48 Hrs. (1982) – Walter Hill

forty_eight_hrsThe 101 Action Movies brings me one of the classic buddy action movies, and despite the fact that it’s really good, it’s really tough to like any of the characters in it.

Almost all of them come across as coarse, racist, and unlikable. Nick Nolte plays Jack Cates, a bit of a loose cannon of a cop, who is trying to hunt down two cop-killers after one, Billy (Sonny Landham) busts the other, Ganz (James Remar) out of prison.

Cates wants to run them down himself, feeling responsible that his gun was used by Ganz, and commandeer a convict, and one of Ganz’s associates from prison for 48 hours, Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy).

Cates is a complete tool to Reggie, who admittedly is a criminal, but Cates crosses the line multiple times, and the two of them actually come to blows.

The two of them are forced to work together to track down Ganz by trailing another member of the gang, Luther (David Patrick Kelly) who is caught up in the action when Ganz seizes Luther’s girlfriend as a hostage.

nolteThe unlikely duo work together, albeit roughly, and constantly give one another the gears as they hunt down the cop-killers.

The action sequences are quick, violent and brutal, the chases are great, and in the end the film is really enjoyable, despite the fact that I didn’t like the characters. The thing that boggled me the most was that someone like Elaine (the lovely Annette O’Toole) would want to have a relationship with someone like Cates, course perhaps that’s probably why the relationship turns out like it does towards the end of the film.

I also liked seeing familiar faces throughout the film, a fellow cop, Kehoe is played by Blade Runner’s Brion James, one of the gals in the film is played by Next Generation’s Denise Crosby, Miami Vice’s Olivia Brown  and the police captain is played by Frank McRae.

One thing I caught early on, I must have missed his credit, was a very familiar feel to the soundtrack as steel drums were employed, allowing me to recall a film that is coming up shortly on the action list, Commando, and yup, James Horner gave us the score for this film.

eddieThe film romps along filling the lean 90 minute film with an excellent pace, it’s just tough watching Cates be a complete tool, because while in the end he learns to respect Reggie, I’m sure he hasn’t changed enough to be a better person himself, let alone a better cop, and I’m sure his relationship with Elaine is probably beyond salvage.

Hill’s direction is sure and strong, and the final showdown in Chinatown looks great, making great use of neon lights, and smoke to make things look increasingly dramatic, and I loved the shootout between Cate’s Cadillac and Ganz’s stolen bus.

Of note, was that this was Murphy’s film debut, and he holds his own against Nolte, and you can see a little bit of Axel Foley in Reggie’s character!

It’s not a film for all, the racial epithets, and the language may dissuade some viewers, but all in all, it was a good flick.

What’s your favorite buddy movie of the 80s?

48

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Hanging with Axel Foley

I revisited my old friend Axel Foley this weekend.

In the 80s the first two were simply awesome, it’s just too bad that they made such a misstep with the 3rd film.

The first film directed by Martin Brest, is Eddie Murphy at the height of his hilarity, but for all that, the film isn’t really a comedy, which is one of the huge faults of the third film, but we’ll get to that.

The first film has a gritty look and feel to it, at least while they are in Detroit, it gets a little brighter when Axel hits the west coast, but his character still remains gritty, if funny, devious and a wise-ass.

Axel comes to Beverly Hills to catch the killer of a childhood friend who was working out there and becomes embroiled in a crime caper centering around bearer bonds.

It took Murphy’s comedic styling (can you believe Stallone was in line to play the role – how different would that version have been?) and made him a maverick cop who eventually works together with the his Beverly Hills PD counterparts Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and John Taggart (John Ashton) as well as their chief Andrew Bogomil (Ronny Cox).

They are threatened by the always-reliable-to-play-bad-guys Steven Berkhoff and Jonathan Banks (although I always like Jonathan in Wise Guy).

It was fun, loud, and had a kick-ass 80s soundtrack, including the always awesome Harold Faltermeyer’s piece Axel F. There are wonderful character moments, Paul Reiser steals scenes (“this is not my locker”), the film is wonderfully paced and walks the fine balance between action and comedy, allowing Murphy to be fun, and carry out fights and shootouts, as a fairly believable cop.

So it was inevitable that a second film would be made.

And three years later in 1987, along came Beverly Hills Cop II.

Director by Tony Scott (yes Ridley’s brother) and covered in his trademark saturated colors and editing style, the second film was easily on par with the first film. Taking the characters we loved and Murphy’s considerable talents, and gave us more of what we loved.

In the two years since we had last seen them, the trio from Beverly Hills and the cop from Detroit had become stronger friends, and have been on at least one fishing trip together.

This time, our friends in Beverly Hills get caught up in a huge robbery and insurance scam perpetrated by Jurgen Prochnow, Dean Stockwell and Brigitte Nielsen, who are posing as Alphabet Bandits.

They make the mistake of choosing Bogomil as their ‘B’ crime, and Axel ruses out to the west coast (again) to find the people responsible for the crime. He, Taggart,(who’s going through a divorce) and Billy (who’s got some problems of his own) get to work on tracking down their suspects and meting out justice.

Scott makes use of all the things that worked well in the film, and while Murphy is very funny, his role is a little more serious, though he still has great lines, and a number of funny scenes (he comes across as a real guy who’s a good cop, but just naturally funny), and Reinhold’s Billy plays a bit more of the broad comedy.

This one seems to fall a little more on the action side of the action-comedy line just like the first, the two of them are strong entertaining 80s-era films.

It took seven years to make the next one.

At this point, Murphy seemed to be losing his comedic traction, and it was right before he reposition himself, successfully as more of a family friendly entertainer with films like Nutty Professor, Mulan, Shrek, and Dr. Dolittle.

I for one, miss the 80s era comedic Murphy, so when I first heard they were making a third film, I was hopefully optimistic.

John Landis climbed into the director’s seat, and while an able comedic director, and also one of my fave horror movies, An American Werewolf In London, Cop III was a misstep.

This time out, Axel’s boss, Inspector Todd (Gilbert R. Hill) who had some of the best lines in the first film, is murdered by villain Timothy Carhart in the opening sequence, and the really poorly constructed clues (honestly – if they live in Beverly Hills, why would they need towels from Wonder World (in the same town), if they could just bring some from home?) take Axel back to Beverly Hills to catch a killer and stop a counterfeiting ring working out of an amusement park (a poorly disguised Disney World stand-in).

It seemed the real reason to have it in the amusement park is to hang some poorly constructed scenes on it, and people would think they were having a good time and not realize how bad of a film it is.

Taggart’s character has apparently retired, and Billy’s character gets pushed to the periphery of the story as Axel wanders through sight gags, silly rides, and sequences to catch the killer.

It tries to be way too funny. And seeing how upset Axel got over his friend Mikey in the first movie, and Bogomil in the second, you’d think he’d be more upset, and angry over the loss of his boss, friend and mentor.

But apparently not.

The film is played too broad, and Landis forgot where the action-comedy line was and on which side to err.

If it had’ve been in the vein of the first two, this would’ve fit very well in the series, but it tried to play too many things for laughs, and it became hard to believe that Foley was even a cop in this film.

And while I’m harping… did we really need a cameo by George Lucas (among others?) and a symphonic version of Axel F?

No.

Do yourself a favor, stick to the original two films, and skip the third – it’s not the Axel Foley you know and love.

What did you guys think? And what are some of your favorite action-comedies of the 80s?