Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen

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BEVERLY HILLS COP

      

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Eddie Murphy was already a solid movie star with a couple of major hits behind him when ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ was released, but this is the film that pushed him into superstardom. You can see it at the Regal theater as it opens this weekend. My review was published in the Deseret News on Dec. 8, 1984.

Yes, it’s foul-mouthed, and yes, it’s quite violent — but “Beverly Hills Cop” is also the most spirited, action-packed and hilarious movie to come along in quite some time.

You’ll have to check your inhibitions at the door and forgive some excesses to get into this one. But once you do, you’re guaranteed 90 minutes of nonstop laughter.

“Beverly Hills Cop” marks Eddie Murphy’s solo debut, after having supported (and stolen the show from) Nick Nolte, Dan Aykroyd and Dudley Moore in his first three films. And he’s more than up to the task.

Whether he’s intimidating the white establishment, lying his way through an illegal police investigation or reacting to the bizarre things going on around him, Murphy commands our attention and rewards us with his unique brand of humor, which is, more often than not, right on target.

The film begins with Murphy involved in some kind of illegal transaction in the back of a van. The exchange is interrupted by police, and the thugs dealing with Murphy hop in the truck and lead a wild chase, smashing and crashing through the streets of Detroit. It’s a harrowing beginning to a movie that is alternately suspenseful and comic with equal intensity.

Murphy is revealed to be an undercover police detective, young and overly ambitious with more enthusiasm than experience, and a street-smart, wiseacre attitude that drives his boss up the wall.

That night, Murphy meets up with an old buddy he hasn’t seen for years, a friend from school who has been in prison, and who is apparently up to something illegal again. He’s been in Beverly Hills, he explains, and is just in Detroit for a stopover. They go out, and when they return to Murphy’s apartment, the friend is brutally murdered by a couple of thugs.

      

From left, Lisa Eilbacher, Judge Reinhold, Eddie Murphy, 'Beverly Hills Cop' (1984)

Murphy surmises the two hoods are from out of town, so he takes vacation time, hops in his beat-up jalopy and drives to Beverly Hills, where his casual attire and mouthy attitude immediately clash with the uptight, posh surroundings.

The culture clash here is the main running joke, of course, especially as Murphy begins his investigation and interacts with the Beverly Hills police force, chiefly a team comprised of a weary veteran (John Ashton) and a wide-eyed rookie (Judge Reinhold).

Murphy begins to uncover a major drug operation fronted by a powerful art dealer (Steven Berkoff), and with the help of another old schoolmate (Lisa Eilbacher), unravels the mystery. Along the way, of course, he gives the Beverly Hills force a lesson in taking action and covering your tracks.

There are many wonderful vignettes here, as when Murphy, staying in a plush hotel, distracts Ashton and Reinhold by having room service delivered to their car as he stuffs the tailpipe with a banana. Or when he gives a fellow black officer a dressing-down for not sounding black enough. He also does a number of very funny characterizations to get past intimidating officious types.

Murphy’s energy propels what might otherwise simply be a contrived, rather silly plot that has too many holes. For example, why would a powerful art dealer risk everything to deal drugs? Why would he hire hit men who are such lousy shots? Why, when he’s barely been provoked, would he take violent action that is bound to attract police attention? Furthermore, we never get a real sense of the strong bond between Murphy and his friend who is murdered, and they and Eilbacher seem very unlikely as previous school buddies.

      

              Eddie Murphy, 'Beverly Hills Cop' (1984)

But none of this really matters very much. This is comedy, wild, free-spirited and farcical, designed to lace an edge-of-the-seat action picture with deadpan one-liners, wild physical humor and an innate sense of fun.

Some may take offense at the constant use of Murphy’s favorite R-rated word, and there is a tasteless scene in a strip joint (that includes some nudity). And I felt the violence was far too bloody and frequent for what is essentially a light comedy. And still others may be put off by the script’s suggesting we should lie whenever we want to get around rules that seem ridiculous or to protect ourselves.

Still, “Beverly Hills Cop” is less violent and hard-edged than Murphy’s first film, “48HRS.” And no one can make up a tale like Murphy. There’s no message here to worry about; it’s all in the spirit of fun.

Murphy is helped a great deal by his co-stars, especially Reinhold, who gets more than his share of laughs (the only time Reinhold and Ashton falter is during an ill-conceived Laurel & Hardy bit in the middle of a shootout).

Martin Brest (“Going in Style”) has directed “Beverly Hills Cop” with a fine sense of humor and a sharp eye for suspenseful action, though he is a bit less successful at blending the two. And the script (by first-time screenwriter Daniel Petrie Jr.) is very good.

But Murphy is the main reason to see this, and if he can keep up the laugh ratio in the future, his name will always be enough to part with $5.