Despite having a release date in 1984 and being only his fourth movie, Beverly Hills Cop is the apex of Eddie Murphy’s career as an actor. Second-banana cartoon voices aside, it’s been mostly downhill from his work as Axel Foley in a movie that was originally planned for Sylvester Stallone. Sure, he throws out the occasional Bowfinger, but this is still the highlight of his career. Justifiably so, and it’s now out on Blu-ray.
Plot is overrated. When people start telling you that story is everything in movies, pull out your copy of Beverly Hills Cop, an excellent action comedy with a story completely full of plot holes. That’ll shut them up. Beverly Hills Cop survives on humor, performances, and some pretty kick-ass action. Set aside questions like, “But wait, why didn’t anyone check Axel’s badge at that customs warehouse?” or “Why do guys working security at a mansion in Beverly Hills think shooting off machine guns will NOT bring cops?” Nobody cares about that when you have Eddie Murphy saying, “What’s the charge for getting thrown out of a car, jaywalking?” while getting arrested for being thrown out of a window.
As almost everyone should know by now, Murphy is Detroit Detective Axel Foley. After his friend (James Russo) is killed outside his apartment, Foley heads to the place where his buddy ended up with some German bearer bonds: Beverly Hills! Once there, Foley runs afoul of the straight-laced Beverly Hills Police Department who don’t want his cowboy ways sullying their tidy streets. Two detectives, Taggart (John Ashton) and Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), and their lieutenant (Ronny Cox), try to rein Foley in, but he’s way too smart, slick, and hi-larious for them. Foley is ultimately led to the classic bad guy masquerading as a pillar of society (Steven Berkoff), and everything wraps up nicely with a gun battle in a residential area with no one (except the bad guys) getting very hurt.
All that stuff, however, is just the vehicle to let Eddie be Eddie. To show all the other cops, crooks, bureaucrats, and rich people that he’s the smartest and funniest guy in the room, or even the city. Fortunately, he is the smartest and funniest guy in the city. At least, in this movie city. So, his rapid-fire lines and ability to talk his way into or out of any situation is wonderful to behold. The creative people seem to be setting up a class conflict between the streetwise Foley and the more sophisticated Beverly Hills folk, but really it’s just a conflict between Murphy and those less funny than Murphy (everyone). Watching it now you wonder, “What the hell happened to this guy?” He blows past his backup players and becomes the one and only reason this movie was the huge, amazing hit it was.
That’s not to say there aren’t other good performances. Paul Reiser, Bronson Pinchot, and Reinhold and Taggart get in some good lines and ably support the master, but it’s Murphy’s show all the way. Director Martin Brest keeps the action humming along and uses the synthi-score by Harold Faltermeyer and various top 40 hits to accent the scenes perfectly.
Despite the use of so many early '80s visual and cultural cues, the movie holds up very well nearly 30 years later. Murphy does seem to sneak more un-PC stuff in than would be allowed today (anyone think his voice when he tells the waiter that he needs to see Victor about Herpes Simplex 10 would pass muster today?). It’s also a little unclear why the obvious love interest character, Jenny (Lisa Eilbacher), is played strictly as a friend rather than for any romance. Is it because she was cast when the lead was Sylvester Stallone, and the idea of Murphy wooing her was scary for studio execs? Fortunately, a tacked-on romance would have only slowed down the laughs and the action, which are the strengths of this film.
This is probably the best movie Eddie Murphy has made, or will make, at least based on his output during the last 20 years. It doesn’t exactly set a new standard for action, but it’s very funny, very fast moving, and very enjoyable. It’s the opportunity to see a once-great comic actor in the full bloom of his talent...before it all went so terribly wrong.
If you own a previous DVD version of Beverly Hills Cop, think carefully before picking up this Blu-ray. While there is an improvement in picture quality, there isn’t anything new under the sun. Based on the date stamp at the end of the extras, they all hearken back to 2001, probably for some special-edition release of the trilogy on DVD.
I was a bit concerned about what the picture quality would be after watching the last Murphy vehicle released by Paramount, 48 Hrs. That one was not good at all, but here it’s much better. Not fantastic, the film still shows its age a bit, but a definite upgrade from DVD or from 48 Hrs., thank God.
As stated earlier, everything is bit stale in terms of extras, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interesting if you haven’t seen or heard them before. Director Martin Brest does a commentary, and while it’s not top notch, it does have its charms. He lets silences go on too long, and sometimes watches an exchange and just chuckles rather than contributing anything, but he does seem candid about the filming process, which is always appreciated.
There are three featurettes, although they should really have just made one longer featurette, as all three feature the same set of interviews done in 2001. There is the 30-minute “The Phenomenon Begins,” which covers the development of the movie, the filming, the cast, and the reactions to its release. Everyone participates, including Murphy, Brest, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Since the movie had an interesting development history, with Sylvester Stallone being cast initially and then replaced by Murphy close to the beginning of filming, this is a very helpful summary of the events. It was also the first time (although maybe it’s common knowledge) that I’d heard that if Stallone had stayed on Beverly Hills Cop, it would have ended up much like the horrible Cobra. The next extra, a 10-minute feature on casting, also covers the Stallone issue and probably could have been incorporated into the longer featurette. It does talk a bit more generally about casting.
The two remaining extras, besides a trailer, include a short on the music. The music was pretty influential, but the info, again, could have been incorporated into the longer featurette. There is also a map with some of the shooting locations for the movie around L.A. and Beverly Hills. When you click on the map, the production designer talks about the locations and how they were gussied up for the shooting. It’s good background if you’re into the “where’d they film that” thing.
This is a decent set, especially if you don’t already have the DVD. If you do, it’s probably not worth the upgrade, and it’s disappointing they didn’t make more of an effort to reward people who pick up the new Blu-ray. Still, it’s a great movie and the presentation is decent, so if this is something you always wanted to own, now is the time.