Friday, June 27, 2014

Beverly Hills Cop (Brest.1984)

"A heh-heh-heh-heh....."


I am only 24 years old. I just thought that I would start this write-up by immediately letting you know that I have never lived in a time when Eddie Murphy was considered funny. Most of his recent movies (excluding his Oscar nominated work in Dreamgirls) have not only been major box office bombs, but also a dart board for critics of all mediums. But I am an open minded guy, and I always enjoy watching old clips of Murphy on Saturday Night Live! (KILL MY LANDLORD! KILL MY LANDLORD!) and his hilarious stand-up special, Delirious. So maybe, just maybe, Beverly Hills Cop could live up to the hype. Though I would say that it is a fine movie, I can also confidently say that the hype is just that - hyperbole.

Murphy plays a renegade cop from Detroit who is seen in the opening moments taking on an unsanctioned sting operation. Things escalate quickly as the police arrive, effectively blowing the operation, and causing a major car chase. I have no problem with car chases, but if a movie has to start with an elongated chase scene it is almost always a bad sign for the continuation of character development. Beverly Hills Cop is no exception to that rule. The rest of the action in the film rolls downhill with very little regard for originality or development. An old friend meets Axel Foley (Murphy) in Detroit, but is mysteriously murdered before the two of them can really catch up. This sparks a cross-country drive to Beverly Hills where Foley is determined to solve the case.

High-action comedies are very common now, and that may be what cements the film's reputation as ahead of its time. Though I understand that argument, I was constantly confused over whether I was watching an action movie or a comedy. Car chases, machine gun shootouts, and curse words happen regularly throughout Beverly Hills Cop, yet Murphy was still given free reign to wax several dated comedy routines. I know that so many people would argue that the movie is "super-quotable", but I would hazard to guess that those people where teenagers or close to it when this film originally hit theatres. Murphy's execution in the film is perfectly mediocre, but nothing he says matches the pacing of the film itself, nor does any of it stand the test of time. The "are you racist?!" scene at the hotel front desk is drenched in cliche, and the "I have herpes simplex 10" bit is funny only if it serves as some kind of nostalgia for the viewer. For me, it did not really hit any buttons.

Don't get the wrong idea. I'm not saying that the movie is bad. I just think it is dated. This has been a common problem for me when it comes to cinema of the 1980s. The decade is probably known for being America's weakest in terms of film - which is most likely why mediocre films like Beverly Hills Cop shine through as classics from that period. There is nothing wrong with having some quick, poppy laughs, but when those laughs are spread thin and combined with a lack of structure and development - that is when you lose my interest.

Eddie Murphy fails to come off as likeable as the street-wise cop from Detroit. He is more obnoxious than determined, and his emotional sequences are either over too quickly or completely unbelievable. His style combined with the famously catchy score creates a sort of undeserved slickness or edginess to that the action sadly does not deserve. There are undoubtedly good elements working in the film's favor, but no idea is capitalized on or used to full potential. Instead, Murphy and director Martin Brest revert back to action sequences and dull, off-color humor.

This is just another example of a movie that (in my opinion) was not interested in standing the test of time. Eddie Murphy needed a vehicle, and Paramount Pictures wanted a hit. Both of those things became reality, while Daniel Petrie Jr. and Danilo Bach were even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Though I believe that the screenplay awards are usually the most fair, I have a hard time imagining a world where this type of humor and frantic action would be considered original. Sometimes it seems like the Oscars obligatorily nominate the big hit comedy every year regardless of merit (Bridesmaids comes to mind). It surprises me that writers were even able to spread this material out for two more sequels. Again, I'm not really saying that the film was bad. Two words: thin and dated.


Beverly Hills Cop: C