Monday, July 29, 2013

By Request, Beverly Hills Cop Retrospective: Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop
Director: Martin Brest
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher, Steven Berkoff, James Russo, Jonathan Banks (!)
Rated: R

Tell Victor that Ramon - -the fella he met about a week ago? - -tell him that Ramon went to the clinic today, and I found out that I have, um, herpes simplex 10, and I think Victor should go check himself out with his physician to make sure everything is fine before things start falling off on the man. 
                                ~Axel Foley

How long did it take you to have the theme song playing in your head after you started reading this?
I won't always take requests, but I do welcome them all the time.  And this one came at the right time.  Jose Cordova, your wish has been granted.  This is my first "off relevancy" retrospective since I did Dirty Harry last year.  But, I suppose it COULD HAVE been relevant.  A television series continuing the Beverly Hills Cop adventures was just famously rejected.  Now word has it they'd like to just make Beverly Hills Cop 4.  We'll see if it actually comes to life.  But for now, we're gonna tackle the series as it is.  Its one that I honestly have not watched any of them since probably the early 90s.  And I'd not seen them much more than a viewing or two.  So I'm pretty interested to go in sorta of "far removed fresh" to this.
The first film was released in 1984 but was in production for 7 years prior to that.  The first draft of the script was option back in 1977.  It was originally planned as a vehicle for actor Mickey Rourke, who was actually paid for the film.  He left, some other names threw around but ultimately landed on Sylvester Stallone.  Stallone wanted in on some of the story and such.  The film he wanted to make was ultimately too dark and gritty for what the studio was going for.  When an agreement couldn't be reached, Stallone walked (but wouldn't walk away from his take).  Then, a wild card and the best thing to happen to this film came abound.  Eddie Murphy was brought on to play the lead, Axel Foley.  The film was hitting production soon and a crazy amount of rewrites had to happen to make this work.
Without Eddie Murphy, this movie would have been just another generic 80s crime story.  All the details and the plot at hand are quite pedestrian.  However, it becomes better when taking that idea and twisting it on its head.  Rather than be that, it adds a heavy layer or comedy and a off the wall main character and it makes the film incredibly entertaining.  What on paper is a "fish out of water" type scenario become a fish very out of water.

I was shocked that pretty much all of the humor in this film holds up.  It actually is a lot more in line with the type of humor we have in films today.  A lot of it is improv based, which is what most of the top comedies nowadays are using.  Eddie Murphy is incredible as Foley.  This is akin to a Sean Connery as Bond in Dr. No or Clint Eastwood in Fistful of Dollars type performance.  He sinks himself in and is so comfortable and just eats up scenery.  I was finding myself general laughing out loud during this.  Another key player is Judge Reinhold.  He's pretty damn good as Rosewood (so good, the character was originally supposed to be killed halfway through and survived instead), the oblivious young detective.  He shares great chemistry with Murphy and John Ashton as well.
One aspect that I really liked in the film was the relationship between Axel Foley and Jenny Summers.  They are longtime friends and that's it.  There's no romance involved there.  They're allowed to just be friends.  A lot of times this kind of thing is forced on or "required'.  Here there is none of that.  In Stallone's version, however, Jenny was indeed Axel's girl.  I don't know if the rewrite was done because of a fear of an interracial couple or whatnot, but i'm gonna take the film as it is now and say it was nice to see something rare like this.

What convo can't be complete without discussing the theme?  Watching this film just makes me think...there's really not a whole lot of "catchy" movie scores anymore, are there?  I'm not saying there's no good scores. No no no, so please don't give me shit for that.  I'm just saying there's nothing that strikes someone so good they get it stuck in there head and instantly associate it with a film.  When I first moved out to LA, I changed my ringtone on my cell phone to "Axel F".  I tell you, if you want to draw a tone of unwarranted attention and the most puzzled looks on peoples' faces, do this.  The more my phone rang, the more embarrassed I got. haha.
Quick mention, Breaking Bad's hitman for hire Mike was in this film as the right hand thug of the baddie.  Jonathan Banks is someone I had apparently seen in a ton of movies (he's in Gremlins, too) that I never too note of until Breaking Bad.  Dunno how it escaped me, but it did.  Looking at most of the cast, he's likely the best off nowadays (Murphy aside), considering when he filmed this he was probably just a random character actor in the mix.

Before we go for today, do we want to discuss the banana in the tailpipe?  Haha.  There's a notorious scene in the movie where Axel Foley thwarts 2 cops tailing him by shoving a few bananas up their tailpipe.  Upon takeoff, their car stalls.  This is constantly noted as a falsity and ridiculous all time film moment.  However, its not as bad as its made out.  If you were to clog the tailpipe with something, not allowing any exhaust out, your car would cease to transport you.  The problem here is the banana.  Its too light weight, slick and smooshy and would shoot right out upon some acceleration.  If somehow a few bananas (which Axel puts more than one in) were lodged in there and lodged in really good...MAYBE.  But still, its a banana and its not going to work.  So there you have it folks, the idea IS possible, but its VERY not likely to work.  See, you can learn some things here on Naptown Nerd.
Beverly Hills Cop surprisingly stands the test of time.  Some of the jokes are dated, but they are few.  The humor works and the story is solid.  Throw this one back in, its a film we should remember.  Thanks, Jose.  I don't know about the sequels, but this one really does work on the same level it was intended to almost 30 years ago.  I'm excited to venture further with Axel Foley, good or bad. 

NEXT:  But first, we're going to take a visit to the darkest timeline...

until then, enjoy this Friends clip

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