Skip to main content

Are you driving with your eyes open? Or are you, like, using "the Force"?


Beverly Hills Cop II
(1987)

I think it’s safe to say that Tony Scott wasn’t the greatest comedy director. Things worked out fairly well when the humour was borne from dialogue intrinsic to the script (Last Boy Scout, True Romance) but an improvised approach didn’t really mesh with an auteur ethic based on how cool the light in each individual shot looks and how many filters and smoke machines are needed.

The audience clearly knew something wasn’t quite right. Beverly Hills Cop was the most successful film of 1984 in the US, grossing $234m (more than half a billion adjusted for inflation); BCII made $80m less than that, and trailed behind Fatal Attraction and Three Men and a Baby for the year (esteemed company!) But swings and balances were operating to some extent, as between the first and second film Murphy also became an international star. Worldwide, the figures evened up. Still, the smell of uninspired cash-in permeated the project. The even more desperate Beverly Hills Cop III, in 1994, came at Murphy’s lowest ebb and the public indifference to it was the final nail in the franchise (despite numerous murmurings that there’d be a IV). Until this year’s attempt at a TV rebirth, that is. Which will feature both Murphy and the alarming cosmetically-altered visage of Judge Reinhold. 

It should have been a surer thing (I’m not saying all concerned wouldn’t have been very happy with the gross, mind). Tony Scott was coming off the back of 1986’s Number One movie, Top Gun. His first film, The Hunger, was an arty lesbian vampire movie that fizzled; the sort of thing, in retrospect, that even his more pretentious brother would have given a wide berth. That he plunged headlong into the most crass examples of shallow ‘80s commercialism (he did, after all, come from commercials) with his next two films can’t help but look like a response to that failure. Top Gun made the navy recruitment people very happy; more to the point, producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (and Paramount) were ecstatic.

They were on a roll back then (well, Bruckheimer’s still doing very well for himself), with Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun making enormous amounts of money. Their loud, flashy movies were synonymous with the cliché of the shallow ‘80s “greed is good” mentality. The soundtrack of BCII is awash with synth tracks of indiscriminate quality, as well as Harold Faltermeyer’s iconic theme (the track Shakedown was a US No.1 and Oscar nominated). The producers make a virtue of the characters visiting strip clubs, and then reinforce the point with a really unnecessary stop-off at the Playboy Mansion (all good publicity for Heff, of course).

Murphy is credited with the story, so he must take some of the blame for its randomness (then again, why should he have been expected to get it all right; it’s crazy to think he was only 26 when BCII was released). He returns to Beverly Hills to track down who is responsible for shooting Captain Bogomil (Ronny Cox) and so sets on the trail of the “Alphabet Crimes” with old cohorts Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Taggart (John Ashton). Of course, as soon as he arrives he happens upon those responsible but still takes frequent comedy detours to fill out the running time. I’m not sure the whole Alphabet Crimes thing makes any sense, even given that these are evidently only-in-a-movie robbers who want to be caught.  Which surely have occurred much sooner, if not for the stop-start approach indulging Eddie’s riffing and highlighting that Scott hadn’t yet got a handle on pacing his films (maybe this one was just beyond repair).

Ironically, the Axel stuff rarely feels particularly inspired. In part this is no doubt because the script gives Murphy too few scenarios to really spark off. The chemistry between Murphy, Ashton and Reinhold is appealing as ever, but the funniest moments (aside from the visit to lawyer Sidney Bernstein) tend to centre on Rosewood’s obsession with guns and his curious past-times (his flat filled with plants, his pet tortoise). Paul Reiser also makes the most of a scene where he poses as Foley’s boss (and Chris Rock has his first film role, playing a valet at the Playboy Mansion). To be fair to Murphy, he comes across as a giving performer, and his reactions to his co-stars moments tend to make them funnier, but he isn’t firing on all cylinders here.

The cast also includes Brigitte Nielsen (posters of her then beau Sylvester Stallone adorn the walls of Rosewood’s flat, including Cobra which she starred in) and thankless bad guy parts for Jürgen Prochnow and Dean Stockwell.

That said, even though this is something of a mess that fails as both an action movie and as a comedy, it’s still enjoyable to revisit “proper” Eddie Murphy, rather than his family movie incarnation of the past fifteen years (his turn in Tower Heist was a welcome, if too-brief, reminder of the quick-fire Murphy of old).

**1/2

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

What we sell are hidden truths. Our territory is the mind. Our merchandise is fear.

The Avengers 5.1: The Fear Merchants
The colour era doesn't get off to such a great start with The Fear Merchants, an Avengers episode content to provide unstinting averageness. About the most notable opinion you’re likely to come away with is that Patrick Cargill rocks some magnificent shades.

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

Do not run a job in a job.

Ocean’s 8 (2018)
(SPOILERS) There’s nothing wrong with the gender-swapped property per se, any more than a reboot, remake or standard sequel exploiting an original’s commercial potential (read: milking it dry). As with those more common instances, however, unless it ekes out its own distinctive territory, gives itself a clear reason to be, it’s only ever going to be greeted with an air of cynicism (whatever the current fashion for proclaiming it valid simply because it's gender swapped may suggest to the contrary).  The Ocean's series was pretty cynical to start with, of course – Soderbergh wanted a sure-fire hit, the rest of the collected stars wanted the kudos of working with Soderbergh on a "classy" crowd pleaser, the whole concept of remaking the '60s movie was fairly lazy, and by the third one there was little reason to be other than smug self-satisfaction – so Ocean's 8 can’t be accused of letting any side down. It also gives itself distinctively – stereo…

There’s still one man out here some place.

Sole Survivor (1970)
(SPOILERS) I’m one for whom Sole Survivor remained a half-remembered, muddled dream of ‘70s television viewing. I see (from this site) the BBC showed it both in 1979 and 1981 but, like many it seems, in my veiled memory it was a black and white picture, probably made in the 1950s and probably turning up on a Saturday afternoon on BBC2. Since no other picture readily fits that bill, and my movie apparition shares the salient plot points, I’ve had to conclude Sole Survivor is indeed the hitherto nameless picture; a TV movie first broadcast by the ABC network in 1970 (a more famous ABC Movie of the Week was Spielberg’s Duel). Survivor may turn out to be no more than a classic of the mind, but it’s nevertheless an effective little piece, one that could quite happily function on the stage and which features several strong performances and a signature last scene that accounts for its haunting reputation.

Directed by TV guy Paul Stanley and written by Guerdon Trueblood (The…

It’s all Bertie Wooster’s fault!

Jeeves and Wooster 3.4: Right Ho, Jeeves  (aka Bertie Takes Gussie's Place at Deverill Hall)
A classic set-up of crossed identities as Bertie pretends to be Gussie and Gussie pretends to be Bertie. The only failing is that the actor pretending to be Gussie isn’t a patch on the original actor pretending to be Gussie. Although, the actress pretending to be Madeline is significantly superior than her predecessor(s).

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…