48 HRS

Dir: Walter Hill, 1982


For a brief period in Hollywood, Eddie Murphy was King Midas. Whatever he put his name to, turned to box office gold.

Starting with his debut feature, 48 HRS, Murphy asserted his status as a comic genius and fine actor.

Inspector Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) is on the hunt for escaped convict and police murderer, Albert Ganz (James Remar).

To get him, he releases prison inmate and former member of Ganz’s gang, Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy).

Naturally, the pair don’t get along and there are fist fights, insults and threats thrown around before coming to develop a respect for one another.

Buddy movies have always been a staple of American cinema, with such titles as Midnight Cowboy, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and Freebie and the Bean but it was 48 HRS that really cemented the genre and kick-started the term buddy movie.

Nolte and Murphy have an on-screen chemistry that is a joy to watch and is the pivotal point in the film’s pleasure.

From director Walter Hill’s previous film, The Warriors, James Remar is brilliant as Ganz, the psychotic murderer. A nasty and vile character, Remar seems to excel in playing roles of this sort and deserved more recognition.

Sadly, it’s a shame that the film hasn’t aged all that well. As terrific as the performances are, the influx of buddy movies that followed have diluted what was fresh and original to stale and musty. There is still plenty of enjoyment to be had, but it all seems so derivative, now.

Eddie Murphy was notorious for his use of bad language and anybody who has ever seen his stand up shows, Delirious and Raw, will understand why. 48 HRS had, for the time, a high number of expletives causing trouble for TV networks. During filming and post-production, several scenes are re-shot or dubbed with tamer and less contentious material to appease the television censors. A milder print with all the curse words and nudity edited out, was assembled along side the theatrical cut allowing the film to be broadcast on US television.

Confusingly, the movie was passed uncut with an ’18’ certificate for cinema showings and, later, released on video. However, after the “video nasties” debacle, the government introduced the Video Recordings Act 1984 which stipulated that all videos for sale or rental must be approved by the BBFC.

CIC Video was the video distributor of Paramount Pictures and Universal Studios and they submitted 48 HRS to the British censors for a certificate. Whether this was down to CIC or Paramount is unclear, but the print submitted was heavily edited version, retaining the violence but removing all f-words and nudity. It was, essentially, a hybrid of the television print and the theatrical cut where it was rated ’15’ without BBFC interference.

There was a number of high profile cases and convictions regarding the sale of obscene videos so it could be argued that the distributors were, simply, being cautious.

Nevertheless, it’s a terrible version with many of the jokes cut or the humour is watered down. The language is needed as it punctuates the humour and gives it a realistic and down to earth feel.

Eventually, the uncut version was released on video with an ’18’ certificate.

On release, the poster caused a bit of a stir as it depicted Murphy with his middle finger extended. For some countries, like the US, this was too much and replaced with a much, much tamer alternative:

Bizarrely, some countries retained the original poster but, merely, edited out Murphy’s finger:

48 HRS is a funny film and only scratches the surface of Murphy’s talents. Quite rightly, the former Saturday Night Live star went on to bigger and better things.

Solid entertainment for a quiet night in.


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