Should I Watch..? 'Beverly Hills Cop II' (1987)
What's the big deal?
Beverly Hills Cop II is an action comedy film released in 1987 and, unsurprisingly, is the sequel to the 1984 release Beverly Hills Cop. With most of the main cast returning to reprise their roles, the film is this time directed by action guru Tony Scott and as a result, the film's comedic vibes have been toned down considerably. Despite some mixed reviews on release, the film still became a box office smash although it did take less than its predecessor. While it might entertain those who prefer action to comedy, it is a stylish but shallow retread of the first film and sorely misses Murphy's spontaneous improvising. It also doesn't surprise as much as the first film, given that we know what to expect.
What's it about?
Lt. Bogomil, detective Billy Rosewood and sergeant John Taggart are furiously hunting down a gang responsible for what has been dubbed "the Alphabet crimes" - robberies on high-end stores notable for a monogrammed envelope bearing a letter being left at the scene of the crime. Complicating matters is the new Chief of Police Harold Lutz who is verbally abusive and incompetent. When Rosewood asks the FBI for assistance, Bogomil (who is supervising the investigation) is suspended while Taggart and Rosewood are relegated to traffic duty.
Things then take a dramatic twist when Bogomil is himself shot and left for dead on the street by the Alphabet criminals. Back in Detroit, Axel Foley immediately pulls out of his work upon hearing the news and travels straight to Beverly Hills to rejoin the reluctant Taggart and Rosewood on the case. But Foley's abrasive style of policing still clashes with the more laid-back law enforcement in California but soon, Foley begins to suspect local gun club owner Maxwell Dent and his blonde bombshell sidekick, Karla Fry.
What's to like?
Nostalgia fans will be in hog's heaven here - once the opening notes of Harold Faltermeyer's iconic "Axel F" begins, you know instantly what to expect. The entire film is glossed in 80's style and features several scenes that would come to typify movies of the era: the scene at the Playboy Mansion, the angry police chief (and this film has two for the price of one), the unnecessarily destructive car chase and Eddie Murphy shouting his way in and out of trouble. There's a lot more action as well - the robbery scenes are excellently shot and tense while the shootouts have all the noise you'd expect from the director of Top Gun.
It might not be as smart or funny as the first film but personally, I find it immensely watchable. Due to heavy TV syndication (it seems to be on at least twice a year), it is the one I have watched more than the others and there's something comforting about it. Of course, you might mutter something under your breath about "rose-tinted specs" and you'd be right. But truthfully, there aren't many films that I'll happily sit down and watch again and again. Beverly Hills Cop II is like your favourite old pair of trainers - nobody will think you're the height of fashion but at least you're comfortable. It has something intangible about it, an X factor if you like, that's hard to define and harder still to put your finger on.
- Chris Rock's feature film debut. He appears as a parking valet at the Playboy Mansion and would go on to appear in The Longest Yard, Madagascar and Lethal Weapon 4.
- Director Tony Scott and Brigitte Nielsen had an affair during the filming of this movie.
- Just before the final battle, Rosewood fishes through an arsenal of guns in the trunk of his car. According to Judge Reinhold, the first time he met co-producer Don Simpson, Simpson went to the trunk of his car and showed off his collection of guns.
What's not to like?
I've already hinted that the comedy takes a back seat in this one but Beverly Hills Cop II is in dire need of some of the electric energy Murphy brought to the first film. Here, it feels like his improvisations have been brought into check and carefully rehearsed. This wouldn't be a problem if the film was funny but it isn't, at least not as funny as it should be. The script spends too much time going into the Alphabet crimes and only pauses to allow Murphy a scene or two to chew up. But even here, there's another problem - you don't care about the crimes, the criminals or their motivations. Certainly the movie doesn't make any of this clear as the film lurches from scene to scene like a drunk extra.
Whereas the first film felt unusual and unpredictable, Beverly Hills Cop II feels unengaging and uninteresting. The sole highlight is a brief appearance by Gilbert Gottfried as a hyperactive stockbroker but it's depressing how so many experienced hands got it wrong. Scott was no fool - he knew what looked good on screen and from a visual perspective, the movie does look good. But there's only trace elements of the first film's entertainment - frankly, the joke isn't as funny the second time around.
Should I watch it?
Tough one. It just about secures a 3-star rating due to Scott's direction and the exciting action sequences but in truth, Beverly Hills Cop II is a disappointment. Compared to the first film, it lacks humour and surprise but it's still an enjoyable watch if you switch your brain off. There is also another reason why I gave it a 3-star rating - it is nowhere near as bad as Beverly Hills Cop III...
Great For: 80's theme parties, lovers of synth pop, people who haven't seen the first film
Not So Great For: fans of the first film, viewers born in the 90's or later
What else should I watch?
If it wasn't obvious by now, my advice is to stick with Beverly Hills Cop which is funnier and Murphy doesn't come across so much as an irritating loudmouth as he does here. Alternatively, there is that other action-cop film from the 80's - the Lethal Weapon series has a great double act at its heart, top-notch action sequences and background cast that actually contribute as well.
Other Tony Scott films include Top Gun and my favourite of his, Enemy Of The State which is an underrated political thriller starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman. Tense, plausible and loaded with more cuts than an emo's forearm, it's a world away from his usually noisy spectacles but isn't any worse because of it.
Larry Ferguson, Warren Skaaren *
Release Date (UK)
16th October, 1987
Academy Award Nomination
Best Original Song
Worst Original Song
© 2015 Benjamin Cox