Saturday, August 9, 2014

15. Beverly Hills Cops (1984)

Code-name: Red Meat

(the quote in question will come later on, no worries)

Director: Martin Brest (other credits includes Al Pacino's Oscar winning "Scent of a Woman" and the ill-fated Bennifer flick "Gigli")

Composer: Harold Faltermeyer

Type: cop film, dramedy, 80's classic

Detective Axel Foley- Eddie Murphy
Inspector Todd- Gilbert R. Hill
Detective Billy Rosewood- Judge Reinhold
Sgt. Taggart- John Ashton
Victor Maitland- Steven Berkoff
Lt. Bogomil- Ronny Cox
Jeffrey- Paul Reiser
Jenny Summers-Lisa Eilbacher
Serge- Bronson Pinchot

Notable Win and Nominations:
Grammy- Best Album of Original TV/Movie score
nomination- OSCAR- Best Original Screenplay (Daniel Petrie Jr and Danilo Bach)
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Picture (comedy/musical)
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Actor in comedy/musical- Eddie Murphy


First Impression
Again, I don't know just how this movie came to my attention. I just remember picking it up at Blockbuster, interested in seeing a good comedy.
Eddie Murphy was always good for a few laughs and he did not disappoint. If I had to guess, this was after "Mulan" and one of the "Doctor Dolittle" movies... so the early 2000's for sure.
The only other thing that stood out to me was Billy Rosewood. The dude was just hilarious to me... still is, actually.

Eddie Murphy plays Axel Foley, a brash talented young detective in Detroit. After the opening credits, we catch up with him as he pulls off a drug bust... he succeeds, but in the process, a lot of public property was damaged. One of many things going array in his career.
The latest thing: one of Axel's friends is murdered outside his apartment after they had a night of drinking and gallivanting and his superior, Inspector Todd, forbids him from going near the case.

So what does Axel do? :-P he interprets the orders as "I don't want you doing this case in Detroit"... so he goes out to Beverly Hills to investigate on what little his friend Mikey told him about the latest job he got hooked up with. He sees their old friend Jenny Summers, asking about the guy who hired Mickey, and he winds up marching to his office. Only to get arrested by the authorities after he makes somewhat of a scene.

The Beverly Hills police decide to keep an eye on him to make sure he stays away from this case. While they fail at THAT, Axel cracks the case open and winds up getting help from the first team sent to "watch" him: the duo of Rosewood & Taggart.

If loving this movie wasn't enough incentive, hearing that those two guys would be back in the sequel did it for me. Whether the sequel is better, I'm not sure. I haven't seen either in a while, but both have great points worth a revisit.


Obviously the biggest part of this movie's success was Eddie Murphy. Not just because he made Axel Foley one cool cat, but he could improvise like nobody's business. In a way, I guess you could say he was an uncredited writer on this movie because they sometimes used his ideas when they were stuck on how to proceed on a given scene.
The most notable bit of improvisation: the "super cops" scene where Axel tells this story about how Rosewood/Taggart apprehended two thugs at a strip club. Eddie Murphy had this regiment of not doing any drugs, including coffee, while working on this movie. But after working long hours on this, he relented and started drinking coffee. The state he's in during the "super cops"  scene is the result of his first caffeine buzz on set.

It's hard for me to believe that Sylvester Stallone was originally cast for the lead and people like Scott Caan, Richard Pryor, Al Pacino and Mickey Rouke were also considered... for me, that just wouldn't work. It might not have been Eddie Murphy's first role, but it was certainly a "break-out" role for his career.
Part of the reason I wanted to see "Trading Places" and later on, "48 hours," which to me was a gross disappointment. The character he played there was no Axel Foley :P he didn't even get his own theme music (more on that later).

As for everyone else, I think I watched the 3rd Beethoven movie because Judge Reinhold was in it, but I have no memory of it, so it probably wasn't all that great. I think his first role was "Fast Times at Ridgemont HIgh," which again, I have no memory of, but I'm willing to go in for a rewatch because it IS a classic.
Maybe I was just expecting another brat pack-type 80's music, which it really wasn't.

Bronson Pinchot, who plays one of the art gallery employees Serge was in some TGIF sitcom... maybe it was "Step by Step," but again, it wasn't memorable to me. He's a good looking guy and this small role was memorable.

Steven Berkoff played Victor Maitland, a gentleman with quiet confidence and dastardliness, almost in the style of Alan Rickman in "Die Hard."
I didn't think of him much more than just another good movie villain. Then I saw him in "Under the Cherry Moon," a movie Prince starred in and directed in 1986. He and Jerome Benton (Morris Day's partner-in-crime in "Purple Rain") played gigalos that got rich by sleeping with wealthy divorced women. Then Christopher Tracy (Prince's character) falls in love with Mary Sharon (Kristen Scott Thomas's first role), initially after going after her for her $50M trust fund. She falls in love with him too, her daddy (Berkoff) gets angry (he wants her to marry another guy so their families can combine their fortunes) and *SPOILER ALERT* has him killed.

