Movie classic: ‘Beverly Hills Cop’

If you weren’t around and old enough to get into an R-rated movie in 1984, I’m not sure it’s possible for me to describe to you what a game-changer “Beverly Hills Cop” was.

Eddie Murphy, then all of 23 years old, seemed to be on the brink of the hottest career in Hollywood. He’d made a name for himself as a “Saturday Night Live” cast member and appeared, to great effect, opposite Nick Nolte in the funny and violent cops-and-robbers movie “48 Hours” in 1982. “48 Hours” was profane and explosive and filled with brutal action and Murphy burst, fully-formed, on the big-screen.

“Beverly Hills Cop,” as most remember, starred Murphy as Axel Foley, a young Detroit cop – probably way too young to be believable – who goes to LA – specifically Beverly Hills – to investigate when a childhood friend is killed. He antagonizes killers and cops, although the later eventually cooperate with his unorthodox methods.

The movie’s script had been kicking around in Hollywood for years and the movie was almost made with Sylvester Stallone and, online sources now say, the role was even offered to people like Mickey Rourke and Richard Pryor. it’s hard to imagine the film with anyone else but Murphy in the lead.

If Murphy had followed this, his live in concert film, “48 Hours” and “Trading Places” with work of the same quality, he would still be among the biggest stars in the world. Instead, he ended up making substandard sequels and odd outings – “Metro?” “Holy Man?” – and is best known today for voice over work in the “Shrek” movies.

Random observations:

The movie’s $230 million-plus box office hall made it the top movie of 1984 – ahead of “Ghostbusters.”

Damon Wayans looks shockingly young as the fey young buffet line worker who gives Murphy’s character some bananas to use as sabotage tools on Judge Reinhold and John Ashton’s car.

The movie doesn’t seem as fast, funny and hard-hitting today as it did 28 years ago. Maybe that’s a consequence of the hyper filmmaking that’s become the norm since that time.

I lost track of the times characters said Murphy’s character’s name in the movie. “Axel,” “Foley,” “Axel Foley.” It’s a mark of how important a character is – and the impact that character can carry – when their name is mentioned over and over in a screenplay.

The movie’s soundtrack, including “The Heat is On” by Glenn Frey and “Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer, was as big a hit as the movie.

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