Plot: What’s it about?
The 1980’s was a great time for cinema. Some of the most iconic films came out during the Reagan-era and it’s no surprise that some are (or already have) been getting reboots and/or remakes. So it was a bit of luck and timing that Beverly Hills Cop was made. Originally set to star Sylvester Stallone, who had already established himself in two franchises: Rambo and Rocky, it wasn’t meant to be. Producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer replaced Stallone two days later with Eddie Murphy. The rest is history. Stallone’s proposed edits to the script were later made in his 1987 film Cobra. Murphy was already an established star as well with films like 48 Hours and Trading Places under his belt. But it was his role as Det. Axel Foley that catapulted him to superstardom. The success of the film paved the way for two more sequels (a fourth has been in the works for years), though as with most things – the first is usually the best.
We meet Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) after an undercover operation goes bad. Already on thin ice with his boss, Inspector Todd (Gilbert Hill), Foley meets up with an old friend fresh out of prison. Mikey (James Russo) reveals to Axel that he’s worked for a man named Victor Maitland (Steven. Berkoff) and has stolen some bonds. Mikey is killed and in an effort to find his killer, Foley heads out to Beverly Hills to connect the dots. Axel is summarily arrested and is put under surveillance by two Beverly Hills cops, Taggart (John Ashton) and Rosewood (Judge Reinhold). Axel’s antics manage to keep them at bay, but the trio eventually start working with one another to piece together the murder and arrest Maitland.
The plot of the film is essentially a macguffin. It merely provided the framework for Murphy to flex his comic talent and impeccable timing. It worked. There aren’t a lot of actors who could have pulled off the role like Murphy and it’s his on-screen persona that made the film (and others) work. Other members of the cast were notable as well, Reinhold and Ashton manage to steal a few scenes and although only in two scenes, I’ve found that Bronson Pinchot’s performance of Serge is among the funniest I’ve ever seen. I mean seriously, check him out! Add to that Martin Brest’s direction, an amazing soundtrack and iconic and unforgettable tune (Axel F) and it’s clear to see why this movie was so popular.
Video: How does it look?
This first installment in the series is the only one, so far, to receive the 4K treatment. And I’m OK with that. The film is now over three and a half decades old and I’m happy to say that it doesn’t show. While the color palette is generally dark, there are scenes (in Beverly Hills, of course) that really shine. Blue skies, red cars and shots from the city of angels really do stand out. Flesh tones seem more natural and even, there’s nary a hint of artifacting or blocking and detail has been improved since the most recent Blu-ray release. I’m simply amazed at how good some of these films can look. I’d be curious to hook up my old VCR and compare a release to one of these 4K releases just to see how far we’ve come in 25 years. That said, the film looks the best it ever has.
Audio: How does it sound?
There are a lot of films, older ones at that, getting a new Dolby Atmos mix. And it’d have been nice to have that option to accompany the new 4K transfer. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, but fear not – you’ll get your fill of “Axel F” in all its DTS HD Master Audio glory. Truthfully, I had no idea how often the tune was played in the film. Re-watching the supplements, it was intentional as they wanted something that was immediately identifiable to the film without the star being on screen. It worked. That said, the track has a few good moments, but is mainly a front-heavy track with some surround effects thrown in for good measure. It’s a nice-sounding, decent track that gets the job done.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary — This is the same commentary track we’ve had on previously-released Blu-ray’s and DVD’s for some time, so its inclusion makes sense. But for those that haven’t heard it, director Martin Brest offers up his comments on the film. He was initially reluctant to direct the movie and it came down to a coin toss (and many calls from Jerry Bruckheimer) for him to finally do it. It’s a good track.
- Beverly Hills Cop: The Phenomenon Begins — This is a retrospective look back on how the film was made, the cast was chosen and the obstacles that had to be overcome to get the film made. Apparently, the script was on a desk with about ten others and it was chosen almost at random to get made!
- A Glimpse Inside the Casting Process — Most of the cast was under the impression that it would be a Sylvester Stallone movie, then once Murphy was aboard, some things had to change. A very interesting look at how the Hollywood casting system works.
- The Music of Beverly Hills Cop — The film’s music is the focus and, more to the point, Axel F. The iconic tune is the most noted piece from the film and it’s compared to the music of The Third Man. They wanted to have a reconizible piece that made you think of the star of the movie, even though he wasn’t on screen.
- Deleted scenes — Two total and one of which I think should have been included.
- You Might Be on the Right Track – Axel talks with his boss about his trip to Beverly Hills with some words of encouragement from Inspector Todd.
- Axel Gets Ready for Beverly Hills – Basically a scene of Axel throwing clothes in his duffel bag en route out West.
- Behind-the-scenes featurettes incorporating vintage 1984 interviews — Four very short segments filmed when the movie came out. None really add anything to the overall package.
- Axel’s Wild Ride
- Detroit Cops vs. Beverly Hills Cops
- Eddie’s Impromptu Lines
- Taggart and Rosewood
- Isolated score by Harold Faltermeyer — Pretty self-explanatory. If you want to hear Axel F for 90 minutes, then this is your thing.
- BHC Mixtape ‘84 — This has been called many things over many years on many different discs. In a nutshell, you can choose one of the songs listed and then skip to that portion in the film where it’s being played. The songs are: “The Heat Is On,” “Neutron Dance,” “New Attitude,” “Stir It Up,” “Do You Really,” and “Nasty Girl.”
- Location Map — The film’s production designer, Angelo Graham, gives us a tour of the locations used throughout the movie. I’d have liked to see a new version of this showcasing how some of these places have changed in the last few decades. Oh well.
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
There’s no denying the impact that Beverly Hills Cop had on the 80’s and Eddie Murphy’s career. It catapulted him as well as producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, into the stratosphere. It was the second highest-grossing movie of 1984 (second to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) and held the moniker of highest-grossing R-rated film until it was surpassed by The Matrix a decade and a half later. Paramount’s 4K offers a much-improved picture and audio, though the lack of any new supplements is a bit disappointing. Nevertheless, this film belongs in every movie-lover’s collection.