(Second viewing, On DVD, September 2017) If ever you find yourself watching Another 48 Hrs and wondering where much of the plot went, be comforted by the fact that the first cut of the film ran nearly an hour longer, and got mercilessly over-edited in the few weeks before its wide release. In other words, much of the story got left on the cutting room floor, leaving only the set-pieces in place. Which isn’t nearly as insane as it sounds: As with a number of buddy-cop movies spawned by its predecessor, Another 48 Hrs is unremarkable for plot (except when it’s missing) and noteworthy for the banter between its characters and the quality of its action sequences. Here Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte are back in more or less the same shape as in the first film (egregiously so in the case of Murphy’s character, as the film goes out of its way to ensure that he has remained in jail in the interval rather than have him evolve a bit), and director Walter Hill ensures that the film goes on its merry humdrum way. Another 48 Hrs does have a few strong moments: the bus-flipping sequence is cool; there is another intimidate-the-bar sequence to ape the first movie, and the motorcycle-crashing-through-the-adult-cinema-screen sequence reminded me that I did see Another 48 Hrs at the drive-in back in 1990, even though I remembered nearly nothing else about the movie itself. It’s a noticeable step down from the already average original, but at least there’s Nolte and Murphy bickering to make up for the dull shootouts, incoherent story and generic direction. That’s what sequels gave you back in 1990.
(On DVD, September 2017) Ah, the eighties … peak era for police brutality and casual racism being presented as comedy engines. Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy team up in 48 Hrs. for a gritty crime comedy that prefigures much of the buddy-cop films to follow. The script is unrepentant about its use of racist profanity and brutal violence—it’s meant to be funny, but modern audiences may disagree. This being said, the film does works relatively well at what it tries to be, however distasteful this may be. Murphy is responsible for most of the laughs, most notably in a sequence in which he intimidates an entire redneck bar. Anette O’Toole has a far-too-brief turn as a peripheral girlfriend that disappears from the action without much fanfare. Director Walter Hill keeps things hopping steadily, which helps in watching the film today. While interesting as a prototype of latter action movies, 48 Hrs. has a limited appeal from today’s perspective—it’s been imitated, remixed and redone so often that Murphy aside, it’s difficult to see much of it as being distinct today.
(On DVD, June 2017) It’s a bit of a shame that The Warriors, as a whole movie, never quite lives up to the striking impression left by its first few minutes, as director Walter Hill quickly sketches a nightmarish vision of near-future-New York City dominated by colourful gangs and pervasive decay. By the time the gangs congregate and realize they can take on the Law, we expect a different film than the one that is revealed a few minutes later, as a small gang is framed for a prominent assassination and must fight their way from the Bronx to Brooklyn if they want to survive the night. This initial burst of cool gives way to a far more ordinary narrative, the episodes accumulating in-between the titular heroic gang and their morning salvation. As with such stories, the unlikeliness of characters appearing and reappearing defy logic, but then again The Warriors if far more about the rule of cool than plot logic. We are, after all, asked to cheer for gang members with unsavoury pasts (and, as one of the dumbest characters show, an uncanny ability fall for the most obvious honey traps). On the other hand, there is some kind of panache in seeing gangs listening to a single DJ able to move forces across the island. The 2005 “Ultimate Director’s Cut” heighten the parallels between the Warriors and Xenophon’s classic Ten Thousand tale, and heighten the link between the film and comic books. Still, neither of those changes are more than mildly amusing extras—they don’t add much to the core film. What still works about the film, however, is its stylish presentation. The dialogue isn’t particularly good, the characters are mildly repellent at best but The Warriors manages to remain interesting because it’s a blend of seventies insecurities and timeless stylistic flourishes.
(On Cable TV, March 2014) The problem with making a movie that consciously call back to a sub-genre fallen in disfavor is that, well, there’s usually a reason why the sub-genre has gone away. With Bullet to the Head, veteran director Walter Hill clearly tries to model his movie after the countless buddy-cop action thrillers of the eighties, a fraction of which he himself directed. And to a certain extent, there’s an interesting clash-of-the-eras in pitting Sylvester Stallone against action upstart Jason Momoa. But the final result doesn’t do much more than string along a passable action thriller: Bullet to the Head is generic to a degree that would be almost laughable if it wasn’t for the suspicion that it’s actually trying to be as generic as it can be. While the dynamic between good-cop Sung Kang and secretly-nice-assassin Stallone can be fitfully amusing, there really isn’t anything new here. Stallone looks tired in yet another self-satisfied mumbling performance, and the dialogue that the script gives him really isn’t anything worth remembering. The plot is familiar, and while the various incidents along the way often try to make Stallone’s assassin character look far cooler than he is, he simply isn’t as interesting as the script believes him to be. There’s some value to the film, one supposes, in filling late-night slots, much like its 1980s predecessors once did. But if this is old-school, then it must be remedial class.