Saturday, November 14, 2015

#1,916. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Directed By: Martin Brest

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton

Tag line: "The Heat Is On!"

Trivia: Other actors who were considered for the role of Axel Foley were Al Pacino and James Caan

48 Hrs and Trading Places helped make Eddie Murphy a movie star, but it was 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop that launched him into the stratosphere, showing the world how talented a comic actor he truly was and establishing him as one of the decades biggest box-office draws.

Murphy plays Axel Foley, a Detroit Cop who heads to Beverly Hills to track down the killer of his best pal Mikey (James Russo). With the help of Jenny (Lisa Eilbacher), an old friend from Detroit who now operates a prestigious L.A. art gallery, Axel discovers that Mikey had been working at a warehouse owned by wealthy California businessman Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff). When Axel barges into Maitland’s office demanding answers, he is arrested by the LAPD and shuttled off to jail.

Respecting the fact that he’s a fellow cop, Lt. Bogomil (Ronny Cox) releases Axel from custody while at the same time warning him not to take the law into his own hands again. To ensure he stays on the straight and narrow, Bogomil assigns Detectives Taggart (John Ashton) and Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) to keep an eye on their colleague from Detroit, but after delving into some of Maitland’s so-called “business” dealings, Axel is more determined than ever to bring the shady millionaire to justice.

To say Beverly Hills Cop gets off to a great start is an understatement. Following a funny scene where the fast-talking Axel, working undercover, tries to sell a truckload of stolen cigarettes to a couple of crooks, there’s an exciting chase through the crowded streets of Detroit, with one of the thugs driving the truck at full speed, crashing into one vehicle after another as Axel holds on for dear life. A thrilling action sequence perfectly executed by director Martin Brest, this opening also establishes that Axel Foley is a wise-ass who doesn’t always play by the rules; he’s eventually chewed out by his commanding officer, played with gusto by Gilbert R. Hill, for conducting an undercover operation without departmental approval.

The role of Axel Foley was tailor-made for the charismatic Murphy, who, with his rapid-fire delivery and impeccable timing, makes us laugh damn near every time. Even a brief exchange with Jenny’s flamboyant assistant Serge (Bronson Pinchot) - which barely lasts a minute - is comic gold (though, the be fair, Pinchot is equally as hilarious). And as he did in 48 Hrs, Murphy handles the movie’s action scenes with the greatest of ease. At a strip club, Axel spots a couple of shifty characters who clearly intend to rob the place, and, with the help of Taggart and Rosewood, disarms the crooks before they squeeze off a single shot.

The supporting performances are just as strong. Ashton and Reinhold generate some laughs as the mismatched partners (Taggert is a hard-ass veteran, Rosewood a naïve rookie), and though he's not in the film for very long, James Russo’s heartfelt turn as Mikey brings weight to a character we barely get to know. 

In addition to its fine cast, the film’s action sequences are out of this world (aside from the opening chase, the grand finale is pretty damn exciting); and the music, from the techno awesomeness of Harold Faltermeyer’s "Axel F" to such up-tempo numbers as Glenn Frey’s "The Heat is On" and Patti Labelle’s "New Attitude", helped carry the soundtrack for Beverly Hills Cop (released by MCA Records) all the way to #1 on the Billboard 200 Chart.

But as good as the rest of the movie is, without Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop would have been a run-of-the-mill ‘80s action / comedy. With him, it ranks alongside Big Trouble in Little China, The Blues Brothers, Back to the Future, and the actor’s own 48 Hrs as one of the decade’s absolute best.

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