(cue the theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies)
This week I watched three movies ‘bout a Detroit cop,
a fast talkin’ guy whose antics wouldn’t stop.
The bad guys went and made his friend a ghost
so he chased them all the way out to the west coast.
Under cover. No jurisdiction.
He made some new friends and then returned home,
but then the sequel saw to it that he couldn’t roam.
His west coast buddy, he took a round or three
and Axel found himself headed back to Beverly.
Sensing a pattern. Maybe he should just move.
His boss was the next one to meet his end.
It sure is dangerous to be this guy’s friend.
The crooks fled the country to find some more thrills.
Just kidding, we all know they went to Beverly Hills.
One movie too many. Trying too hard.
Bound to be a reboot soon, y’hear?
We’ve reached one of the movie series that helped inspire this little cinematic adventure of mine. Often times when I told people I’d never seen any of the Beverly Hills Cop movies I’d get the common response of “You haven’t SEEN Beverly Hills Cop? What’s WRONG with you?” Once this project came to me I knew for sure I’d finally get to these movies. So ubiquitous they seemed with most people my age I expected comedy classics and hilarity of a level I’d rarely experienced.
What I got was…good. But not transformative by any means. Don’t get me wrong, all three movies are well made and are definitely entertaining. Better than average for sure. But they didn’t strike me as particularly special. I suspect that has to do with them being built up in my mind as well as the rose tinted glasses people who saw them in their youth view them through. I’m no stranger to liking movies from my childhood far more than they deserve.
The first two movies are nearly interchangeable. Violence brings Eddie Murphy from Detroit to Beverly Hills where he uses his street smarts and gift for bullshitting to get the job done where the local police may hit a dead end. Both movies use their R rating to pepper in language, real violence, and a strip club because why not? I was expecting straight comedies when in fact these are closer to action/comedies. Think less Police Academy and more Lethal Weapon. Both movies work best when Murphy appears to be riffing and improvising his way through a situation. Kudos to Judge Reinhold for also being consistently funny as a straight man to Murphy’s craziness. Both movies are well made and entertaining. Nothing is spectacular but everything works. The action is good enough to keep the stakes up and the comedy usually lands.
Then we get to Beverly Hills Cop III. This is a prime example of going to the well one too many times. I knew when one of the first scenes included some thugs dancing to the radio for no reason whatsoever that I was in trouble. The third installment reeks of simply trying too hard. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it was some other generic crime story that just got Axel Foley slapped in the middle of it at some point. Elements are silly even by the previous movies’ standards while Murphy uncovers a counterfeiting ring hidden beneath a Disneyland-esque amusement park. Here the action is a step down as are the jokes. It still isn’t bad, but it is on the whole lesser than its predecessors.
On a side note I find it fascinating to see what an R rated comedy from the 80s entails vs. a modern R rated comedy. These movies seem to be “casually” rated R. There is certainly some language, scenes randomly set in a strip joint, and people DO get shot up, but it just feels par for the course for a cop movie. They could easily be made PG-13 and not lose any quality. Nowadays if a movie is going to be an R rated action or comedy I feel like it will lean into that rating hard with lots of violence and naked Asian men jumping out of car trunks.
Clearly though, everything in these movies is eclipsed by the glory of Chris Rock’s hair in the second one.
Other movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):
Fargo – You tell me someone gets put in a wood chipper and I am THERE. The Coen Brothers are really hit and miss with me. The Hudsucker Proxy and True Grit? Really good! Burn After Reading and No Country for Old Men? Not so much. Fargo fell into the “not so much” category for me. The juxtaposition of really banal moments amidst this crime story that gets wildly out of control had a dark humor to it, but overall I just didn’t “get it.” If there was supposed to be a message or some sort of satire, it was beyond me.
Shocker – It would seem Wes Craven was upset that New Line Cinema took Freddy Krueger and ran because this movie feels like a serious retread. Dreams help find the murderer who gains supernatural powers after being killed by the family of some of his victims. The hero’s acting is hilariously wooden and the killer is hamming it up left and right. While this certainly isn’t a good movie by any stretch it wanders into the “so bad it’s good” territory.
Filth – James McAvoy carries this kinetic portrait of a man gunning for a promotion in the police force and aims to eliminate his competition by lying, cheating, framing, and sleeping his way to the top. There is a morbid fascination in seeing his plans come together while we slowly see what tragedies in his past have caused him to be such a caustic and hateful human being. By the end he seems almost a tragic figure. A strange watch, but worthwhile for some crazy visuals and McAvoy’s performance.
Kung Fury – Am I stretching the rules of what constitutes a movie by including this crowdfunded thirty minute YouTube short film? Yes. Is it my project and I can do what I want? Also yes. A Miami beat cop is struck by lightning and bitten by a cobra at the same time, thus given magical kung fu powers which he must use to defeat Hitler. This is an amazing cracked out send up of 80’s movie tropes with an absurdist sense of humor that reminds of me of The Naked Gun and other Zucker brothers movies. It’s only half an hour, go watch it.