One of the biggest early career hits in film history, BEVERLY HILLS COP was Eddie Murphy's third film, after "48 Hours" and "Trading Places". Those two films were hits, bringing in $79 million and $90 million at the box office.
But in the summer of 1984, this near perfect film exploded to $316 million. I remember seeing it twice the first week in theaters, laughing so hard at Eddie that I had to see it twice.
The great news is that watching it almost 40 years later, the laughs are still as huge and frequent as they were then.
After an action-packed opening sequence, Detroit Detective Axel Foley (Murphy) reconnects with a friend from his youth, Mikey (James Russo of "Django Unchained"). Mikey's fresh out of jail and tells Axel that their mutual friend, Jenny, has landed him a job at a Los Angeles art gallery that he's loving.
When Mikey is killed the same night, Axel heads to LA to look into his murder.
Director Martin Brest (Midnight Run, Meet Joe Black, Scent of a Woman) is in total control, creating a perfect vehicle for Murphy. Eddie clearly does plenty of riffing on top of an already great script by Daniel Petrie Jr. (Shoot To Kill, The Big Easy).
Hilarious characters fill every corner of the story.
Judge Reinhold (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) is Billy Rosewood, a young LA detective hypnotized by Axel's smooth, hilarious bravado. Rosewood's uber straight partner, Sgt. Taggart is memorably played by John Ashton (Gone Baby Gone).
The early scenes with Rosewood and Taggart tailing Foley are hilarious. They have all said that most of their dialogue was improvised and they cant imagine how much film was ruined with them all busting out laughing.
Banana in the tailpipe anyone?
Ronny Cox (Deliverance, Robocop) is perfectly cast as their boss, Lt. Bogomil and Steven Berkoff (Rambo: First Blood Part II, Octopussy) is the menacing villain who owns that art gallery.
Lisa Eilbacher (An Officer and a Gentleman) is a great comic foil for Axel, but their scenes together also give Murphy a chance to play drama and he lands it easily, giving just a hint of the Murphy we'd see in the decades ahead in films like "Dreamgirls".
The film is perfectly cast down to the smallest roles, with Bronson Pinchot stealing scenes as Serge, the art gallery host and Damon Wayans getting big laughs handing Eddie those bananas, in his very first role.
Harold Faltermeyer's music score is excellent. He finds a thousand ways to use "Axel Foley's Theme" during the movie and all of them are great. LOVE this soundtrack, with everyone from Patti Labelle, The Pointer Sisters, Danny Elfman and Glenn Frey knocking it out of the park.
While many films of the 80's are tough to watch when you revisit them, BEVERLY HILLS COP holds up beautifully. I lost track of how many times I laughed out loud and I defy you to keep a smile off your face throughout.
We likely all have our favorite scenes.
I love Foley hanging off the back of the semi in the opening as it barrels through the streets of Detroit. Foley sending room service to the cops tailing him, climbing into the back of Rosewood & Taggart's cop car, the entire strip club scene and finale at Maitland's Beverly Hills compound are flawless.
Murphy was fun in "48 Hours" and "Trading Places", but this is the summer blockbuster that made him a movie star. This was the first of seven straight Eddie films to open at #1 at the box office. He backed out of "Ghostbusters" to make it!
Followed three years later by a very good sequel and then in 1994 by a horrible part three, the original is an animal all its own.
It was the highest grossing R-rated film for nearly 20 years until "The Matrix Revolutions" topped it in 2003 and was the first movie to be released in 2000+ theaters in film history.
Hilarious, exciting, suspenseful and featuring what could arguably be called Eddie Murphy's best performance, BEVERLY HILLS COP still rocks, earning an A+.