Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Recent Watches: Another 48 Hrs. (1990)

The original “48 Hrs.” was actually a big hit in its day, becoming the 7th highest grossing film of 1982. Not surprisingly, a sequel would eventually be made. However, it took eight whole years for that to happen. By 1990, when “Another 48 Hrs.” came out, there had been a lot of other movies like it, the action genre growing simultaneously more violent and more joke-filled. Though also a financial success, the sequel was trashed by critics and a “Further 48 Hrs.” did not get made. While I do not think the sequel is quite as bad as is frequently stated, the studio and all involved were obviously desperate to recapture lightening in a bottle.

Jack Cates, still as grizzled a cop as ever, is on the trail of the Iceman, a legendary and elusive drug dealer. An attempt to grab him results in a violent shoot-out, Cates finding a burnt picture of Reggie Hammond in the flames. This gets Jack in trouble with his superior, who are taking him to court for manslaughter in 48 hours. Cates gets Reggie out of jail again and the two are, typically, antagonistic towards each other. The mysterious Iceman has hired a pair of psychotic bikers to take Reggie and Cates out, one of the bikers being the vengeful brother of the first film’s dead baddie. Soon, the convict and the cop are thrown together, trying to locate the villain, clear Jack’s name, and survive the next two days.

“Another 48 Hrs.” is widely accused of being a rehash of the first movie. There’s definitely some truth to that. Instead of building on the main characters’ personalities, the film puts them back at zero. At the beginning of the film, Reggie is back in jail. Instead of being fond friends like at the first movie’s end, Hammond is pissed at Jack, reinstating their antagonistic relationship. Instead of doing a different premise, the film lazily flips the first movie’s set-up. Now Cates is the one with the 48 hour time limit. Further evidence that very little work was put into the movie’s script is the reveal that one of the main villains is the vengeful brother of the first movie’s dead bad guy, the hackiest of easy bad guy motivations. Both movies have the antagonist being cornered while with a woman. “Another 48 Hrs.” even boldly repeats jokes from the first movie. When Reggie puts his headphones on, he resumes the off-key rendition of “Roxane.” This was a sequel that was obviously content to simply give the audience more of what they liked the first time.

Despite that, there’s still some decent laughs to be had here. Murphy remains in top form, even with lesser material like this. A notable early joke has Reggie trying to call in some favors, each of his phone calls ending in awkward, sudden silence. When he learns a woman is undressed in the other room, he gleefully whispers to himself, “She’s nekkid!” His reaction to the destruction of his beloved car is worth a laugh. Nolte also gets some funny moments to himself, such as how he convinces the police to let him have Hammond for the weekend. The sequel attempts to top the redneck bar sequence from the first movie, with a similar fight in a different bar. It’s not as good but does feature a funny bit when Cates smashes a beer bottle over someone’s head. The laughs aren’t as fresh but they are there.

The first movie was funny. Yet the humor was contained within a gritty crime story. “Another 48 Hrs.” is more outwardly comedic, perhaps in response to the more comedy-oriented buddy films made in the space between the two films. However, the sequel also tries to be a bigger action film then the first. The mixture is awkward, the film whip-lashing between sarcastic quips and hyper-violent set-pieces. It doesn’t help that the action scenes are pushed as far as possible, into the realm of ridiculous over-the-top-ness. Someone is shot so hard their body flies backwards through a window. This gag is repeated two more times, most notably at the end. Keep in mind, these are not shotguns or assault weapons tossing people through the air. Just regular hand guns. A gas pump explodes in a massive fireball. The wheels of a bus are shot out, causing the vehicle to spin vertically through the air seven times. The motorcycle riding baddies tear through a porno theater, sailing through the screen, through the center of the bounding, naked woman’s chest. Many scenes stick with this overzealous style, like when the camera spins around a band singing in a bar. It’s off-putting and frequently unintentionally hilarious.

For what it’s worth, Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte still have solid chemistry together. A scene of them yapping about Nolte’s car is one of the flick’s most natural, funny moments. Nolte actually seems a little more at ease with the part and Murphy’s screen persona was more established, more fine-tuned by this point. Also returning from the first movie is Brion James, in a far more expanded part, which is nicely appreciated. Frequent cinematic bad guy Andrew Divoff – whose career of playing goons, psychos, and henchman would climax with his starring role in the “Wishmaster” franchise – plays Ganz’ even-more-psychotic brother. Divoff is certainly convincing as a leather-wearing, gun-totting nut case. Bernie Casey is also decent in a bit part, as the movie’s faux-villain.

So “Another 48 Hrs.” is slightly better then its reputation implies. Yes, it’s a fairly lazy rehash of many of the first film’s parts and bits. The absurd action is wildly at odds with the movie’s humorous scenes. However, Murphy and Nolte are still decent together. Reportedly, Walter Hill’s director’s cut ran over two hours and the film was hastily cut down to 95 minutes, one minute longer then the first, a few days before release. Hill’s version has never been publicly released so there’s no way to know if it’s better. The weakest aspect of the film is its repetitive screenplay and I imagine that’s more-or-less the same, regardless of length. Though not awful, I can see why this wasn’t expanded into a trilogy. [6/10]

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