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On Dec. 5, 1984, the Beverly Hills Cop franchise was born as the R-rated Eddie Murphy film hit theaters, becoming a $300 million-plus earner in its run. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
Paramount can anticipate a healthy box-office arrest from its Beverly Hills Cop. Larcenously full of the high-tech production values one has come to expect from wunderkind producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Flashdance, Thief of Hearts), this lickety-split action comedy is distinguished by the wry, character-conscious direction of Martin Brest, who coaxes a silver-bullet performance from star Eddie Murphy that’s practically criminal in its accuracy.
Murphy, essaying a role originally intended for Sylvester Stallone, plays Axel Foley, a Detroit cop noted principally for his “blatant disregard for proper procedure,” who journeys to the glitter capital to investigate a friend’s murder. The plot, however, which finds Foley crossing paths with a sinister art dealer (too one-dimensionally played by Steven Berkoff), is of little consequence.
What matters more to Brest and screenwriter Daniel Petrie Jr. is the street-wise Foley’s assault on Beverly Hills mores, observed in a series of nimble-witted vignettes that find him alternately at odds with and abetting the efforts of the coat-and-tie local police force. Indeed, the movie’s greatest pleasures arise from watching Murphy bluff his way into and out of various compromising situations, assuming a variety of fake identities with an uproariously reckless abandon that galvanizes his reputation as one of today’s leading comic talents.
Brest and Petrie surround their wily protagonist with an engaging, well-observed collection of stationhouse types, led by Judge Reinhold and John Ashton, who make a modern-day Laurel and Hardy as Murphy’s unofficial partners. Ronny Cox’s by-the-book commander is properly steely-eyed, Lisa Eilbacher looks positively radiant as an old acquaintance and Bronson Pinchot contributes one screamingly funny moment as an unplaceably accented, fey art gallery employee.
The director’s gritty, realistic style, which electrifies such moments as the opening long-lens truck chase (realized with breathtaking virtuosity by cinematographer Bruce Surtees), fails him in the incongruous Scarface-like climax, and the film never fully exploits its trendy locales. Still, this is high-caliber entertainment, put together with steel-trap swiftness by editors Billy Weber and Arthur Coburn and backed by a soundtrack-bound Harold Faltermeyer score that brings out all the funky energy. — Kirk Ellis, originally published on Nov. 30, 1984
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