Time: 105 mins.
Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
SYNOPSIS: A freewheeling Detroit cop pursuing a murder investigation finds himself dealing with the very different culture of Beverly Hills.
BOTTOM LINE: Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Murphy wasn't even supposed to be in this movie, and yet now we can't imagine it without him. Though somewhat dated, BEVERLY HILLS COP is one of the first films to successfully marry high action and low comedy. The role of Axel Foley, a smart-mouthed, relentless Detroit cop, launched Murphy's career into the stratosphere, introducing him to a wider audience than SNL ever could and proving that he was more than a comic sidekick. Axel isn't much of a stretch from his first role as the slick criminal Reggie Hammond in 48 HOURS, but Murphy definitely gives a more grounded and intense performance here.
The plot follows Axel as he tries to solve the mystery behind an old friend's recent murder, which his superiors tell him to leave alone. Of course, being stubborn and loyal, he refuses and winds up on a "vacation" from the force. The fact that he's in California has nothing to do with the trail leading to Beverly Hills. This is where the comedy comes in. Outspoken black cop who doesn't play by the rules, meets up with rich, uptight white policemen who do everything by the book. Hilarity ensues. Don't think you could get away with such obvious stereotyping these days, but it apparently didn't bother anyone in 1984.
Though some of the jokes are obvious and silly, Murphy's energy and timing make them seem fresh and funny, even after repeated viewings. What doesn't hold up is the plot, which isn't very hard to figure out, and the supporting cast, who are no match for Murphy's star power. He's clearly playing with them because he has to. Judge Reinhold and John Ashton are just too inept and goofy. If they represented Beverly Hills' finest, that city would be burned down in a matter of hours. Steven Berkoff does a passable job as the villain of the piece, but his character isn't well-defined, so he's not as scary as he should be. We should feel that Axel's life is truly in danger and that just never comes across. The soundtrack adds the perfect style and energy to this comedy classic. A Murphy must-see...from the days when he was funny.