Our review of Beverly Hills Cop (Blu-ray), published May 17th, 2011, is also available.
The heat is on!
Certain actors are married to certain roles. For me Chevy Chase will always be Clark W. Griswold. Bruce Willis will always be John McClane. Michael J. Fox will always be Marty McFly. And Eddie Murphy will always be Detroit's best wisecracking cop Axel Foley. Beverly Hills Cop was the movie that truly launched Murphy into the superstar stratosphere, and to date there have been two sequels (the hit Beverly Hills Cop II and the John Landis directed disappointment Beverly Hills Cop III). Paramount has finally released Beverly Hills Cop in a new "Special Collector's Edition" DVD that should excite Foley fans everywhere!
Facts of the Case
One of Detroit's finest, Axel Foley (Murphy) is a cop who's about to get culture shock in the city where style and glitter is everything! When Axel's buddy Mikey (James Russo) comes in for a visit from California and is subsequently killed, Axel takes off for Beverly Hills to investigate his murder. There Axel meets up with Jenny (Lisa Eilbacher), an old acquaintance, and gets into a heap of trouble with the local law enforcement lieutenant (Ronny Cox, Robocop). Asked to butt out of the Beverly Hills Police Department's business, Axel continues poking his nose into suspicious places, including wealthy business man Victor Maitland's (Steven Berkoff) shady offices. It seems that Maitland employed Mikey and may possibly have something to do with his death. Tailed by two bumbling officers, Detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold, Fast Times At Ridgemont High) and Lt. Taggart (John Ashton, Midnight Run), Axel has his hands full as he tries to put the pieces together before he's placed on the other side of the law!
Beverly Hills Cop is an '80s staple. If you were forced to pick out a few discerning things that typified the '80s, you'd maybe have Atari, Michael Jackson, VCRs and Beverly Hills Cop. The Eddie Murphy vehicle seeps with '80s nostalgia; everything from the chintzy dress to the upbeat synth music screams, "Hey, I'm from 1984 and dammit, I'm proud!" Personally, I'm a connoisseur of all things '80s. I've tried to see most all of the big '80s blockbusters, everything from Raiders Of The Lost Ark to Back To The Future to Batman. I was a bit surprised to learn that I'd never seen the original Beverly Hills Cop. I thought I had seen it. Maybe my memory was playing tricks on me—maybe I had seen so many clips from the film and knockoffs that I assumed I'd seen it in my youth. Either way, this was the first time I had the chance to catch this classic slice of 1984.
I had mixed feelings about Beverly Hills Cop. On one hand it's a fun action movie that's got a generous amount of wit, fast and furious car chases around Los Angeles, and funny performances by most of the cast. Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley is youthful and funny—it's amazing to see Murphy in movies like Dr. Dolittle 2 and then see him in stuff like Beverly Hills Cop; there is a world of difference between his older material and his newer, more family friendly fare. Here Murphy is funny and obnoxious, utilizing his patented laugh that would become the trademark of his career. The banter between Judge Reinhold and John Ashton is very fresh and humorous. Then there's Bronson Pinchot as Surge (pronounced "Se-uuuur-ge"), the obvious homosexual stereotype that wouldn't fly in today's world of political correctness. The movie is well paced and has that wonderful soundtrack we've all come to know and love.
Then, on the other hand, Beverly Hills Cop is a movie filled with clichés up the wazoo. I realize that Beverly Hills Cop started this trend, so it's initially not the film's fault. However, here are a few things I spotted that just seemed too well worn:
• There's a typical scene where the good guy (Murphy) is driving down the fashionable Beverly Hills highway in his old beat up Chevy. He drives next to a posh car with a good looking woman and her boyfriend inside. Murphy looks at her, she winks, pulls away…and Murphy throws back his head and laughs to himself. I think I've seen this exact scene in over 34 different movies.
• The main villain (played with unholy relish by Steven Berkoff) is just way too…well, evil. Speaking in only a droll monotone voice, he oozes terror as if he is the naughty twin of Terrance Stamp. When will bad guys ever learn that maybe if they act NICE, people won't suspect that they're EVIL.
