Written by Danilo Black and Daniel Petrie Jr.
Directed by Martin Brest
Long before Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer became synonymous with summer blockbuster and high-action films, they produced Beverly Hills Cop, an action/comedy flick that became a vehicle to showcase Eddie Murphy’s comedic talent outside of his stint on Saturday Night Live.
Originally conceived as a vehicle for Sylvester Stallone, all that changed (and some of the material he wanted was later used in Cobra) and the movie became more of a comedy than a violent fish out of water story. The premise was still the same for both men. However, the tactic used to convey the difference between an urban police department and how law and order was handled in a place like Beverly Hills was entirely different.
Murphy portrays Axel Foley, a Detroit police officer who works on his own and outside of the law a lot of the time. He’s disliked by his superiors and viewed with contempt by many of his fellow officers. When an old friend, Mike Tandino (portrayed by James Russo) comes back to town and then winds up shot to death execution-style on Foley’s doorstep, he finds himself in the middle of a mystery. Tandino was working with another friend, Jenny Summers (portrayed by Lisa Eilbacher) out in Beverly Hills, so Axel heads out there to try and solve his friend’s murder.
When he confronts Victor Maitland (portrayed by Steven Berkoff), the man whom Tandino worked for, Axel ends up arrested by the Beverly Hills Police. There, he encounters a different set of rules. He ends up being tailed by Sgt. Taggart (portrayed by John Ashton) and Detective Billy Rosewood (portrayed by Judge Reinhold) and eventually they all team up to solve the murder.
What really makes the film is some of the outrageous bits of comedy that occur and not all at the hands of Murphy. What I never realized before was that there was quite a bit of improvisation by Judge Reinhold and John Ashton for many sequences when they are together. Murphy improvises many scenes as well. The actors were given key plot points and allowed to have at it. That seems incredible when I viewed it as the chemistry between the lead actors is so amazing and their lines flow so nicely. It’s always a good thing to appreciate talent, even many years later.
The performances are great. Murphy was in his prime as a comedian, not as an actor. However, that was perfect for the role of Axel. Axel is a wise-cracking street-smart child of the ghetto and the way in which he has Axel carries himself is what makes it believable that he can do the things he does to evoke a response or manage to get the desired result. This is how he manages to get a suite at a posh Beverly Hills hotel as well as get into a bonded warehouse and comb through their records with hardly a question. He’s also a character most people would feel comfortable with to some degree. He’s not about to hang people out to dry if they are caught doing something they aren’t supposed to be doing. Instead, he’s more likely to try and take the blame for the misdeeds himself, even though his outrageously funny stories excusing his friends for their behavior don’t quite cut it.
I have a new appreciation for Reinhold and Ashton after seeing the extras on the DVD and finding out just how much of their performances involved their “winging it” either opposite each other or Murphy. I can’t say that I thought much of them before in his shadow, but now it’s apparent that they are very under-appreciated in their roles.
The comedic performances don’t leave Beverly Hills Cop short on action. Right from the start, there’s a good action sequence with a truck through the streets of Detroit being pursued by law enforcement with Axel hanging on for dear life in the back. The sequence near the end that wraps it up is also quite good if a little unbelievable. These sequences allow for comedic moments such as the chunky Ashton trying to get over a cement wall surrounding a Beverly Hills estate, while not letting the audience get too far away from what’s coming next.
The soundtrack was terrific and a hit in its own right during this time. There’s a techno-pop Axel’s Theme and also songs from the likes of Glenn Frey, The Pointer Sisters, and Patti Labelle. The sound of the movie overall was terrific and really drew in audiences. People who saw it originally back then will find themselves remembering those times just by the soundtrack.
The one complaint I have is the uneven transfer. Some parts are very crisp and clear while others are muddy and grainy. The sound was clear, thankfully, and didn’t seem to change the volume constantly.
This is a movie that is a lot of fun, but definitely not for kids with the language and especially the violence involved. And for those of us who remember seeing it in theaters years ago, it’s a wonderful trip down memory lane.
” Commentary by Director Martin Brest
” Cast and Crew Interviews
” Casting Beverly Hills Cop
” Theatrical Trailer
” Location Map
” Photo Gallery
” The Music of Beverly Hills Cop
Categories: Movie Reviews