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THN’s Top Five Crime Comedy Double-Acts

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This week sees the release of break-out, blockbusting comedy, IDENTITY THIEF. The film reunites director Seth Gordon with his ever-likeable HORRIBLE BOSSES lead, Jason Bateman, whose mild-mannered businessman Sandy Bigelow Patterson becomes the victim of the hapless titular criminal. Once he decides to travel from Denver to Miami to confront the deceptively harmless-looking culprit (played by BRIDESMAIDS scene-stealer Melissa McCarthy), hilarity ensues. To celebrate IDENTITY THIEF reaching our shores, we at THN have selected our top five classic comedy duos.

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Eddie Murphy & Nick Nolte in 48 HOURS (1982) & ANOTHER 48 HOURS (1990)

The awesome director of genuine classics, THE WARRIORS (1979) and SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981), Walter Hill, played a masterstroke by pairing gruff sourpuss Nick Nolte with fast-talking comedian Eddie Murphy in the early eighties. 48 HOURS sees Nolte’s hard-nosed cop, Jack Cates, reluctantly teaming up with Murphy’s wise-cracking criminal Reggie Hammond, who’s temporarily paroled to help Jack track down a killer. Murphy was at the top of his game as the cocky crook, while the ace Nolte plays the badass, determined detective perfectly. The trio reunited for ANOTHER 48 HOURS, with pretty much the exact same plot but having them trace a drug lord instead. The sequel didn’t quite reach the same heights but was still action-packed fun.

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Robert Downey Jr. & Val Kilmer in KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005)

We’ll soon see Shane Black behind superhero blockbuster, IRON MAN 3, however, his first film with Robert Downey Jr. (and some say the film which reinvented the troubled actor’s career) was little seen initially, but has since gone on to find a cult audience. The plot centres on petty thief Harry Lockhart, who becomes embroiled in a murder mystery when he passes himself off as a skilled actor, after bursting in during an audition. Whisked off to Los Angeles, he is teamed up with Val Kilmer’s private detective, Gay Perry (who is supposedly training him for his new role) and a beautiful struggling actress (Michelle Monaghan), who is also his former high school dream girl. Black’s script sizzles (as they always do) via Downey Jr.’s narration, and Kilmer has rarely been better as his sarcastic, crime-solving partner. Black adapted KISS KISS BANG BANG from Brett Halliday’s novel BODIES ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM, creating an oft-quoted classic, reminiscent of his work on Tony Scott’s THE LAST BOY SCOUT (1991). 

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Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor in SEE NO EVIL HEAR NO EVIL (1987)

They’d previously worked together on SILVER STREAK (1976) and STIR CRAZY (1980) but this gem was a gut-buster. Wilder’s Dave is a deaf man who hires Pryor’s blind (and foul-mouthed) Wally to work on his news stand. The duo run into trouble when a man is murdered near their workplace by a beautiful femme fatale and her partner (Joan Severence and Kevin Spacey). Despite being close by, Wally didn’t see it and Dave didn’t hear it but they both hold clues, and before they know it, they’re on the run from the authorities, as well as the crooks who committed the crime. The two again complement each other greatly, with Wilder also having a hand in the scriptwriting. It’s also worth pointing out the film has a distinctive, lively score from former drummer Stewart Copeland, of iconic rock band, The Police.

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Jim Carrey & Jeff Daniels in DUMB AND DUMBER (1997)

Following a break-out double smash of ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE and THE MASK in 1994, Jim Carrey was box-office gold during the late nineties. As such, pairing him up with relative straight man, Jeff Daniels, seemed an odd choice for writing and directing debutants, Peter and Bobby Farrelly. How wrong we were. Daniels matches natural funnyman Carrey every step of the way, and in many people’s opinion, even eclipses him. The humour was puerile and childish but it’s also genius at times, with visual gags and slapstick played out amongst an almost-forgotten plot. Said narrative involves their attempts to return a briefcase full of cash to Lauren Holly’s stunning Mary Swanson. It’s a genuinely epic road trip with a memorable soundtrack, as the clueless Harry and Lloyd hit the road in a mutt-mobile, pursued by criminals who also want the suitcase for the ransom money that’s inside. Any film that pulls off showing a small blind boy stroking a dead parrot that’s had its head sellotaped back on deserves kudos. Fingers crossed the much talked about sequel finally moves ahead this year.

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Robert DeNiro & Charles Grodin in MIDNIGHT RUN (1988)

There is no duo on the planet who can surely top the brilliant and biting alliance forged between DeNiro’s bounty hunter, Jack Walsh and Grodin’s roguish rapscallion, Jonathan Mardukas. It’s all the more surprising that Grodin later confessed the method actor barely spoke to him throughout the shoot. The RAGING BULL (1980) Oscar-winner locates and nabs the accountant, who’s jumped bail after stealing millions from the mob. It’s up to Jack to bring him back to Chicago and collect his money with both the Feds, a crazy colleague, and the criminal underworld hot on their trail. MIDNIGHT RUN is filled with countless, quotable one-liners thanks to George Gallo’s sardonic script. Martin Brest’s riotous direction, along with Danny Elfman’s rousing score also adds layers of excellence. Every viewing is a joy with the central duo bringing genuine heart to proceedings, and it’s one of the few DeNiro performances where you almost forget it’s him. His sweary exchanges over the phone to Joe Pantoliano’s bail-bondsman are a hoot, and Dennis Farina makes an ace, cold-hearted villain. DeNiro confirmed a sequel is currently in the works early last year. Bring it on!

IDENTITY THIEF is released in UK cinemas Friday 22nd March. You can read our review here.

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Craig is leading the charge as our north east correspondent, proving that it’s so ‘grim up north’ that losing yourself in a world of film is a foregone prerequisite. He has been studying the best (and often worst) of both classic and modern cinema at the University of Life for as long as he can remember. Craig’s favorite films include THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, JFK, GOODFELLAS, SCARFACE, and most of John Carpenter’s early work, particularly THE THING and HALLOWEEN.

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