'48 Hours', the original Eddie Murphy vehicle and his first feature film, which helped rocket him into stardom outside of his SNL fame, hasn't survived well over the years. With today's eyes it views as a tired, clichéd action-comedy that represents most of what was wrong with '80s cinema. 'Beverly Hills Cop' is in a similar genre but is a far superior film, which, unlike '48 Hours', still generates laughter and arguably shows Eddie Murphy at his absolute best.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984) dir. Martin Brest
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Steven Berkoff, Ronnie Cox, Lisa Eilbacher
By Alan Bacchus
Opening up in Detroit, we first see Axel Foley fast-talking his way through an undercover cigarette smuggling deal, which ends with a raucous chase between an 18-wheeler truck and the entire Detroit Police Force with Axel being thrown around the back cab. It’s a fantastic action scene set to the fine '80s pop hit Neutron Dance by the Pointer Sisters. As is customary with the genre, Foley’s actions land him in hot water with his police chief, and he’s put on probation.
After the murder of his best friend, Foley goes against the chief’s orders and follows the investigation trail to Beverly Hills, where he is a fish out of water as a streetwise black man in the snobby, stuck-up and surreal world of California. Foley’s radical policing style runs counter to the conservative by-the-book attitude of the Beverly Hills cops, resulting in much hilarity along the way.
Using his street smarts, Murphy shines in his individual comic set pieces of disguise, using his quick wit and exploiting the LA-wanker naiveté to get cheap hotel rooms and nuzzle his way through the offices of the high-powered white collar criminals.
This film, made by Paramount, then headed by Michael Eisner, was produced by Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer, one of the master duos of '80s pop cinema. The trio of Beverly Hills Cop, Flashdance and Top Gun make up three of the most recognizable pop culture landmarks in '80s cinema.
Martin Brest does little to get in the way of Eddie Murphy and his act. His opening chase scene still looks great compared to newer and more technologically advanced car chase scenes. But other than that, there’s surprisingly little big-scale action. The final gun battle in the mansion is from the pre-John Woo era and is thus rudimentally choreographed.
Harold Faltermeyer’s electronic score is so recognizable and surprisingly not dated. And though I’d never go out and buy or download the soundtrack, it’s actually kind of catchy. The film itself survives just as well, showing off the best of what Eddie Murphy was to comedy and movies.