Release Date(s)1982 (July 6, 2021)
Studio(s)Paramount Pictures (Paramount Presents #19)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C
Though 48 Hrs. is best remembered today as the film that broke Eddie Murphy into superstardom (Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop would follow not long after), many forget what a gritty action thriller it really is. So much so that the powers that be at Paramount were severely worried about the film’s tone during shooting. Director Walter Hill (The Warriors, Southern Comfort) knew better. He knew that he had something special and fought every step of the way to do it the way he thought it should be done, pushing for a satirical but street-wise action film, and not just a comedic farce. It helped that the chemistry between Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy was strong as well, more or less birthing the buddy cop movie (despite the fact that Murphy’s character is a convict, not a cop). One of the highest grossing films of 1982, 48 Hrs. was also very well received critically and proved the naysayers wrong—that making a kid from Saturday Night Live a co-lead in a dark but witty action film could work, especially with Eddie Murphy in the role. To be succinct, Paramount wasn’t quite ready for the star power and charisma of Eddie Murphy.
Detective Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) is having relationship issues with his girlfriend Elaine (Annette O’Toole) and his boss Captain Haden (Frank McRae) is breathing down his neck about his latest case. A criminal named Ganz (James Remar) escapes police custody with the help of his partner Billy Bear (Sonny Landham), and when Cates attempts to get the drop on them after begin recognized at a nearby hotel, another cop is killed in the process and they get away. Cates soon learns that Ganz’s former partner, Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy), is currently locked up and arranges for him to be released into his custody for 48 hours in order to find Ganz. Hammond, a smart-mouthed criminal with a penchant for the ladies, agrees to help, but on his own terms. This leads them to Luther (David Patrick Kelly), whose girlfriend is kidnapped by Ganz, demanding that Luther retrieve a large amount of money stashed away from a previous robbery. The tensions between Cates and Hammond prove to be almost unbearable, but if they’re to catch Ganz and Billy Bear before they retrieve the money and get away, they must learn to work together.
48 Hrs. was shot by cinematographer Ric Waite on 35 mm film with Panavision Panaflex cameras and Panavision lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The film comes to Blu-ray for a second time as #19 in the Paramount Presents line from a new 4K transfer, likely from the original camera negative as this is a top notch presentation. The older master featured heavy, coarse grain and didn’t look particularly good. This new release corrects that with tighter grain and higher levels of fine detail. Clarity is enormously improved, in both day and nighttime scenes. Contrast is nearly perfect with deep blacks and great shadow detail, especially during night scenes. The color palette offers a variety of hues that pop off the screen when given the chance. Everything is clean and stable with nary a speck of dirt or debris leftover. It’s a gorgeous presentation, and the film has never looked this good on home video.
Audio is included in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, and German, French, and Japanese 2.0 Dolby Digital. Though it’s a tad quiet in spots, the 5.1 track is nice. Occasional ambience and sound effects are used in the fronts and the rears—the sounds of passing cars are put to particularly good use. Dialogue is precise as well. James Horner’s score, as well as The BusBoys music, has an exceptional vitality to it, and envelops all around the sound stage. Since an isolated score is an option, it would have been nice to have had the original theatrical mix as well, but this 5.1 track is no slouch. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, German, French, and Japanese.
48 Hrs. on Blu-ray sits inside a clear amaray case with an insert featuring new artwork on the front, as well as stills and a quote from Walter Hill on the inner sleeve. Also tucked away inside is a Digital code on a piece of paper. Everything is housed within a gatefold slipcover featuring the new artwork on the front and a fold-out of the original theatrical poster artwork on the interior. The following extras are included, all in HD:
- Isolated Score in 2.0 Dolby Digital
- Filmmaker Focus: Director Walter Hill on 48 Hrs. (19:08)
- Theatrical Trailer (3:03)
- Space Kid 1966 Animated Short (5:31)
The new Filmmaker Focus segment is pretty darn good. It features a Skype/Zoom interview with director Walter Hill who takes us through the process of making the film, but also features many never-before-seen behind-the-scenes stills. It doesn’t make up for the lack of an audio commentary, but it’s a fine new addition to a release that’s always been bare bones. Besides the isolated score track and the theatrical trailer, there’s also the 1966 animated short Space Kid, which can be seen during the film. It’s an odd inclusion, but it’s clearly been restored recently and looks excellent.
48 Hrs. holds up beautifully, thanks in no small part to Walter Hill’s smart direction, fine performances from everybody involved, and James Horner’s terrific score. This release really should have been a 4K Ultra HD instead of simply a Blu-ray, but perhaps we’ll see one sometime down the road. In any case, this a fine upgrade with exceptional video quality.
- Tim Salmons