Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) / Action-Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for violence, nudity, sexual humor, and language
Running Time: 100 min.

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Brigitte Nielsen, Jurgen Prochnow, Ronny Cox, Allen Garfield, Dean Stockwell, Paul Reiser, Gil Hill, Paul Guilfoyle, Gilbert Gottfried (cameo), Hugh Hefner (cameo), Chris Rock (cameo), Robert Pastorelli (cameo)
Director: Tony Scott

Screenplay: Larry Ferguson, Warren Skaaren
Review published May 8, 2007

This follow-up to the mega-smash Beverly Hills Cop sees the Beverly Hills police department stymied by the so-called Alphabet Robberies, whereby stores with monographed goods are hit by a gang of highly-skilled thieves. One of these armed thieves is a statuesque blonde named Karla Fry (Nielsen, Rocky IV), who becomes a prime suspect when she attempts to murder Capt. Bogomil (Cox, RoboCop), shooting him twice and leaving him on life support.

This brings Detroit detective Axel Foley (Murphy, The Golden Child) back out to the West Coast again, helping out his old friend, joining forces again with Beverly Hills detectives Taggart (Ashton, Midnight Run) and Rosewood (Reinhold, Roadhouse 66) in getting to the bottom of the case, despite the obstacles created by their new police chief, Lutz (Garfield, Continental Divide). All clues seem to lead to Maxwell Dent (Prochnow, Judge Dredd), who appears to be using the robberies as a front for a much larger operation, although getting the evidence needed to bring him down isn't going to be easy, especially since Dent's men are armed to the teeth and know how to use their weapons.

Ranking pretty high among sequels I detest to films I love, Beverly Hills Cop II takes everything that worked in the phenomenally entertaining first film and overdoes it. The action is way over the top, the comedy is far more obvious and crude, and the characters and their interactions become cartooonish and clichéd. The main difference comes through the replacement of subtle comedic director Martin Brest in favor of the slick, stylized mechanics of Tony Scott, just coming off of his very popular Top Gun with every intention of driving forward even more of the action-packed scenes he could shoehorn in while still giving the semblance of story cohesion.

Scott has never been one who felt comfortable using comedy in his films, and his begrudging attitude to allow for gags in this film shows -- he never sets up any of the comedic scenes properly, stumbling into them as he would any other scene. From the delivery, it appears that he never watched the first film at all, and if he did, he decided to go against every grain to make something wholly different.  Fittingly, much homage is paid to Sylvester Stallone, from Rambo references to Cobra poster -- even his girlfriend Nielsen is a star here.  Of course, anyone who knows the history of the series knows that Murphy was a last-minute replacement for Stallone as the star of the first film.  Perhaps Scott wished for the opposite to happen for this sequel. 

One major difference between the first film and this sequel comes through the character inconsistencies. Whereas Axel Foley used to be a normal guy with a street-savvy Detroit edge he's become very GQ for this film, sporting a fancier car and more stylish clothing, while also knowing "MacGuyver"-ish tricks to do with common objects to bypass high-tech security systems with a stick of chewing gum and the like. Murphy works best when hungry and humble -- whenever he acts like a big-shot in a vanity piece such as this, his knack for finding the right comedic angle fizzles.

His humor has also become far more sophomoric -- for example, he holds up a small tortoise quizzically and asks, "Where's his dick?" -- in fact, pretty much every gag he can think of on his own seems to reference male genitalia. Humor through mere vulgarity is rarely funny, and certainly not in this uninventive a fashion. Foley also has developed a penchant for assumed identities with funny accents, which becomes a recurring motif that is DOA. One of them sees Foley con his way into the Playboy Mansion as a pool cleaner, claiming someone pooped in the pool, in a scene obviously contrived to get more scantily-clad babes in. This sort of schtick was far funnier in Fletch, which itself was only mildly funny at best.

The rest of the characters are also vastly different. Bogomil has become a caring family man, Taggart a sexist, and Rosewood a gun fetishist who would make even Dirty Harry uncomfortable with his obsessiveness. The first film had an easily-discernible plot, which may not have been riveting in and of itself, but Brest knew how to use it to consistently drive forward the comedy, which was what people paid to see anyway. The screenplay by Larry Ferguson (Highlander, The Hunt for Red October) and Warren Skaaren (Beetlejuice, Batman) becomes mired by having characters continuously discussing the permutations of its needlessly-convoluted plot.  Alas, the plot is never remotely interesting, and the explanations sap the energy necessary for Scott to drive his action scenes.

We sit through these scenes waiting for something funny to laugh at or some action to be thrilled by, but as the film gets progressively closer to the end, our attention to what's going on is almost nonexistent. Basically, we care nothing about the characters or their motivations, and eventually, the only thing to keep us engaged is the hope that it will eventually come to a hasty and merciful conclusion.

Beverly Hills Cop II contains few memorable laughs, not many more thrills, and very few situations that prove interesting to watch. Even the soundtrack, which proved so vital for the first film's success commercially and critically, proves less of an enhancement (the theme song, Bob Segar's "Shakedown" was the only big hit single, though George Michael's controversial "I Want Your Sex" would score for his solo album around the same time). In short, it is absolutely worthless as a sequel, as it offers us nothing that we enjoyed in the first outing except to bring back the same actors -- and even they aren't playing the characters as those we've come to know.  Perhaps it works better when the memory of the first entry isn't fresh in the mind.

-- Followed by Beverly Hills Cop III.

Qwipster's rating

©2007 Vince Leo