In Retrospect – Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

The following is a Bite Sized Review I’ve written for Tom at Digital Shortbread. There can’t be many of you who hasn’t checked out what is one of the very best sites out there for movie reviews of all shapes and sizes. Tom’s site has come on leaps and bounds and I’m honoured to have been asked to contribute. Hope you enjoy this appreciation of the 80’s action comedy classic Beverly Hills Cop, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary.

It may seem difficult to believe to anyone under the age of 30, but once upon a time Eddie Murphy was the biggest movie star on the planet. Murphy may have torched his reputation with the likes of Norbit and Meet Dave, but during the 1980s he was seriously hot shit and none more so than in Beverly Hills Cop.

Beverly Hills Cop - the 80s at its near-best

Beverly Hills Cop – the 80s at its near-best

In one of those ‘what if?’ parallel universes that Hollywood seems to excel at (think Frank Sinatra being first choice for Dirty Harry), the project was originally due to star Mickey Rourke (that would have been… interesting) and then Sylvester Stallone, who pulled out two weeks before shooting was due to start. Murphy was drafted in at the 11th hour by legendary producing duo Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer for his first leading role and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part of wise cracking maverick Detroit detective Axel Foley, who heads west to the freak show that is Beverly Hills against the instructions of his hard-ass boss (played by Gil Hill) to investigate the death of his friend. His snooping not only rubs up against oily art dealer Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff) but also the Beverly Hills Police Department, specifically grizzled cop Taggart (John Ashton), his wide-eyed partner Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Lieutenant Bogomil (Ronny Cox).

Eddie Murphy at the top of his game in Beverly Hills Cop

Eddie Murphy at the top of his game in Beverly Hills Cop

The alchemy that Murphy and director Martin Brest conjure up out of a well-worn fish-out-of-water premise is just as irresistible 30 years on. Murphy simply owns the film and it’s testament to his chops as a performer that the movie can get away with switching from broad comedy to drama in the blink of an eye. Murphy’s trademark laugh is in full effect, as is his ability to maintain a straight face while spinning a line to whatever lackey stands in his way.

Beverly Hills Cop was among the first movies in which the soundtrack was as popular as the film itself and anyone who appreciates uplifting 80s music (and who doesn’t?) will be hard pressed not to smile when The Heat Is On kicks in. Let’s also not forget the talismanic Harold Faltermeyer’s synth-tastic score that helps glue the movie together.

Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) gets under the skin of Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Taggart (John Ashton) in Beverly Hills Cop

Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) gets under the skin of Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Taggart (John Ashton) in Beverly Hills Cop

This isn’t just Murphy’s film, of course. Reinhold gives a warm performance as the naive Rosewood that perfectly complements Ashton’s grumbling turn as Taggart, while Bronson Pinchot is great as extravagant art gallery employee Serge. Also, keep an eye out for Damon Wayans in his debut role as a camp hotel employee.

On the negative side, the film has one of the worst stunt doubles ever. Check out 1h 4m in when Foley throws Maitland’s stony-faced goon (played by Breaking Bad‘s Jonathan Banks) over a buffet table; it’s almost laughable.

Finally folks, I’ve always been left wondering whether a banana in the tailpipe would actually stop a car from driving properly. If anybody can put me out of my misery on that one I’d be grateful.