There’s no two ways about it, a follow up to Beverly Hills Cop should have been nothing short a slam dunk. Just look at the talent involved – Eddie Murphy, sensing his star war in danger of plateauing after muted critical reaction to The Golden Child, was keen to bring back his most beloved creation (this was many years before Shrek, remember…) while the midas touch owned by high concept mega-producers Simpson & Bruckheimer was very much still in effect. To sweeten the deal, director Tony Scott, still radiating the incredible heat of a rocket in reentry thanks to the huge success of Top Gun, was roped in to direct with an emphasis on flaring muzzle flashes and the impossibly long pins of Brigette Nielsen – it was 1987, what the hell could go wrong?
Considering that the filmmakers inexplicably forgot to add any legitimate jokes? Quite a bit, actually.
Beverly Hills is being ravaged by a spate of robberies that have perpetrated by a heavily armed gang who target multiple high-end jewellery stores. After causing the maximum around of carnage, the crooks have been leaving monogrammed envelopes at the scene that feature a letter on it and a code inside that has been stumping Captain Bogomil, Detective Billy Rosewood and Sergeant John Taggart as their new, butt-hat, police chief keeps making their jobs all but impossible. Matters are made even worse when the people behind the “Alphabet Crimes” take a pot shot at Bogomil, putting him in intensive care.
Cue mouthy Detroit cop Axel Foley who returns to the palm trees and sunshine of Beverly Hills in order to illegally pitch in and aid Rosewood and Taggert with cracking the case while simultaneously running rings around any authority figures who dares get within range.
As Foley gets ever closer to uncovering sinister mastermind Maxwell Dent and his statuesque, gun totting enforcer, Karla Fry, he essentially uses the exact same tactics as he did in the first movie – he even arranges for a little down time for him and his buddies by way of yet another gratuitous visit to a titty bar – as he barrels through any obstacle with the sheer power of his over-confident, bamboozling bullshit while Billy and John stand to the side looking on in a mixture of awe and trepidation.
After finally tracking the villains down due to a number of seemingly unconnected events (the Playboy Mansion turns up at one point for some reason) the scene is set for an almighty, climactic gunfight that, in true Tony Scott fashion, will drown out all the plot threads and character arcs with the sound of bitchin’ explosions and 80’s pop music.
The first Beverly Hills Cop was a near-perfect showcase of the talents of Eddie Murphy that allowed him to wield his gargantuan charisma and his lightning quick banter in a way that charmed cinemagoers just like Foley blagging his way into a lush suite of a luxury hotel. However, the sequel seems to have fallen foul of something that brought down a lot of 80’s action/comedy sequels and that’s a sense of smug, overconfidence that’s big enough to choke a blue whale.
The reason for this seems to be that the filmmakers where so overconfident of success (possibly due to Don Simpson’s legendary drug habit), they didn’t think they had to do anything more than sign bigger checks and give Murphy near unlimited permission to ad-lib at will. However, as seen in The Golden Child, Murphy’s schtick seems to have run out of gas somewhat and instead of displaying his talent for different voices and characters, he’s content to loudly talk over everyone like an obnoxious man-brat in a way that’s ultimately as fun as having twin babys wail in each of your ears. Before, watching Foley talk his way into snazzy lodgings or right the way into the villains office by way of his streetwise, verbal alchemy was genuinely impressive, now it just feels like our leading man is living out some sort of personal, main character syndrome at the expense of a multi-million dollar movie. In fact, it doesn’t look like Murphy hadn’t bothered to prepare for the movie at all, going off script whenever he can and oddly being unable to to tell the difference between a tortoise and a turtle and the result is only sporadically funny. I mean, technically a tortoise is from the turtle family, but I’m willing to bet Foley doesn’t know that – I’m digressing.. .
On the other hand, a empty and shallow as the movie is, you can’t fault the visual eye of the late, great, Tony Scott who laces everything with that typical, Simpson & Bruckheimer sheen that typified their 80’s output and photographs the magic hour in ways that would make Michael Bay weep. However, while his muscular style may have boast some awesome explosions and gunplay (even a handgun in a Tony Scott movie feels like it has the stopping power of a ground to air missile), it also boasts some ridiculously macho dialogue that have aged as well as that dude who drinks from the wrong grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Featuring such headscratchers as “Don’t think, Axel! It’s making my dick itch!” and a H.R. nightmare of a chief who literally begins every sentence by screaming “SHUT UP!” at everyone, everyone seems to be suffering from monumental rage issues – even when they’re in a good mood.
Caught between Murphy’s half-assed rambling and Scott’s visual pyrotechnics, everyone else struggles to be heard. Ronny Cox’s Bogomil takes an early shower after soaking a couple of bullets while Jürgen Prochnow and Brigette Nielsen certainly look the part as the villains (Nielsen in particular struts around the place in fashions that make Grace Jones look like she dresses conservatively), but they ultimately are bland as stale toast. In fact, the only character who manages to stand out at all is Judge Reinhold’s Rosewood who has gone from endearingly off-beat, to a full blown, cartoonish weirdo who has an armoury in his plant infested apartment an causally carries a flick knife with him wherever he goes. It’s one of the rare times in all of Beverly Hills Cop II where a complete and total lack of subtlety pays off and while I love a big, dumb 80’s action movie as much as the next guy, Foley return feels more like a cash grab that cynically apes the original without adding anything new whatsoever. In fact, even though the plot is simplistic as a crayon drawing, I still found myself losing track of it due to the sheer ambivalence this adventure displays as it remains convinces that the entire film can hinge entirely on the verbal diarea of its leading man.
Despite being way better than the third movie (not exactly hard), this overblown vanity project is nothing more than a Beverly Hills cop out.