Ah 1982, a time of repression, segregation; pre civil-rights if you will. At least that’s how the film is constructed, a modern Birth of a Nation so to speak. Nick Nolte gives his gun to some bad guys for no apparent reason and gets a guy killed; his captain (also the captain in Last Action Hero, that masterpiece) informs him that he must catch (kill) the cop killers at all costs. Some fortunate magical police logic leads him to Eddie Murphy, a cop disguised as a convict mysteriously.
And so the main plot begins, the original buddy cop picture; though if Eddie Murphy was just his actual partner that would place him on equal footing with Nick; and Nick could not have an epiphany about racism if he wasn’t in a “superior” position. It is still pretty funny though it’s also ironically funny in retrospect; this movie sort of seems like it was made pre-civil rights and obviously pre political correctness (the latter being a terrible thing for the most part). I’ve heard quite a few aged white men tell me this was their favorite movie, but it sort of has direct racism to start with and then Nick evolves into a standard soft racist (“but I have black friends!”) as the movie goes on, he becomes a modern white person instead of coming from the 1950s; bravo Nick.
But being that this is an 80s movie the action is still really well done, even brief shootouts are fairly interesting and believable. The movie is very predictable but presuming it actually spawned several of the clichés within it I don’t think that’s too much of an issue. Even though most of the movie takes place in same-y city streets they somehow still make it varied enough that it never gets boring visually. There’s one sequence with the buds’ car chasing a bus where they actually exchange blanks on a road; this probably wouldn’t happen in any modern filming situation for safety reasons, but that’s part of the charm of the 80s; stuntmen could actually die mid filming due to lack of safety precautions so there’s a legitimate air of danger added to the material.
At the end of the movie Nick lets Eddie keep his money but returns him to prison for 6 months; since no black people ever got off for good behavior in the reconstruction era. Keeping drug money = good; letting people out 6 months early after they helped you stop a serial killer and risked their own life in the process = bad, very bad. A funny, well shot, strikingly ancient film and very entertaining all told. Women are objectified of course, but that certainly hasn’t changed in modern pictures.