Beverly Hills Cop (1984) / Action-Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for violence, brief nudity, drug content and language
Running Time: 105 min.

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher, Ronny Cox, Steven Berkoff, James Russo, Jonathan Banks, Stephen Elliott, Bronson Pinchot, Gilbert R. Hill. James Russo, Paul Reiser (cameo), Damon Wayans (cameo), Rick Overton (cameo), Martin Brest (cameo)
Director: Martin Brest

Screenplay: Daniel Petrie Jr.
Review published May 6, 2007

Eddie Murphy's (48 Hrs,. Trading Places) superstar-making role has him playing crafty Detroit cop Axel Foley, who travels to Beverly Hills in order to try to uncover the reasons behind the professional hit placed on an old friend (Russo, The Postman).  His investigative tactics immediately draw the attention of the local law enforcement there, who put a tail on Foley to make sure that his story of being on vacation there holds up.

By-the-book detectives Taggart (Ashton, Midnight Run) and Rosewood (Reinhold, Roadhouse 66) are the cops assigned to staking out Foley, and Axel ends up dragging them both into the investigation through his charm, which ends up getting them into more and more hot water with the boss, Lt. Bogomil (Cox, RoboCop).  With the cops on his case, his boss back in Detroit threatening his livelihood, and armed henchmen at every turn, Foley has a hard time trying to maintain focus on his intended prey, the wealthy art dealer, Victor Maitland (Berkoff, Octopussy).

One of the most purely-entertaining action-comedies of its era, Beverly Hills Cop featured a dead-perfect mix of action and comedy, delivering a maximum amount of laughs and thrills in equal measure.  The casting is perfect all around, and actor's director Martin Brest (Going in Style, Meet Joe Black) kept the tempo loose and fun both in front of and behind the camera, and the camaraderie felt among the performers definitely shows on screen.  Eddie Murphy proves to be a revelation, bringing a fantastic improvisational style, a blend of street-smarts and core intelligence, and a good physical presence that makes for a perfect hero worth watching and listening to every word uttered just to see what he'll say or do next.

Bolstered by a killer soundtrack ("The Heat is On", "Neutron Dance", and "New Attitude' proved to be huge hits) and one of the best of the synthy 1980s scores by Harold Faltermeyer (many mainstream 80s scores are hard on the ears today, but not this one), Beverly Hills Cop gives you everything you could want in an action-comedy -- great stunts, fun characters, inventive situations, and an infectious energy.  It's also one of the few examples of comedic action flicks where the laughs don't end once the mayhem at the film's climax begins.  It would go on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, only eclipsed 20 years later by The Matrix Reloaded (The Passion of the Christ beat that just one year later).

Looking at Beverly Hills Cop in hindsight, it's hard to believe that Eddie Murphy had been plugged in just two weeks before production began (replacing Sly Stallone).  This is a perfect vehicle for Murphy, with the perfect kind of director in Brest to allow him to do his thing in a funny way, while also keeping him focused on always pushing the story forward.  It would set the trend for all future projects to cater to Murphy's enormous appeal, while also changing the landscape of the action movies of the 1980s into injecting more comedy and music than had been the norm in the hardboiled 1970s.  Though often imitated, Beverly Hills Cop was never quite replicated, even by its inevitable sequels.

-- Followed by Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) and Beverly Hills Cop III (1994).

Qwipster's rating


©1996, 2007 Vince Leo