t's the chemistry between Nolte and Murphy that makes this work, plus the fact that both men really attempt to 'get into the skin' of their character, something mostly ignored in other examples of this genre. Director Hill knows he's got a great team in front of the camera, and all that remains is for him to incorporate some spectacular action sequences around them. This he does competently. That one-two punch is what gives the movie its fireworks.
The banter and situations concerning the characters are also gleefully un-PC. It'd be interesting to see what a studio and director would make of the same premise in these 'enlightened' times. Murphy's comic stage persona is less restrained here than it would be in later films, and the results are often shamefully funny.
Don't expect Shakespeare, there's far too much cursing and other unsavoury shenanigans going on for that; do expect a pacy and entertaining early example of the 'buddy thriller'.