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

Prepare the Heathen’s Stand! By order of purification!

Apostle (2018)
(SPOILERS) Another week, another undercooked Netflix flick from an undeniably talented director. What’s up with their quality control? Do they have any? Are they so set on attracting an embarrassment of creatives, they give them carte blanche, to hell with whether the results are any good or not? Apostle's an ungainly folk-horror mashup of The Wicker Man (most obviously, but without the remotest trace of that screenplay's finesse) and any cult-centric Brit horror movie you’d care to think of (including Ben Wheatley's, himself an exponent of similar influences-on-sleeve filmmaking with Kill List), taking in tropes from Hammer, torture porn, and pagan lore but revealing nothing much that's different or original beyond them.

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…

You can’t just outsource your entire life.

Tully (2018)
(SPOILERS) A major twist is revealed in the last fifteen minutes of Tully, one I'll happily admit not to have seen coming, but it says something about the movie that it failed to affect my misgivings over the picture up to that point either way. About the worst thing you can say about a twist is that it leaves you shrugging.

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

Well, you did take advantage of a drunken sailor.

Tomb Raider (2018)
(SPOILERS) There's evidently an appetite out there for a decent Tomb Raider movie, given that the lousy 2001 incarnation was successful enough to spawn a (lousy) sequel, and that this lousier reboot, scarcely conceivably, may have attracted enough bums on seats to do likewise. If we're going to distinguish between order of demerits, we could characterise the Angelina Jolie movies as both pretty bad; Tomb Raider, in contrast, is unforgivably tedious.

If you want to have a staring contest with me, you will lose.

Phantom Thread (2017)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps surprisingly not the lowest grossing of last year's Best Picture Oscar nominees (that was Call Me by Your Name) but certainly the one with the least buzz as a genuine contender, subjected as Phantom Thread was to a range of views from masterpiece (the critics) to drudge (a fair selection of general viewers). The mixed reaction wasn’t so very far from Paul Thomas Anderson's earlier The Master, and one suspects the nomination was more to do with the golden glow of Daniel Day-Lewis in his first role in half a decade (and last ever, if he's to be believed) than mass Academy rapture with the picture. Which is ironic, as the relatively unknown Vicky Krieps steals the film from under him.

Outstanding. Now, let’s bite off all the heads and pile them up in the corner.

Venom (2018)
(SPOILERS) A 29% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes can't be wrong, can it? To go by the number of one-star reviews Sony’s attempt to kick-start their own shred of the Marvel-verse has received, you’d think it was the new Battlefield Earth, or Highlander II: The Quickening. Fortunately, it's far from that level of ignominy. And while it’s also a considerable distance from showing the polish and assuredness of the official Disney movies, it nevertheless manages to establish its own crudely winning sense of identity.

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 …

Yes, cake is my weakness.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
(SPOILERS) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is good fun, and sometimes, that’s enough. It doesn’t break any new ground, and the establishing act is considerably better than the rather rote plotting and character development that follows, but Jake Kasdan’s semi-sequel more than justifies the decision to return to the stomping ground of the tepid 1995 original, a movie sold on its pixels, and is comfortably able to coast on the selling point of hormonal teenagers embodying grown adults.

This is by some distance Kasdan’s biggest movie, and he benefits considerably from Gyula Pados’s cinematography. Kasdan isn’t, I’d suggest, a natural with action set pieces, and the best sequences are clearly prevized ones he’d have little control over (a helicopter chase, most notably). I’m guessing Pados was brought aboard because of his work on Predators and the Maze Runners (although not the lusher first movie), and he lends the picture a suitably verdant veneer. Wh…

The whole thing should just be your fucking nose!

A Star is Born (2018)
(SPOILERS) A shoe-in for Best Picture Oscar? Perhaps not, since it will have to beat at very least Roma and First Man to claim the prize, but this latest version of A Star is Born still comes laden with more acclaim than the previous three versions put together (and that's with a Best Picture nod for the 1937 original). While the film doesn't quite reach the consistent heights suggested by the majority of critics, who have evacuated their adjectival bowels lavishing it with superlatives, it's undoubtedly a remarkably well-made, stunningly acted piece, and perhaps even more notably, only rarely feels like its succumbing to just how familiar this tale of rise to, and parallel fall from, stardom has become.