R, 105 min.
Director: Martin Brest
Writers: Daniel Petrie Jr., Danilo Bach
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher, Ronny Cox, Steven Berkoff, James Russo, Jonathan Banks, Stephen Elliott, Paul Reiser, Gilbert R. Hill, Bronson Pinchot
It’s always interesting to revisit a movie that hasn’t exactly reached classic status, but was a phenomenon at the time of its release. “Beverly Hills Cop” was far from Eddie Murphy’s introduction to audiences. He had already gained legions of fans and perhaps surpassed Chevy Chase as the most successful cast member of Saturday Night Live. His stand-up comedy concert special “Delirious” was one of the most popular concert films of all time at the time of its release. He had already proven himself to be an invaluable comedy co-star in the movies “48 Hrs.” and “Trading Places”. He’d even suffered his post SNL flop in “Best Defense”. “Beverly Hills Cop” was the first time he’d been given the sole leading role, however. In fact, it was one of the first films most people had seen a major release carried by an African American actor.
In the film, Murphy brings all the wise-ass charm that made him famous, but he also has something that he rarely displays—just the slightest bit of insecure vulnerability. It’s important to note that the movie isn’t entirely comedic. Much like his previous “48 Hrs.”, this is an action comedy that actually contains some drama to it. Without a heavy hitter like Nick Nolte there to carry any of the dramatic weight, Murphy’s ability to carry the drama was in question. When his character loses a close friend in the early moments of the film, it becomes obvious that Murphy can handle it.
It is a wise choice by director Martin Brest and the screenwriters to take the silly comedy away from Murphy and give it to the two LA detectives played by Judge Reinhold and John Ashton. This frees Murphy to explore the range of his character. They also utilize some of the comedic skills that brought Murphy to prominence on SNL by making Alex Foley a cop who employs different personalities to aid him in his investigations. It might have been tempting to dress him up in silly outfits, ala Martin Lawrence in Big Momma’s House. He’s easier to buy as a serious character by keeping him in fairly understated clothing and having to get where he needs to go through insistence.