Beverly Hills Cop rates as one of my all-time favorite movies. In theory, I might would judge it a notch or two down the food chain of great movies. However, in practice I have owned this movie in multiple formats, and have watched it more times on purpose than any but maybe a couple of other movies ever.
Eddie Murphy just burns up the screen. He's so funny, and so purely charismatic here as to defy adequate description.
Axel Foley amuses me so much indeed that it is only after 20 years and probably 100 viewings that I've become conscious of some very dangerous authoritarian underpinnings of the show.
Axel Foley represents a greater danger to our freedom than any of the usual movie suspects that civil liberties groups like to talk about. Dirty Harry Callahan might push the envelope a little, but he's intending on playing pretty much by the rules.
Even The Shield presents police abuses in a careful box with a flashing neon sign saying 'Look, the cops are breaking the law!' They carefully reflect a mix of motivations to these abuses, from the more excusable to the purely self-interested. They put a frame around these actions, and invite open public discussion on right and wrong and acceptable police procedures.
Axel Foley, however, isn't interested in any of that, nor would it likely occur to anyone watching the movie to see anything really questionable in his tactics. He's just doing whatever he thinks he needs to do to get what he needs to get, and doesn't give it a second thought. "Come on guys. I know how we can get around that" he says to a Beverly Hills cop protesting that they need a search warrant to do what Axel wants them to do. After all, he's investigating the murder of a friend.
The biggest point of the movie is (gently) mocking the Beverly Hills Police for being rigid, and by the book. What they're mocking is PRECISELY the careful respect for the Bill of Rights and proper police procedure displayed by the Beverly Hill cops. Apparently the constitution is just for stick-in-the-mud old white fuddy-duddies.
Whereas when young, persuadable officer Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold's greatest role) objects to Axel's brash plan, Foley gives his most specific justification. "You guys act like you're all a bunch of robots. This case is very personal to me." Just like that, the constitution and all those legal procedures become just so much red tape in the away of Axel's important personal mission for Justice.