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Film review: Another 48hrs

Since it had been a few years since Eddie Murphy's film debut in Walter Hill's "48HRS." I decided to rent that film and watch it again before seeing the sequel, "Another 48HRS.," which opened in theaters Friday. That was a mistake. "48HRS.," though admittedly overblown, violent, profane, loud, bombastic and rather misogynistic, was a great showcase for young Murphy's burgeoning talent (he was billed under Nick Nolte then, but he gets top billing this time around). It was also the first of the spate of black and white actors teamed in cop thrillers, which reached a zenith with the "Lethal Weapon" pictures.

Seeing it again only punctuates all that's wrong with "Another 48HRS."

This is a star vehicle locked into a very bad screenplay _ credited to no less than four writers _ and the direction and performances, though occasionally somewhat lively, seem perfunctory.

The first film had laughs and action and thrills from the first frame to the last. The sequel has a few laughs (mostly by Murphy when he's allowed to cut loose), one spectacular action scene early on (a bus rolls and collides with a truck-trailer rig) and is even more misogynistic than the original (women are all prostitutes, pickpockets or victims). The fights and killings all seem to involve breaking glass _ from windows and doors to a truck loaded with water bottles _ and Hill seems justifiably determined to keep things moving even when they should slow down, lest we begin to think about it.

The story has Nolte suspended from the force and chastised for spending so much time over the past five years searching for a mysterious bay-area drug dealer called "The Iceman."

It's a frameup, of course, and if you can't figure out in the first 20 minutes that police corruption is involved here, turn in your badge. Worse is the revelation at the end that the chief villain is . . . well, I shouldn't give that away, I guess. But it's ridiculous _ trust me.

In fact, it was the preposterous built onto the preposterous that eventually wore down my patience with "Another 48HRS."

The chief killers in the film, introduced in the opening, under-the-credits scene, are members of a motorcycle gang. They kill, threaten and wave weapons in broad daylight all over San Francisco but somehow can't be caught. Even the mild-mannered accountant-type who fronts for "The Iceman" seems to be homeless _ but he can't be nailed either.

As for "The Iceman" himself _ everyone in the underworld seems to know about him, so Nolte's investigation would seem justified. But Nolte's peers and superiors deny the character's existence.

As Nolte and Murphy reluctantly team up once more to track down the villain, they again go into a redneck bar, but the scene has none of the pizazz the first film's similar sequence, and even the ending has a moment that copies the climax of the first film, but with less force.

The press kit, which movie critics receive for each new film, says this movie is less a sequel than a film that picks up the characters seven years later. Hogwash. Right down to the "Iceman" revelation, this is a sequel in the worst sense.

"Another 48HRS.," rated R for violence, profanity, nudity and vulgarity, has its moments _ but they are too few and far between.