The heat is back on!
Oh, hello there. I was just painting some signs and was about to start a picket line in front of Paramount studios. It seems like Edward "Judge" Reinhold has been held captive with poor career choices. So, it's time someone started the Judge Reinhold Liberation Front. The honorable Judge Reinhold had a rapid and severe career downturn circa 1987, which happens to be the year he appeared in Beverly Hills Cop II. Prior to that, he starred in 1980s classics Stripes, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, and Ruthless People. How did he follow up Beverly Hills Cop II? With the laughable Vice Versa, plus other unclassic titles like Rosalie Goes Shopping and Baby On Board. Then came Beverly Hills Cop 3, and his career took an even deeper turn for the worse. Now he's reduced to movies headlined by canines, such as no less than two Beethoven sequels and Ping!, starring the dog from those annoying Taco Bell commercials. (See how much better the '80s were than the '90s? The '80s had the "where's the beef?" lady; all the '90s got was the "drop the chalupa" dog!) So, my signs are done. Want to join me?
Facts of the Case
Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is up Crap Creek, better known as Detroit, and he's sans paddle. The brash cop has not endeared himself to his superiors, so running off he goes to beautiful Beverly Hills for career assistance from the venerable Judge Reinhold (playing a Beverly Hills police detective named Billy Rosewood). However, all's not right with Axel's Beverly Hills friends. Chief Bogomil (Ronny Cox) is in the hospital after a towering blonde (Brigitte Nielsen, the then-wife of Sylvester Stallone) empties a clip into him, yet fails to perforate a major organ. We the viewers know that she's also at the bleached roots of a daring Rodeo Drive heist, dubbed the "Alphabet Crime" by the astute press after a note was found at the crime scene with the letter "A" on the front of the envelope. Axel, filling in for Sherlock Holmes, deduces that the crimes lead back to the Beverly Hills Gun Club and its owner, Maxwell Dent (Jürgen Prochnow). But how? And why? Those answers can only be found through wacky hijinks, such as foiling a robbery by commandeering a cement truck and ending up at the Playboy Mansion.
I'll level with you: I wasn't crazy about the first Beverly Hills Cop. I saw it on video about six or seven years ago. I was too young or too culturally out of it to catch Eddie Murphy in his 1980s heydays, so I guess I just didn't get his appeal after his appeal was mostly gone. I still don't get him, actually, though I thought his voice work for Shrek was painfully funny. So, when by near-random chance Beverly Hills Cop II found its way to my bench, I can't say I was exactly thrilled, and by the end of the film, I was even less thrilled. For one thing, it was the death knell for the esteemed Judge Reinhold's career. For all the other things, read on.
I don't know who to blame for my less than enthusiastic response to Beverly Hills Cop II. Its superstar producers, Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, are responsible for some of the best examples in the big, dumb action movie genre. Director Tony Scott (younger brother of the more respected Ridley Scott) directed some of the best Simpson/Bruckheimer flicks, like Top Gun and Crimson Tide, as well as other cool movies like True Romance. The screenwriting team of Larry Ferguson and Warren Skaaren have some great movies between them; Ferguson co-wrote The Hunt For Red October, Highlander, and Alien3, while Skaaren gets bonus points in my eyes by working with Tim Burton on Beetlejuice and Batman. There's a reliable supporting cast, particularly Ronny Cox (immortalized for action fans by Robocop and Total Recall) and Dean Stockwell (his long career for me will always be capped by his role in Quantum Leap). There's even Paul Reiser, Robert Pastorelli, Gilbert Gottfried, and Chris Rock (his first on-screen appearance) in small roles.
So what gives? With a nod to old-school SNL, it's what I call the Floor Wax/Dessert Topping Principle. Beverly Hills Cop II tries to be both an action movie and a comedy, and doesn't particularly succeed at either. It betrays its lineage as a Simpson/Bruckheimer heritage with tepid action scenes that aren't particularly thrilling. The heist scenes don't have the crackle and pop they need to give the kinetic thrill such scenes should have, making me think forward to what Michael Bay would accomplish in Bad Boys (say what you will about Michael Bay, but Bad Boys had the pop that an action movie needs). Most of the other action seems to consist of limply filmed shoot-outs or the admirable Judge Reinhold careening around in late model sedans or stolen cement mixers. The comedy isn't particularly funny. I guess some people would find it amusing to watch Eddie Murphy fast-talk his way through situations, but these scenes just didn't stir my coffee.
I'm sure the Beverly Hills Cop movies have been some of the most requested in Paramount's catalog. They make the wait mostly worthwhile. Beverly Hills Cop II is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. There is noticeable grain throughout the film, though it's not particularly distracting. The only shots in the film that seem to be properly color balanced are ones that show blue sky and white buildings, which is only when you see the Beverly Hills police headquarters or the house that Axel "borrows." Most interior scenes are overly dark, and flesh tones drift toward red. I noticed no digital artifacts or edge enhancement.
Audio is presented in the requisite Paramount remix to Dolby Digital 5.1. I noticed a few instances where ADR was particularly noticeable or sound effects lacked the required oomph and sounded a bit dated. The rear channels were not put to much use, except with the signature music. I only noticed their use for a surround effect in one scene. In fact, after the film was over I compared the 5.1 track to the standard 2.0 surround, and noticed little difference in the fidelity or surround usage. I didn't give them the Pepsi Challenge, but I honestly don't think I could've told the difference between them.
The centerpiece extra is a 22-minute collection of newly filmed interviews with the illustrious Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Jürgen Prochnow, Tony Scott, and Jerry Bruckheimer. All of them reflect fondly—too fondly—on filming Beverly Hills Cop II. The piece is joined by a making-of featurette from 1987 (runs about seven minutes, and has altogether too many clips from the movie), a deleted scene (it extends the break-in to the Beverly Hills Gun Club, and according to the Internet Movie Database was cut because it's too authentic…okay…), a five-minute featurette on the music of Beverly Hills Cop II, and theatrical trailer.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What else didn't I mention? Granted, no one's watching Beverly Hills Cop II for an air-tight crime caper plot, but did anyone understand what was going on? I got seriously lost, though fortunately Jürgen Prochnow looks shifty and snarls enough to tell that he was the brains behind the whole thing. Speaking of, would a German really call a police officer a "cop"? Sounds just a wee bit too American. These sort of action flicks always have the police chief who's fed up with the rogue cop's unorthodox methods, but doesn't there come a point when the property damage adds up and the press gets ahold of a story about officers discharging their weapons around crowds of people that someone finally listens to the cranky chief? Does every action movie require a scene inside a strip club, particularly a scene whose sole purpose is to establish the identity of one of the bad guys? Couldn't they have seen him at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles? If Hugh Hefner honestly never allowed film productions access to the Playboy Mansion before, why did he choose this movie? And most egregious of all, there's the whole "Alphabet Crime" thing. Why did the press know that a note was found at the scene of the crime with a big letter "A" on it? (Oh, wait, that's right…the Los Angeles Times received the same note!) And why after only one letter did this become a crime spree that was going to encompass the entire lexical span?
If you're a fan of the misadventures of Axel Foley, don't let my lack of enjoyment deter you from renting or buying Beverly Hills Cop II. I would recommend the rental first, because unless you're going to watch it over and over, there's little to merit repeat viewings among the supplemental materials.
Beverly Hills Cop II is found guilty of being a limp sequel. Paramount is acquitted on all charges except "Failure to provide value for the consumer's dollar."
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