It has been a number of decades since I watched 48 Hrs. In fact I remember watching it on videotape after I had put some kid, who I was babysitting, to bed. Watching it now, in 2021, I was stunned at how harsh, homophobic and racist the film comes across as. It also has a virtual who’s who of the 80s though as surrounding the leads, played by Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy are Annette O’Toole, Brion James, Frank McRae, James Remar, Denise Crosby, David Patrick Kelly, Olivia Brown and Jonathan Banks (who would also appear with Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop).
There’s a proliferation of gay slurs, and n-words being thrown around throughout the film, as hard-nosed (not very good) cop, Jack Cates (Nolte) teams up with criminal Reggie Hammond (Murphy) who he gets released to his custody to track down a cop killer who has busted out of prison and is hunting down a giant take of cash that Hammond was involved in heisting.
Murphy’s Hammond is able to go toe to toe with Nolte’s Cates, but that doesn’t make any of the language easier to hear, or the way the cops treat everybody in this film. It’s brutal, violent, and while there are some funny moments, the entire film is overshadowed by how realistic the portrayal of racism actually is.
The film was hailed as an action comedy at the time, and while there are some funny moments throughout the film, the fact that it is mired in crudity as well as the blatantly offensive language made this a particularly hard watch.There’s nothing redeeming about Cates, and while Hammond is a criminal, he’s also six months shy of having done his time, and seems a lot more focussed on the right and wrong of the situation than Cates is.
He’s also not afraid to turn the racism back around onto those dealing it out, especially evident when he and Cates seek information in a red neck bar, in downtown San Francisco…
This film has not aged well at all, but the cast is top notch, and the behind the camera crew is just as impressive, James Horner delivers the score, Joel Silver and Lawrence Gordon served as producers, Walter Hill came up with the story alongside Roger Spottiswoode, Larry Gross and Steven E. de Souza.
It’s a fantastic pedigree for a film that is very much dated, and has not endured the test of time very well, which is too bad, because I remember enjoying it when I was younger (and dumber) but watching it now, I’m nothing short of extremely troubled by the racism and homophobia that are rampant throughout.
Sigh. And on top of that what is someone like O’Toole’s Elaine doing with Cates? Ugh.