BEVERLY HILLS COP Directed by Martin Brest; Screenplay by Daniel Petrie Jr.
Detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) has just been busted for disturbing the affluence of Beverly Hills; a few moments before, some bad guys had shattered decorum and a plate-glass window by heaving him through the latter. Now Axel, who hails from Detroit, where the fuzz's lot is mostly scuzz, looks wonderingly around. "This is the cleanest and nicest police car I've ever been in in my life," he murmurs. "This thing's nicer than my apartment." Very politely he requests the arresting officers to pull over if they just happen to spot any movie stars on the way to the station house.
Nor is that the end of the astonishments visited upon him while using some vacation time to investigate the murder of his best old friend. In Beverly Hills, in addition to your Miranda rights, you are apparently entitled to be addressed as "sir" until you are proved guilty and to be interrogated by a policeman wearing a scrupulously buttoned three-piece suit. It comes as a relief to Axel when a questioner gives him a sneak punch in the gut. He takes it as a signal that the traditional basics of police work have not been entirely forgotten among the boutiques and the Mercedes.
Beverly Hills Cop is a comedy of mutual dismay, in which Axel's culture shock over the way his West Coast colleagues gumshoe through Lotusland is matched by their outraged puzzlement over how to handle a streetwise hipster for whom anarchy is both a way of life and an investigative technique. Were Eddie Murphy absent from this movie one might decry its ambling and the failure of writer and director to develop out of a fertile premise either a well-twisted mystery or some truly wild comic turns. But Murphy is very much present, and it could be argued that their task was not so much to provide a taut story line as to create a cheerful climate where his marvelous talent and his compelling yet gracefully stated energy could sprout in all directions.
In this they have succeeded wonderfully. See Eddie pretend he is a very important journalist, terrorizing a snooty hotel into giving him a room despite his lack of a reservation. See him, a moment later, impersonate a delivery boy soft-shoeing his way past a wary receptionist. And watch closely, for in the wink of a camera's eye he is going to be a furious Customs inspector whose bite is worse than his bark. Or a homosexual lisping his way past a posh club's maître d' with a particularly mad invention. Murphy exudes the kind of cheeky, cocky charm that has been missing from the screen since Cagney was a pup, snarling his way out of the ghetto. But as befits a manchild of the soft-spoken '80s, there is an insinuating sweetness about the heart that is always visible on the sleeve of Murphy's habitual sweatshirt. It is discernible not only by adolescent females but by case-hardened critics as well.