Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Martin Brest | Beverly Hills Cop

learning how to lie
by Douglas Messerli
Daniel Petrie, Jr. (screenplay, based on a story by Danilo Bach and Daniel Petrie, Jr.), Martin Brest (director) Beverly Hills Cop / 1984
Martin Brest’s 1984 comedy is basically a vehicle for Eddie Murphy’s infectious laugh interrupted by his naughty policeman antics and skits in which mimes various types. It’s a likeable enough film, particularly given the good-boy restraints of the Laurel and Hardy-like team of Beverly Hills cops, Detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Seargent John Taggart (John Aston); yet the more I see this work, the more I realize its true emptiness.
     In fact, there is hardly any meat to it. Viewers easily perceive, almost from the beginning, what is about to happen. Axel Foley—a man born to get into trouble—witnesses the death in his hometown Detroit of one of his best friends, Mickey. Disciplined already for an unauthorized sting of theft of a truck filled with cigarettes, Foley demands a vacation to “secretly” search out the villains, having heard his friend mention he had worked for a gallerist in Beverly Hills.
     So out-of-towner Foley stumbles into the sheik enclave of that Los Angeles-surrounded city, racking up havoc nearly everywhere he goes, from a hip city art gallery to the hallowed halls of a private club, with the well-mannered BH coppers bumbling along after. Before you can even say Rodeo Drive, Foley has stopped them in their tracks—like most such vaudevillian acts, it involves bananas—only to soon after include them in his personal shenanigans.
      It’s clear almost from the get-go that the man behind the murder of his friend is the sophisticated art-dealer Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff), who has employed, in a truly unbelievable coincidence, Foley’s previous friend, Jenny Summers (Lisa Eilbacher) as an assistant. Visiting a local art warehouse Foley discovers—surprise, surprise!—containers topped with coffee grounds to hide the scent of the cocaine beneath it.  Bara bonds are connected, a few of which Mickey had stolen.
      With Taggart and Rosewood on his trail, Foley finally breaks into the house of the evil Maitland, where he encounters a whole force of Maitland’s protective gunmen, the three shooting up havoc before the Beverly Hills police with Lieutenant Andrew Bogomil (Ronny Cox)—a man who goes “strictly by the book”—arrives with a squadron of black-and-whites, only to find that Foley and his fumbling friends have killed the gunman and Maitland, vindicating Foley’s suspicions.
      Several times throughout the movie, the honest Taggart and Rosewood have admitted the truth when questioned, with the fast-talking Foley scolding them for having “fucked up a perfectly good lie.”  This time around, Bogomil himself fabricates a story to his superior, Chief Hubbard (Stephen Elliott), about the chaos spread out before them. The Beverly Hills police have finally learned how to lie.
      In the end, Axel Foley, is literally shepherded out of town. I don’t know if this particular out-of-towner might ever find a permanent home in the Los Angeles this film portrays, but we all knew, even in 1984, that he’d be back. There were two later, far inferior, sequels, where Foley or, at least, Murphy made it clear he was a rebel who had quickly learned to make himself at home in the new world he faced.
Los Angeles, December 17, 2012


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