Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"Beverly Hills Cop II" (1987)

Starring Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold and Jurgen Prochnow
Written by Larry Ferguson and Warren Skaaren
Directed by Tony Scott
Rated R - Violence, language, nudity
Running Time: 100 Minutes

When his friend, Beverly Hills Police Captain Andrew Bogimil (Ronny Cox), is shot, Detroit Police Detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) returns to Beverly Hills to find who is responsible.  Hooking up with his other friends, Detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Sergeant John Taggart (John Ashton) he discovers that Bogimil was investigating a recent rash of crimes committed by someone known as the Alphabet Bandit.

Someone has been robbing banks, jewelry stores and other high-cash targets in alphabetical order and leaving behind coded messages the cops have been unable to crack.  With a new chief who's more interested in politics than in solving the crime, Axel, Billy and Taggart find themselves being stonewalled at every turn.

Following clues left at crime scenes and from Bogimil's notes, Axel begins to unravel a conspiracy involving a high-end gun club, oil executives and gun runners.

Following the success of "Top Gun," Tony Scott followed up with this sequel to Eddie Murphy's blockbuster.  This second film is bigger and slicker; on a technical level, it's a better film than the first, but it suffers from some problems.

Eddie Murphy is given pretty much free reign to riff however he pleases.  While the "con man as cop" schtick worked really well in the first film, and even is mostly successful here, there are a few times where it grates.  There are several points in the film where Murphy accomplishes bigger laughs with a single line or even just a look.  But there are also several times where his rants just seem to run on too long.

The characters in general seem a bit slimmer this time around, with more focus going to the action and on Foley's bizarre antics.  There's a recurring gag involving Rosewood's strange behavior that's never really explained, it just kind of exists.  Reinhold runs with it though, and by the time the film's climax rolls around, his absurd Rambo fixation provides some of the bigger laughs during the shootout.

Likewise, it's difficult to call Taggart's marital problems a "subplot" because we never see his wife, we're just told that she's moved out.  Axel proceeds to make a bunch of jokes about it, and then at the end we're told she's moved back in.  It's the Taggart character who feels the most unnecessary in this film, basically becoming the butt of many jokes including having him trip and fall into a pool and being mistaken for former President Gerald Ford while at a strip club.

Tony Scott directs the action sequences with a surer hand than Martin Brest, who made the first film.  He stages some impressive sequences, including the opening jewelry heist, which has some excellent editing tricks to keep things moving at a certain rhythm.  The chases and shootouts are bigger and more impressive, and Scott knows how keep them interesting.

"Beverly Hills Cop II" is entertaining.  It's bigger and badder than the first, with a greater focus on action, but the characters get the short shrift this time around.  Some of Eddie Murphy's antics grate, but for the most part, he's still an energetic and talented entertainer.