• Every cop movie cliché is in the movie, from the sputtering, angry police chief to the bustling police department.
• When Axel suggests that he, Rosewood, and Taggart go for a drink somewhere "conservative," how much do you want to bet it will be at a strip joint? I'd have won that bet.
• The 1980s were the only time in history where every anonymous henchman wore a sharp suit, tinted sunglasses, a thick moustache and carried an Uzi.
• Has anyone else noticed that every action movie seems to take place in a warehouse? And usually one with lots of scaffoldings and chains for easy-action access? Interesting.
I think I've made my point. While Beverly Hills Cop is riddled with lots of stuff you've seen before, I still think it's worth the rental if you've never experienced this fun little throwback to the decade of decadence. It's kind of like playing the original Nintendo after having tried the Game Cube; it's not nearly as much fun, but at least you know where it all began.
Beverly Hills Cop is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. While this transfer of Beverly Hills Cop is by no means mind-blowing, it does look better than I expected. Some grain and dirt show up at times and it really tends to mar the image. However, seeing as this was made in 1984 on a relatively low-budget (for its time), these imperfections can be forgiven. Overall, the color patterns are very bright with the black levels solid and evenly rendered. If I have any real complaint, it's that some harsh edge enhancement shows up during a few scenes during the end of the movie.
The audio is presented in a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. As most Beverly Hills Cop fans know, music was an integral part of the film. The soundtrack doesn't really utilize the 5.1 mix for special sound effects (the bulk of the soundtrack is still mono), though the rock songs and Harold Faltermeyer's techno-pop score are used to great excess through all of the channels. This is certainly not the most expansive soundtrack around, but much like the video, I was generally impressed with Paramount's efforts. All aspects of the dialogue, music and effects are generally free of any excessive distortion or hiss. Also included on this disc is a Dolby Surround track in English, a Stereo track in French and English subtitles.
Presented in a new "Special Collector's Edition," Beverly Hills Cop has been given the (somewhat) royal treatment by Paramount. The best of these new features is a full length commentary track by director Martin Brest. There are a few gaps of silence punctuating this soundtrack, though otherwise Brest talks in length about how the film came to be (Sylvester Stallone was originally slated to play the lead), how they achieved certain shots, and what it was like to work with the talented cast and crew. Fans should love this track for its technical information.
Next up is a 29-minute feature titled "Beverly Hills Cop: The Phenomenon Begins" (cast and crew interviews is what it says on the menu). This is a retrospective by many participants, including producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Martin Brest, writer Daniel Petrie, Danilo Bach, and actors Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, and Ronny Cox. This feature tends to bounce around the history of Beverly Hills Cop, including who came up with the idea (the late Don Simpson and Disney CEO Michael Eisner both take credit for the it), who was originally thought of for the lead character Axel Foley (Al Pacino, James Caan, Clint Eastwood and the lead man, Stallone), and includes a little too much doting on some of the cast and crew (Bruckheimer and Simpson are made out to be almost God-like in their producing skills). This is a very well done documentary, though the only minor contribution by star Eddie Murphy is a bit disappointing.
"Casting Beverly Hills Cop" is yet another retrospective which focuses on the casting of the film. This mainly features interviews with casting director Margery Simkin, as well as a few of the cast and crew. "The Music Of Beverly Hills Cop" is, as expected, a look at the scoring of the film and all the popular songs used throughout the movie. A "Location Map" features production designer Angelo Graham (looking a bit like a bald Captain Hook) showing how he dressed up the sets to look authentic. Finally, there is a photo gallery of behind-the-scenes shots, as well as a theatrical trailer for Beverly Hills Cop.
Paramount has rolled out the red carpet for this classic Eddie Murphy action/comedy and has come out a winner. This isn't the best special edition to come along, though it should please those looking for some background information on their favorite officer from old Detroit. Beverly Hills Cop is also available in a box set with Beverly Hills Cop II and III, though from the reviews I've read I can't say that part III sounds all that tantalizing.
Beverly Hills Cop is acquitted of all charges and free on bail. I just can't figure out how it got to California all the way from Detroit…
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Martin Brest
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