Sure, it's not the best written or directed movie, but killing him off was just senseless to me. But unlike "Less than Zero," I have yet to rewrite a more satisfying ending.
So yeah, I have a small vendetta against Steven Berkoff because of that movie (despite the fact he didn't pull the trigger himself... but then again James Spader only supplied Julian with the drugs that killed him at the end of "Less than Zero" and I have yet to get over that).... the fact "Beverly Hills Cop" came out before "Under the Cherry Moon" doesn't make me feel better about this... Steven Berkoff getting killed at the end of this movie only to come back to life as another character who kills Prince playing a role other than himself.

...all the more reason for me to prep myself with spoilers before seeing the next Avengers movie. If Ultron kills Tony Stark, there's no way I'm getting over that.

Anyway... back to business...

I'll get the "small fries" out the way first.

A lot of great music in this movie, first of all.

The biggest stand-outs are the use of The Pointer Sisters and Patti LaBelle tracks. They feel like part of this movie's identity especially since they're used during the scenes with Axel Foley is in Beverly Hills.
As a little side-note, it was kinda cool on the part of the crew to show a lot of extras and scenery from Detroit and Beverly Hills, giving us a scene of the place Axel Foley is from and the dramatic difference between that and Beverly Hills. I guess you could say it's a "fish out of water" story, but Axel adapts better than anyone else I'd seen in that motif. He certainly stands out with how he looks and dresses, but gets along just fine.

One bit of music I want to draw attention to is at the strip club. The first couple times I watched this movie, I felt like it gave the strip club its own unique vibe and considering how the lyrics kept using the word "nasty" in a provocative way, it was perfect.
Years later, I found out that Prince wrote it for his girl group, Vanity 6. Once I watched the behind-the-scenes on the DVD to see if they mentioned him (I know Eddie Murphy's a big fan because he was at the red carpet for the premiere of "Purple Rain"), but they only said one of the strippers on set recommended it.

Of course, the most notable piece of music is the score. I'd mentioned Harold Faltermeyer briefly in my "Top Gun" review, but this is where he really shines. Watching the movie again just a few hours ago, I was marveling at the genius of how the music was used. Axel Foley has his own unique theme movie that's actually called "Axel F."
Critics of the 80's can nitpick all they want how cheesy it is to have this score carousing in the background, it pulls everything together. Throughout this, I took notice how it was used to paint the tone of the picture. How it explodes right off the bat and then quiets down to build the tension. Notably in one of the earlier scenes where Axel sees his apartment had been broken into, only to find it was his friend.
Then there are times where there's no music at all and it comes back to let us know that "the plot" has resumed.

And for the record, I had pieced together the main part and a few other pieces of "Axel F" on keyboard. It's just a matter of finding the right setting to get the same sound. Haven't found it yet, but then again, I only have a Yamaha.

Other Comments

Another thing I found fascinating, though somewhat disturbing: in the original script, Billy Rosewood dies in a massive chase/explosion scene. It was something Sylvester Stallone wrote but was later deemed too expensive a scene to shoot. Ultimately what saved Billy (Judge Reinhold): his chemistry with Taggart (John Ashton).
The two of them play off each other like an old married couple.

The "red meat" line; funny enough that was a scene improvised at the audition that got both of these guys their designated roles, and made it into the movie.
The set-up: Rosewood and Taggart are waiting in front of the Beverly Hills Palm Hotel for Axel to return (he was checking out a warehouse, following a lead about Mikey's murder). While killing time, we see a couple scenes of them where Billy makes a comment and we laugh at Taggart's reaction.
My favorite:
Billy (reading a magazine): Wow. You know, it says here that by the time the average American is fifty, he's got five pounds of undigested red meat in his bowels.
Taggart: Why are you telling me this? What makes you think I have any interest in that at all?
Billy: Well, you eat a lot of red meat.

GREAT chemistry between these two. Billy's the happy-go-lucky yet responsible young guy and Taggart is the stoic, by the rules, professional.

Lots of random scenes in general where things seemed so outlandish but they worked for the comedic aspects.
One priceless bit of pop culture from this movie: the banana in the tail pipe scene. Never mind that, I was bugging about the fact Axel had room service serve the cops in their stake-out unmarked car. That just blew my mind that he got away with that.
Pretty much, Axel can talk his way into anything, but getting out often proves to be the tricky part of the deal.

I also love how he starts to grow on the other cops. One of the big payoffs of the "super cops" dialogue: after Taggart blows up Axel's story with the truth, Axel explains how his story was working and they messed up; we get a smile from their boss, Lieutenant Bogomil.

A lesson that Taggart made sure NOT to forget at the end of the movie after this big shoot-out scene.
Speaking of which, Billy has some great comedic moments in these final moments. Firstly when he barely gets to run the Miranda rights past the gunmen at Victor Maitland's estate and then he tells Taggart how their predicament is reminding him of the end of "Butch Cassidy"... one of two reasons I wound up watching that movie ;)

As for the sequels: I'd seen both of them. I have next to no memory of the third, only that Billy returns but not Taggart and Serge gets a little extra scene time.
As for the 2nd one, it's like with the "Karate Kid," it stands up to the original really well, but I wouldn't necessary say it surpasses it. What I found hilarious about it: they reveal how Billy is a bit of a gun enthusiast with Axel and Taggart worrying that he might have issues with the amount of firepower he possesses.

"Billy, we gotta talk" is the running gag throughout the 2nd half of the movie.

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