We gave it a B
No one was a bigger star than Eddie Murphy in 1984. The F-bomb-dropping, cool-cat comedian single-handedly snatched Saturday Night Live from the jaws of irrelevance the second he joined the cast in 1980. Predictably, Hollywood soon came ? calling, checkbook in hand. Murphy’s first film, 1982’s 48 HRS., turned out to be a huge box office hit. And his second, 1983’s Trading Places, was even bigger. Seemingly overnight, Murphy had catapulted from unknown Brooklyn comic to pop culture phenomenon — and not insignificantly, also the first black movie star wholeheartedly embraced by white America. For his third movie, Murphy was offered the world, but he was torn between teaming up with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters and playing a smart-ass Detroit policeman named Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop (1984, R, 1 hr., 45 mins.). Fortunately for us — and his Ghostbusters replacement, Ernie Hudson — Murphy chose to put on a gray sweatshirt and head to sunny California.
Originally conceived as an action-flick vehicle for Sylvester Stallone, Martin Brest’s brash fish-out-of-water comedy is the ideal showcase for Murphy’s hip, lightning-quick genius. His one-liners come so fast they shoot off sparks. The story kicks off when Foley’s best friend is murdered. The pal had been working as a security guard for a shady art dealer (Steven Berkoff) in ritzy Beverly Hills. So Foley ditches Motor City and hightails it west to start sniffing around like a bull in a Rodeo Drive china shop. Cop is a one-man show from beginning to end. Whether Murphy’s hilariously playing the race card at the front desk of a posh hotel or trying to shake the pair of dim detectives assigned to shadow him, he’s always in control (although Bronson Pinchot gives him a serious run as a pretentious, unintelligible art-gallery receptionist named Serge). The film is a Reagan-era time capsule of a smooth talker who’s got the world — both ? on screen and off — on a string. Cop ended up becoming the highest-grossing movie of 1984, just edging out…you guessed it, Ghostbusters. And while Murphy’s film doesn’t hold up as well as that one — Harold Faltermeyer’s synth soundtrack feels especially dated — it does look like new in its Blu-ray debut. Too bad the EXTRAS, which include a director’s commentary and some making-of features, are leftovers from previous DVD versions. B