Nearly thirty years later (wow, has it really been that long?), 'Beverly Hills Cop' continues to deliver the laughs and excitement. At the center of the movie's success, and arguably the primary reason for its lasting popularity, is the one-of-a-kind, fast-talking Eddie Murphy. If not for his memorable performance as the irreverent Axel Foley, the 80s action-comedy smash would have been an entirely different picture all together. As many fans already know, the filmmakers originally signed Mickey Rourke for the role, and were later set to feature Sylvester Stallone in the lead, before Sly ended up taking his various rewrites and strictly action-oriented ideas to make the absurdly bombastic 'Cobra.'
The part was eventually offered to Murphy, revising the script at the last minute with his comic styling in mind. And everything seemed right with the universe once again. Two years earlier, audiences had seen the hilarious comedian portray a convict pretending to be a cop, and his follow-up flicks had him play alongside other well-established actors ('Trading Places' and 'Best Defense'). In 'Beverly Hills Cop,' Murphy was given the opportunity to headline a movie. As the quick-witted detective from Detroit, he demonstrated his chameleon-like ability to instantly alternate between personalities and create outrageous personas out of thin air, revealing a great talent and giving us a likable character we can easily cheer for.
When Foley's childhood friend is murdered by unknown assailants, the mystery leads Murphy to sunny Southern California, where he injects urban detective methods into the uptight, stiff-disciplined procedures of the Beverly Hills PD. There, he's joined by a great supporting cast, led by the amusing Judge Reinhold as the still wet-behind-the-ears and overly enthused Billy Rosewood. His partner is the restless Sgt. Taggart (John Ashton), a clearly experienced police officer who hasn't seen action in many years. Their superior, Lt. Bogomil (Ronny Cox), tries his best to stop Foley from illegally investigating the man likely responsible for killing his friend, but after a while, we can see that he too is dying for some real police action for his inexperienced department.
The hilarity doesn't end with the dialogue and performances. Director Martin Brest, who later gained further notoriety for 'Scent of a Woman' and 'Meet Joe Black,' adds his own unique flare to the entertaining storyline. While his direction is well-paced and animated, Brest enables music to play a prominent part as well, creating a boisterously upbeat atmosphere. Specific song selections, like Glenn Frey's "The Heat is On" and Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance," are allowed to drive some of the plot points, amplifying the excitement of many action sequences. And of course, one can't mention the music of 'Beverly Hills Cop' without also making reference to Axel's unmistakable electro theme music by composer Harold Faltermeyer — still one of the best and most celebrated pieces of movie music!
All in all, when it comes right down to it, 'Beverly Hills Cop' remains a wonderfully entertaining and hilarious joyride. The action-comedy picture was one of the biggest hits of the 1980s, proving Eddie Murphy possessed true Hollywood star power, and it arguably remains his best comedic role. Followed by two more sequels, the original is a timeless classic, a terrific blend of witty dialogue, performances and strong direction.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount Home Entertainment brings 'Beverly Hills Cop' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc. It comes in the standard blue keepcase and a new, unattractive cover art, replacing the traditional pic of Murphy sitting atop a red Mercedes. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with a large still of the package's cover art and Axel's theme music playing in the background.
'Beverly Hills Cop' lands on Blu-ray with a very nice and rejuvenated 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1).
Contrast is comfortably bright and perfectly balanced, with clean, crisp whites throughout. Black levels are generally solid and deep, except for a few minor spots when they dip a tad. Poorly-lit interiors allow good visibility in the shadows although some scenes can be a noticeable problem. A thin layer of grain is consistent from beginning to end, offering an appreciable film-like appearance, but when indoors, the structure is understandably more apparent and thicker. Exteriors, of course, are where the high-def transfer shines best, with excellent color reproduction and vividly energetic primaries which give the movie plenty of pop with natural flesh tones.
Overall image and resolution is a definite upgrade from previous releases, exhibiting great detail and texture in various objects.
Although the packaging claims the audio has six distinct channels (5.1), there's no mistaking this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack for a front-heavy stereo presentation. The rears are pretty much silent, and all the action is located in the soundstage with good balance and clarity. Vocals are very well-prioritized and clearly audible, even during the movie's most chaotic sequences. The mid-range is cleanly rendered and stable, but there's not much of a low end to speak of, which is rather unfortunate since gunshots noticeably lack impact. In fact, the track's biggest fault is in the original design itself. There's very little stage presence and activity in the entire lossless mix, making this action comedy classic feel a bit flat, too confined to the center and on the whole, unimpressive despite there being nothing fundamentally wrong with the high-rez codec.
Paramount ports over the same assortment of supplements as the Special Collector's Edition from 2002. Although disappointing to see nothing new, the collection is still enjoyable and quite informative.
Nearly thirty years later, 'Beverly Hills Cop' remains a hilarious joyride of comedy and action. The 1984 box-office smash proved Eddie Murphy was a major draw in Hollywood, fully employing his amazing talent with witty dialogue and alternating personalities. Today, it continues to be celebrated as one of the best in the genre and is arguably Murphy's most memorable role. The Blu-ray arrives with strong video and average audio. Bonus material is a repeat from the previous release, but overall, the package makes a good recommendation, especially to those buying for the first time.