By Marc S. Sanders
Who actually wrote the Oscar nominated script to Beverly Hills Cop? Daniel Petrie Jr and Danio Bach, or Eddie Murphy?
Murphy’s lines are delivered so fast and so naturally that it seems impossible they could ever rest on a page. Eddie Murphy is an enormous talent of word play and delivery. I miss this Eddie Murphy. I’m reluctant to welcome the Eddie Murphy of PG related fare of recent years. He just doesn’t look comfortable in that garb.
One of the first R rated films I ever saw in theatres (not THE first, as that honor belongs to the Clint Eastwood classic, Sudden Impact) still holds with its hilarity, and the credit does not belong to just Murphy but the whole cast including John Ashton, Judge Reinhold, Ronnie Cox and even early in career appearances from Jonathan Banks, Bronson Pinchot, and Damon Wayans.
I still haven’t forgotten this theatre experience when I joined my older brother, Brian and his friend Nick at the movie theatre in Ridgewood NJ. Never had I heard an entire packed room of people in the dark on a Saturday night laugh so hard together. It’s likely a moment that impressed my love for movies going forward. Movies could bring all sorts of joy and happiness and escape. Beverly Hills Cop was altogether another thing entirely.
Yes!!!! A foul mouthed cop from Detroit who becomes a stranger in a strange land while visiting Beverly Hills to solve his friend’s murder. That’s a film that’s had a great impact on me. As a writer, director Martin Brest’s film (later to do Midnight Run and Scent Of A Woman) offers a very simple blue print to allow Murphy to run wild. It cuts out a lot of complicated red herrings to just stay on a straight resolution. As Murphy’s Detective Axel Foley (great character name) comes across another development, in walks another great set up.
I compare the frame of Beverly Hills Cop and Eddie Murphy to the first Mission: Impossible film with Tom Cruise. The Cruise film makes a huge oversight. Early on it introduces a huge array of characters for an M:I team and then eliminates them all to hardly be used. It was wall to wall Tom Cruise. He was a producer on that film with much creative control and it felt to me as if he insisted on owning every scene, every line, every moment. It turned me off a little.
Murphy on the other hand plays along with his ensemble. Ashton and Reinhold have great moments all to themselves. I still die laughing out loud as Reinhold tries to subdue a situation by ordering an army of machine gun toting bad guys to lay down their weapons only to be silenced with another round of gunfire. The banana in the tailpipe! Ashton working with Murphy to stop a random robbery at strip joint, and then helping to save him later on from arrest. What about Ashton trying to climb a wall during a shootout?
Then there’s Murphy and Pinchot discussing a weird art piece (“Get the fuck outta here!”). Couldn’t you envision Pinchot and Murphy in another film together? A shame it hasn’t happened. (No, I won’t count the dreadful reunion in Beverly Hills Cop III.)
Brest provides great showpieces accompanied by one of the best film soundtracks ever. I will never not listen to “Neutron Dance” by the Pointer Sisters on Sirius XM’s 80s on 8 while recalling this film’s opening scene double rig truck chase. Brest directs a symphonic high energy blend of sight and sound. Plays like an awesome music video. Same goes for Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On.” If I ever get an opportunity to visit Detroit, that’s what will be playing in my head.
Orchestrator Harold Faltermeyer’s electronic keyboard deserves much credit as well. His covert, sneaky 5 note tune shaped the Axel Foley character. Faltermeyer only made Murphy even cooler during the heyday of “Miami Vice MTV Cops.”
Beverly Hills Cop remains one of the best films with the longest staying power of the 1980s. It’s a comedy. It’s an action picture. It’s music filled fun with great characters. It’ll always be Eddie Murphy’s best film. I can watch it again and again. I’ll never tire of it.