"I'm a fucking police officer. I can't steal cars no more."
(Well that's good)
(Well that's good)
As a naïve young person in love with all things Eddie Murphy (yes, I was addicted to the oh so raunchy naughty of Delirious too) I was oblivious to how patently absurd that aforementioned line is and just how ludicrous it would be for Axel Foley to pass a criminal justice background check and actually become a police officer after stealing vehicles. But perhaps in some precincts they let things slide. Today I wonder if they just might. According to this film they did in 1984 anyway.
It's funny life. One moment you can be on top of the world and in the next virtually forgotten. Once upon a time actor Eddie Murphy was all the rage amongst my childhood peers. Then we grew up. Perhaps Eddie Murphy did too. Maybe that was the problem. His childlike exuberance is what made characters like Donkey work so spectacularly in the Shrek series. So for a period of time Eddie Murphy hot off the heels of his run on Saturday Night Live (1980-1984) could do virtually no wrong. Anything he touched was box office gold. Today I couldn't tell you what films he has been making or is making. I have no idea.
As a young man though Eddie Murphy was very much apart of my formative years. His first film Walter Hill's 48 Hrs. (1982), Jon Landis' Trading Places (1983) and yes, Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and to a lesser degree, The Golden Child (1986) and Coming To America (1988), saw him riding high atop a succession of hit films. We simply couldn't get enough of Mr. Murphy.
But like all good things, it just ended. It ended for me anyway.
A reevaluation of this featured film here at Cinematic Wonders reveals the mind boggling question why it was ever such a hit. The lasting impression must rest solely and squarely on the shoulders of the Axel Foley character and not much else.
Also fascinating about Beverly Hills Cop is that with Murphy it spawned something of a popular franchise for a time a la Superman with Christopher Reeves or Lethal Weapon with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. It captured the moment and the attention of the world.
Director Martin Brest was at the helm and apart from the notable George Burns-helmed Going In Style (1979), Beverly Hills Cop was a breakout hit for Brest. It was the only film of the three film franchise he would direct. Tony Scott would direct the sequel Beverly Hills Cop II and John Landis would re-team with Murphy to direct Beverly Hills Cop III.
Brest would follow with the fantastically timed action comedy Midnight Run (1988) and the acclaimed Scent Of A Woman (1992) with Al Pachino. For Scent Of A Woman Brest was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director by the Academy Awards. He did however win a Golden Globe for Best Picture Drama. Meet Joe Back (1998) would follow and the disastrous Jennifer Lopez/ Ben Affleck affair led Gigli (2003) would come after that. Gigli saw Brest try his hand at writing as well as direction. It ended badly. Critics destroyed the film and Brest disappeared from behind the camera never to be seen again.
Funny Hollywood. But for one fascinating period for both Brest and Murphy the two shined with Murphy bringing to life Axel Foley and the film sporting a colorful 1980s pop soundtrack spearheaded by Harold Faltermeyer. George Michael's I Want Your Sex, Glen Frey's The Heat Is On and The Pointer Sisters' Neutron Dance seemed to be memorable signatures of the film's energy. The list of great ones goes on and all were perfectly placed to appropriately date this film squarely in 1984.
The film is loaded with cameos including Damon Wayans, Bronson Pinchot (potentially my favorite thing about the film), Paul Reiser and even Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul).
What I've come to realize looking back upon Beverly Hills Cop is that it's loose and breezy (Murphy is charming and giggles and chuckles essentially playing himself) and is generally well executed and paced by Brest and Murphy but not particularly terrific. The script is often weak, a generally preposterous law enforcement film, saved by the performances. But ultimately I was in awe of Murphy at the time and it all worked (then). Today, it's easy to see that Beverly Hills Cop is not that great and mostly a Murphy vehicle because people like me thought he was a real classic, a character and he was. We were somehow hypnotized by the Murphy laugh and charm, but Beverly Hills Cop is not that wonderful at all. In fact it's a little hard to believe I loved this film once upon a time. How will I feel about Trading Places and 48 Hrs. I wonder? This writer plans to find out.
But despite defying criminal justice standards at nearly every turn this film managed a franchise. It was huge! Timing is everything I guess. And wow, that Eddie Murphy was something special. He sells this picture. Look at the images. It's even visually uninteresting in nearly every way. It seems appropriate to land here at Cinematic Wonders because I wonder how on Earth this was as big as it was. It can best be described as mass popular entertainment but not good cinema.
Let's just call this dramedy a nice practice run for Brest's superlative Midnight Run.
Beverly Hills Cop. Director: Martin Brest. Writer: Daniel Petrie/ Danilo Bach.