Beverly Hills Cop became a full-fledged phenomenon in December of 1984. Eddie Murphy, with Saturday Night Live and two major hit movies (48 Hours, Trading Places) under his belt, became a true superstar. The R-rated comedy was still in the box office top ten 28 weeks after it opened, well into June of 1985. Now available on Blu-ray, it’s high time to reevaluate this Martin Brest-directed more than a quarter-century after its release.
The honest to God truth is that Beverly Hills Cop has not aged well. It pains me to say this because, like so many others, I loved this movie back in the day. But the story is not very engaging, with an hour-and-forty-five minute running time that feels much longer. It can be difficult to step back and separate the nostalgia value from the actual film itself. Eddie Murphy is still hilarious, bringing something unpredictable and inventive to every scene. Supporting cast members Judge Reinhold and John Ashton provide highlights as well, managing to earn frequent laughs even though they are essentially straight men.
The rather feeble plot finds Murphy’s Axel Foley, a Detroit cop, travelling to Beverly Hills to uncover the mystery of his friend’s murder. His friend Mikey (James Russo) was a generally good guy who got mixed up with the wrong people. Foley’s boss Inspector Todd (Gil Hill) doesn’t want Foley anywhere near the case, citing that it’s too personal. Once in Beverly Hills, though officially on leave, Foley tracks down Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff). Maitland is a rich, successful art dealer who Foley believes is behind Mikey’s murder.
None of that really matters much though. The story itself is snooze-inducing. All the fun comes from watching Murphy completely own the movie. His personality and charisma absolutely dominate everything about the production. The aforementioned Reinhold and Ashton portray detectives Rosewood and Taggart, respectively. They are members of the Beverly Hill PD and have been assigned to babysit the trouble-making Foley. Some of the best scenes involve their interactions with Murphy. The movie is a time-capsule piece, very dated and indicative of typical action/comedies of the mid-80s. It’s Murphy’s show the whole way. His flawless performance makes the movie worth watching after all these years.
Beverly Hills Cop looked good on standard DVD in 2002, when a special edition was released. On Blu-ray it looks considerably better, though without question the film shows its age. Especially evident is the graininess of the entire presentation. It’s simply the look that many films of the era had, though it becomes amplified when displayed in 1080p high definition. The darker interior scenes are much more grainy, while daylight exteriors look very crisp. Detail is relatively strong overall. The colors are kind of drab, but again this is likely an accurate representation of the original cinematography. The movie hasn’t looked better on a home video format.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is utterly unspectacular, without there being anything in particular to fault. Dialogue is easily intelligible and free of distortion. But don’t expect much out of the surround sound experience. The front channels are where the vast majority of the audio is heard. Rear channels are very rarely used. The LFE channel is surprisingly not very active either. Bass is present, but generally thin. The famous “Axel F” theme, along with the rest of the hits-laden soundtrack, is similarly lacking in real presence. Overall the audio presentation was very similar to the 2002 standard DVD edition.
Speaking of the 2002 edition, that release is the source of all the supplemental material found on the Blu-ray. Director Martin Brest’s audio commentary is ported over, along with around 50 minutes worth of standard definition featurettes. The best of these is the half-hour “The Phenomena Begins,” which provides a good overview of the entire production. If you already own Beverly Hills Cop on DVD, I can’t really find reason to recommend the upgrade.