For The New York Times, A Classic Headline Construction. And for a belated cash-in on the 1982 hit that launched Eddie Murphy’s big-screen career, an inadvertently perfect description.
Eight years separated 48 Hrs. from its sequel, Another 48 Hrs., giving audiences enough time to half-forget the details from the first one, which must have been what Paramount Pictures and the film’s producers had in mind. Another 48 Hrs. isn’t merely the continuing adventures of Jack Cates and Reggie Hammond, the mismatched buddies of 48 Hrs.; it’s an uncanny recreation of 48 Hrs., like a piece of particularly unimaginative fan-fiction. Seen back to back, the two films are a fascinating collision of parallel narratives and property management, but for those who waited the full eight years between movies, they played like a bizarre case of déjà vu. Here’s the lede to Roger Ebert’s review:
You know how sometimes, in a dream, you’ll see these familiar scenes and faces floating in and out of focus, but you’re not sure how they connect? Another 48 Hrs. is a movie that feels the same way.
And here’s Hal Hinson:
The movie isn’t a disaster, and if you responded to the first one, its memory may carry you over the roughness, the excessive, ugly violence and lack of conviction here. Hill and his stars are merely going through the motions, but the motions are immensely familiar. If you've been there before, then you've been there.
So it goes for almost every review of Another 48 Hrs., but the stand-out words here are “memory”and “dream.” We’re currently in an age where sequels and remakes are the preferred currency of Hollywood, which is always looking for big returns on safe investments. That’s also the thinking behind this film, which is as creatively conservative as a sequel could be. The difference is that we’re used to sequels expanding on their predecessors’ “mythology”: adding characters, extending serialized storylines, ramping up the effects and locations—anything to make a sequel seem like a new enterprise, even if it relies on the same basic formula. Another 48 Hrs. is like a classic rock band reuniting for an arena tour, and sounding a bit like its own cover band, in the hope that people will fork out money to hear the same old hits played with significantly less verve. At best, it’ll play just good enough to vaguely remind fans of the band in its prime. (The Pixies have been touring for years off that calculation.)
Watching 48 Hrs. and Another 48 Hrs. within the space of a week, on the other hand, doesn’t feel like dreams or memories at all. It reveals a fascinating case of plug-and-play filmmaking at its most pedestrian, if not its most cynical. The title alone sounds like a child complaining from the back of a station wagon (“Are we there yet? Wait, another 48 hours?! Ugh. C’mon, dad!”), but the irony is that it’s completely meaningless. In the first film, Jack, a San Francisco detective played by Nick Nolte, arranged for Reggie, a convict played by Eddie Murphy, to be released to Jack’s custody for 48 hours to help solve a case. In the sequel, Reggie’s prison sentence is nearing its last day, but there’s neither a timeframe to his partnership with Jack nor any explanation given for the title at all. The only remaining conclusion is the candid one: We’re making the same movie again.
After an opening sequence that establishes the black hats—redneck bikers, including one whose brother Jack shot in the first one—the déjà vu starts kicking in. Jack is a cop-on-the-edge who visits the streetwise Reggie in prison, seeking help yet again on a case. Though they ended the first film with a grudging, hard-earned respect for each other, they immediately start bickering here, with Jack whipping a basketball in Reggie’s face. Reggie returns to his cell, turns on his Walkman, and sings “Roxanne,” a callback to Murphy’s famous introduction in 48 Hrs. that in this context feels like a do-over. After the bikers attempt to pick off Reggie on the prison bus—one of a few action sequences that director Walter Hill stages like the consummate pro he is—he and Jack team up to exonerate Jack from a trumped-up manslaughter charge and track down “the Ice Man,” the-guy-behind-the-guy-behind-the-rednecks, who’s ultimately responsible for all this mayhem.
