From the bouncing opening music by Glenn Fry to the final frame of Eddie Murphy’s smile, Beverly Hills Cop had established itself as a classic. The movie had a complicated history, and it’s a kind of miracle that the version we know ever happened at all. The movie was originally conceived as a straight action film with the plan to have either Al Pacino or Clint Eastwood in the title role. At that point the script was called Beverly Drive. When they couldn’t get Al or Clint, they turned to Sylvester Stallone, and Sly took the role. He took the script and rewrote it to fit his own particular style. The main character’s name went from Axel Foley to Cabretti so that he could be called The Cobra. The problem with Sly’s version is that the cost was rising higher than the execs at Paramount were willing to put out. Sly was offered another film to drop Beverly Hills Cop. He took his rewrites with him, and they eventually formed the nucleus of his movie Cobra. The rest of the film had already been cast, so imagine their surprise when the action movie they thought they were making with Rocky turned into a comedy/drama starring the Saturday Night Live but unproven box office comedian Eddie Murphy.
The result changed the face of the cop movie forever. With Beverly Hills Cop, the comic buddy cop film was born, and imitations follow to this very day. This was when Eddie Murphy was still hungry. Axel Foley is filled with drive and energy and loaded with charm. Murphy ended up adlibbing a lot of the material, but in those days he was a generous actor and was known for being very good at setting up his co-stars with great material to go with. He didn’t feel the need to steal every scene; the truth is he didn’t have to. The camera loved him then, and he was a natural. It didn’t hurt that the supporting cast here was also very good. Judge Reinhold and John Ashton had wonderful chemistry as the Beverly Hills detectives Rosewood and Taggert respectively. Neither performer has been in a better movie or had better roles before or since. Finally, there was Gilbert R. Hall as Axel’s boss, Inspector Todd. While scouting police stations in Detroit, Brest found this particular actor working as a genuine detective in the Detroit police department. He’s quite a catch and adds a great dose of authenticity in his few scenes with Murphy. The film didn’t get him a switch to movies, however. He only did the three Beverly Hills Cop movies, but he did use his bit of fame to become a Detroit councilman and even ran for the office of mayor of Detroit.
Of course, we all remember the energetic music of the movie. It’s become part of what I remembered most, I discovered as I was exploring the movie again for the first time in a decade or so. The pounding beat of the Axel Foley theme brought back the old Hollywood tradition of giving the main character a particular theme. It is very effective here. Not since the Pink Panther films has a character been so identified by a simple musical theme. OK, there was a certain big fish in the 70’s, but that’s not quite the same thing, is it?
Over the years since the first film we get the impression that Axel and his Beverly Hills counterparts have become friends, with family gatherings and fishing trips. One of those fishing getaways gets postponed when Captain Bogomil (Cox) is close to solving a big case called the Alphabet Case and has a big lead. The gang does get together after all when Bogomil is gunned down and hanging on by a thread in the hospital. Foley returns to Beverly Hills to help Billy (Reinhold) and Taggart (Ashton) track down the bad guys. This time Quantum Leap’s Dean Stockwell and Bridget Nielsen are the villains along with CSI’s Captain Brass himself, Paul Guilfoyle.
The film revisits some of the chemistry between the three cops and adds a personal note to the story. This film also features a milestone in cinema and real police work. Axel shows off his superglue/fingerprints trick in this film. It puzzles the detectives and the audience, but since that time the method has become a staple in forensic science. Sophisticated chambers have been built and sold to labs all over the world that use the trick to get fingerprints from items that can’t necessarily be dusted well. Chris Rock has his very first role as a valet in this film.
Beverly Hills Cop II is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The ultra-high-definition image presentation is arrived at with an HEVC codec at an average of nearly 60 mbps. It’s a dated film with a dated video style, but Paramount really pulled out all of the stops, it seems to me. The high bit rate alone is a wonderful testament to the sincerity of the studio here. This is about as good a high-definition image presentation as we are likely to see in a film of this age. The picture is just as bright as I remembered it from the theater. Colors show the contrast between the drab and dark Detroit scenes and the shiny gloss of Beverly Hills. Black levels are very good and reveal wonderful shadow definition. I think I saw some evidence of DNR work, but the original grain appears to be primarily intact.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is just as bright and bouncy as the image presentation. Subs work well to deliver a dynamic range particularly with the music. Dialog sounds just great. Of course, it’s all very heavy in the main speakers with little surround action, but that’s the film we all saw back in 1984. But it’s no upgrade from the Blu-ray. Wish there had been an Atmos track here.
No extras and only a UHD copy of the film.
In just a few days I’ll be attending the press screening for the Top Gun sequel Maverick. This film was a sober reminder that while Tom Cruise will still be there, his flight buddy Val Kilmer no longer has a voice because of throat cancer and the man who should have been behind the camera to direct this film is also the same man who directed this sequel. Of course, I’m talking about Tony Scott, who took his own life a few years ago and will miss out on Top Gun and the new Beverly Hills Cop film that’s finally making its way to be made. I have yet to report on either of those films, but you can be sure I’ll be thinking of Tony. He’s still out there looking over Hollywood, I’m sure. “Trust me …”