The basic premise of the buddy-cop film genre is simple. Two people from widely divergent backgrounds come together to solve a crime. One or both of these people are law enforcement officials. Sometimes they like each other at the start of the movie; more often, they don’t. By the flick’s ending, they may not like each other any better, but they always respect each other more. The genre seems to be particularly popular with guys.
Tough cop Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) wants to catch the pair of vicious escaped cons who’ve gunned down his partner. To do this, he must enlist the aid of another convict, slick-talking Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy.) Jack manages to wrangle a two day leave from San Quentin for Reggie, hence the film’s title.
Jack and Reggie are not exactly buddies at the end of the movie, but they have developed a grudging admiration for one another. When Jack escorts Reggie back to prison, the two talk of teaming up again, which they do in the movie’s 1990 sequel, Another 48 Hrs.
48 Hrs is often cited as the film that started the buddy-cop genre. It also launched Eddie Murphy’s film career.
Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) is an unstable Viet Nam vet whose always precarious sanity went south after the death of his beloved wife. Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is a staid family man who’s so dependable, he’s almost boring. Together, this unlikely duo pursue drug-running mercenaries and track down the thug who murdered the daughter of one of Riggs’ closest pals in ‘Nam. The film’s most famous scene is one in which Riggs sticks a gun in his mouth to commit suicide and then gets distracted by a Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes Christmas special.
Film critics consider Lethal Weapon the finest example of the genre. It remains the buddy-cop movie by which all other cop buddy movies are judged. Lethal Weapon spawned three sequels as well as a parody that was shown on an episode of the hit TV series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
There’s no rule in the buddy-cop film formula that says either the cop or the buddy has to be human. Scott Turner (Tom Hanks) is a police investigator with obsessive compulsive disorder who acquires Hooch, a large and slobbery Dogue de Bordeaux, after Hooch’s original owner is murdered. Turner decides to investigate the murder with help from Hooch. Hooch destroys everything in Turner’s home, but the murder does get solved, and Turner develops a love connection with Hooch’s veterinarian.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star as two Miami detectives who must track down the whereabouts of $100 million worth of heroin that was snatched from a secure police vault. For added plot intrigue, they’re also charged with protecting a key witness in a murder investigation. Lawrence plays family guy Marcus Burnett, while Smith plays playboy Mike Lowrey. Marcus’s wife blows the team’s cover early on, so it’s no surprise that just before the credits roll, Smith and Lawrence conclude they can only trust one another.
Comedy had been part of the buddy-cop genre since Eddie Murphy first told Nick Nolte, “Be cool man, the car is parked,” in 48 Hrs. Rush Hour transformed the buddy-cop genre into full on slapstick, though. Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, the film’s stars, are both brilliant physical comedians. Jackie Chan also has mad martial arts skills, which he put to great use in this hit as well as its many sequels.