Monday, June 8, 2015

Newsploitation: Giving More Time to ANOTHER 48 HRS. (1990)

Often dismissed by critics and audiences as simply a cash in, ANOTHER 48 HRS. is actually a fine sequel to the original film and features some of the best action captured by Walter Hill during his career.  It leaves one to wonder what it could have been had Paramount not slapped it together so quickly to regain some box office momentum and actually developed it properly.

1989 was a particularly brutal year (by entertainment industry standards) for Eddie Murphy.  COMING TO AMERICA (1988) had been a huge success for the actor, giving him enough clout for Paramount to let him handle nearly everything outside of craft services on his next feature, HARLEM NIGHTS (1989), which filmed in the spring of ‘89.  Unfortunately, beginning in August 1989, Murphy’s name was in the trades seemingly daily after Art Buchwald filed a lawsuit regarding AMERICA in 1988.  As the suit went forward in 1989, Murphy and several of his people were deposed and it made headlines week after week.  It is hard to say this impacted the box office of NIGHTS, but when that film opened in November 1989, it only did so-so (by Murphy standards).

Times were also tough (again by entertainment industry standards) for director Walter Hill.  He hadn’t had a massive hit since the original 48 HRS. (1982) and he was still feeling the sting from RED HEAT (1988) – with Schwarzenegger and Jim Belushi trying the 48 HRS. formula – turning out to be a big budget flop for Carolco. He returned with the much smaller (and excellent) crime-drama JOHNNY HANDSOME (1989), but that also fared poorly.  Prior to helming this sequel (his first), Hill had spent most of 1989 prepping a biker pic for Carolco called AMERICAN IRON, working on TALES FROM THE CRYPT, and negotiating to remake the Japanese comedy (!) A TAXING WOMAN (1987).

This is when ANOTHER 48 HRS. enters the scene.  Just two weeks after Paramount released NIGHTS, they made an out-of-nowhere announcement that Murphy was reteaming with Walter Hill and Nick Nolte for the sequel.  Not only that, they said it would begin filming in January 1990 and hit theaters in June 1990 with a budget rumored between $30 to 50 million dollars.  If you know anything about big budget filmmaking, that is freakin’ insane. The thought process from the studio was probably to bolster what had been a disappointing 1989 (only one Paramount title – the third Indiana Jones movie – made it into the box office top 20 that year) with a big name in a familiar situation. With a script by three writers – Jeb Stuart, Larry Gross, and John Fasano (yes, the filmmaker behind THE JITTERS and BLACK ROSES) – filming began as promised and lasted until April 1990.  Murphy even suffered an injury while filming the nightclub shootout, but soldiered through as they finished a few days ahead of schedule in mid-April.  So, yeah, they were still shooting up to six weeks before the film was scheduled to come out.  Post-production must have been hell.

When all was said and done, Hill turned in cut that was nearly two-and-a-half hours long. Paramount refined it and brought it down to two hours.  “Wait,” I hear you say, “the version I saw in theaters was only 90 minutes.”  Yup, in a true stroke for brilliance, the studio decided to cut an addition 30 minutes out of the film just weeks before it hit theaters.  Now you can understand why there are three credited editors on the film.  Sadly, to this day, none of the nearly hour worth of footage has appeared in any home video format. Yes, because no one wants more action and Eddie Murphy.

Not surprising since it was the only big release that weekend, ANOTHER opening in first place with a haul of just over $19.4 million dollars.  This was the third biggest opening of Murphy’s career, behind BEVERLY HILLS COP II (1987) and COMING TO AMERICA (1988) with $26 million and $21 million, respectively. Unfortunately, it topped out in the U.S. at $80 million.  A fine sum by a normal person’s standards (and far bigger than the original), but Hollywood isn’t filled with normal people. Because it didn’t crack $100 million in the U.S. like the aforementioned entries in Murphy’s filmography, the film was deemed a “flop.”  Yes, despite having made Paramount over a billion dollars up to this point, they were disappointed.  Murphy would actually take a break for two years after this film.  So, yeah, slapping a movie that cost tens of millions of dollars together in a matter of months might not be the best idea. The ultimate irony here is that Paramount ended up having the biggest film that summer in the fantasy-romance (and non-sequel) GHOST (1990), which only cost them $22 million dollars and went on to make $500 million worldwide.

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