It isn’t worth getting into the convolutions of the plot, which might owe something to the fact that Hill (or Paramount, or Hill at Paramount’s insistence) made deep cuts to the final product. In a candid interview, Brion James, a terrific character actor who plays Jack’s shifty colleague in the film, claims the studio cut the film down by 25 minutes a week before it opened. James says, “That’s the last time I ever cared about a movie, because I went to the press screening, and it was like getting kicked in the stomach, seeing what’s not there.” An actor seeing his role cut down doesn’t necessarily make a bad movie, or the cuts unjustifiable—see: Adrian Brody in The Thin Red Line—but it might explain why Another 48 Hrs. gets so little separation from its predecessor. If supporting players like James got all their lines in the 95-minute cut, it stands to reason that anything outside Nolte, Murphy, and the basic action were elided, too. All the colorful particulars may have been wiped away.
The evidence onscreen is certainly damning. Another 48 Hrs. starts Jack and Reggie on a clean slate, mostly forgetting the camaraderie they developed toward the end of 48 Hrs. But the original film’s toughness and grit have been scrubbed away, too: Jack has made a transition similar to Mel Gibson between Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2, from cop-on-the-edge to “cop-on-the-edge type,” and the racist epithets he once threw at Reggie as part provocation/part prejudice in the first film are no longer present. The worst he does is punch Reggie in the face a few times to even the score, but that’s old-school Western machismo, not an unsettling commentary on race relations. Hill stages a shameless variation on 48 Hrs.’ most famous sequence, when Reggie takes control over a redneck bar filled with Confederate flags and hostile white men, but the bar patrons in Another 48 Hrs. are integrated, and race is neutralized. By way of compensation, here and elsewhere, Hill shatters more glass than a century’s worth of Jewish weddings:
The mercenary rehash of Another 48 Hrs. is another reflection of risk-averse studios seeking to get the most out of their most popular properties, but it also reflects the reunion of Murphy and Hill. Between 48 Hrs. and its sequel, Murphy had become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, with two Beverly Hills Cop movies, Trading Places, and Coming To America under his belt; even a stinker like 1986’s The Golden Child, widely perceived as a bomb, was in fact a minor hit, purely on the strength of Murphy’s charisma. The Murphy of 1982 didn’t even turn up until 24 minutes into 48 Hrs., and the comedy in that film was mostly incidental to the action and buddy-movie friction, which was much sharper than the sequel. Another 48 Hrs. gives him a larger role, but he’s not playing Reggie so much as a version of Reggie that squares more with the laid-back, confident, wisecracking persona he’d refined throughout the decade. While I wouldn’t go as far as the Times’ Vincent Canby, who likened Murphy to “a walking 8-by-10 glossy,” there’s a disengagement to his performance that reads more as movie star than character actor. It wasn’t the last time he cruised through a movie without effort.
As for Hill, his career went on the opposite trajectory throughout the ’80s, when his extraordinary mid-’70s-to-early-’80s hot streak (Hard Times, The Driver, The Warriors, The Long Riders, Southern Comfort, 48 Hrs.) smacked into a series of flops, some fascinating and accomplished (Streets Of Fire, Extreme Prejudice, Johnny Handsome) and others significantly less so (Crossroads, Brewster’s Millions, Red Heat). Another 48 Hrs. was Hill’s chance to get back on terra firma, which meant sacrificing a little of his personality to prove he could still deliver Hollywood genre fare of a high order. Hill considers every movie he’s ever made to be a Western, whether they literally qualify or not, and Another 48 Hrs. could be taken as the work of a studio hand of an older school, a satisfying piece of matinee fare.
Back when I interviewed Hill for the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Bullet To The Head, he said that film was “not my biggest swing for the fences,” and it’s easy to imagine him saying the same thing about Another 48 Hrs. To him, there’s no shame in simply delivering the goods. The only trouble with Another 48 Hrs. is that exactly the same goods are being delivered.
This wraps our Movie Of The Week coverage of 48 Hrs., which began Tuesday with Keith’s Keynote on how Eddie Murphy’s performance changes the film, and Nathan and Scott’s Forum digging into Walter Hill’s filmography, Murphy’s evolution, and the film’s depiction of racism. Next up in Buddy Comedy month: Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin in Midnight Run.