Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Walter Hill
Cast: Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Annette O’Toole
Watch 48 Hrs. online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“I’m your worst nightmare, man!” declares Eddie Murphy halfway through 48 Hrs. It’s hard to think of a more memorable debut screen outing, let alone one that kickstarts an entire film genre.
Murphy plays Reggie, a convict who is taken out of jail by Jack, a grizzled cop played by Nick Nolte. Jack, as we learn from the violent opening, is on the tail of two cop-killers (James Remar and Sonny Landham). Reggie just might have the connections needed to track them down and bring them in, and with only months left on his sentence for armed robbery, Jack manages to get Reggie out for a two-day parole stint – giving them (yes) 48 hours to crack the case.
It’s a formulaic set-up by today’s standards, but that takes away from the formative groundwork that was being laid; the script, by Walter Hill, Roger Spottiswoode, Larry Gross and Steven E. de Souza, delivers a workmanlike plot with fairly two-dimensional (if suitably nasty) villains, but stuffs the film full of one-line zingers. Nolte is impressively gruff as the immature police veteran with prejudices as heavy as the chips on his shoulder, and he has fantastic chemistry with Murphy, who is an instant star with his easygoing charm, wisecracking grin and sharp upending of the expectations driven by the racial divide between this odd couple.
Those tensions and observations climax not with the duo’s inevitable warming to each other, or their mutual respect come the final, amusing scene, but during one sequence in a redneck bar. Jack lets Reggie take the lead, on Reggie’s own insistence, in interrogating the bar owner, and he does so with a confidence that is gob-smacking, taunting the Confederate Flag-loving punters in a way that recalls Gene Hackman in a Harlem bar in The French Connection, an equally definite crime flick from the decade before.
Hill directs it all with a strong nose for comic timing that makes for a welcome counterbalance to his typically brutal flourishes. If the action part of the cop thriller was never in doubt, Trading Places sees Hill find strength in the characters serving up that action, giving Murphy the room to become a screen icon in the process. The result saw Eddie earn a Golden Globe nomination with his first ever role, and established a buddy cop genre that would continue for decades to come – from Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon to Rush Hour and Bad Boys. Worst nightmares don’t come more dreamy than that.
48 Hrs. is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of an £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription.