By partnering gruff San Francisco detective, Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) with imprisoned convict, Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy), director/screenwriter Walter Hill turned the buddy cop genre on its ear with 48 HRS. One of the first “actionomedies,” Hill infused 48 HRS. with just enough comedy to keep it light against the backdrop of a rather ultraviolent cop movie.
After Billy Bear (Sonny Landham) springs Ganz (James Remar) from the prison work farm, killing several guards in the process, the fugitives are tracked to a San Francisco hotel by two plainclothes detectives, friends of Cates. Cates shows up to provide back-up, but the bust goes horribly wrong and the two detectives wind up dead. Cates launches a crusade to bring the copkillers to justice. His only recourse is to release Ganz and Billy Bear’s former partner, Reggie Hammond from the penitentiary for 48 hours to assist in tracking down the murderers.
Over the next two days, Cates and Reggie, although on opposite sides of the law, discover a mutual respect for each other and even develop a kind of friendship, but not before they spout racial epithets, diss’ each others’ sexual prowess, and get into a bare-knuckle fist fight in Chinatown.
Nolte growls his way through the film, not so much acting as barking out lines. His guttural performances is counterpointed by a very young Eddie Murphy showcasing his enormous talents as the fast-talking criminal, Reggie. The most memorable scene, not to be missed, features Murphy at his best. Masquerading as a cop, Reggie shakes down a redneck bar with hilarious results that foreshadow Murphy’s greatest Beverly Hills Cop moments.