A moment of truth.
Joe Rogan has famously said, “you can’t be full of shit and do jiujitsu” and he’s right. In other words, with fight scenes, when things get real, they get real honest, real fast. And that brings me to one of my favorite fight scenes, between Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in 48 Hours.
So unless you live under a rock and have never seen a TV, you already know the story. Nolte’s cop buddy has been shot and killed by an escaped convict, and Nolte gets Murphy out of jail for 48 hours to help him find the bastard.
But things don’t go well. Eddie’s a smooth talking criminal who never tells the truth when he can tell a lie, even when the truth benefits him, and Nolte’s a racist cop with one foot out the door of his job and he knows it.
Things come to a head when Nolte challenges Murphy to tell him everything he know. Warning, this is the unedited version, and thus the racial language might be startling if you’re used to the cable version. But it’s important because it’s honest about who Nolte is.
This fight, which is sloppy and messy and real, is the first time the two men actually start to respect each other, and it represents a shift for the characters and their journey… for the first time, they actually start to work together, after this. That this fight happens in the mid point of the movie is not an accident, this is a major shift.
This particular clip cuts a couple of the funny tag lines off (Murphy replying, “nothin’ when the cops ask them what they’re doing, and Nolte saying “I’m too fucking tired to raise my arms) and the button (Nolte’s cheap shot in the car afterward) and it doesn’t even show a clear winner, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they both learned something about themselves, and each other, after it. Both clearly want something, both will do anything to get it. Even work together, if need be. It’s their moment of truth, and it happens because of this fight.
In other words, a fight scene should always be about the characters in order to be great.
Thus endeth this fight scene chat for today.