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Beverly Hills Cop

There was a time when Eddie Murphy was the single most talented new force in film. Although not my absolute favorite Eddie Murphy film, “Beverly Hills Cop” remains a great example of a film that is absolutely nothing without its star.

As the story goes, “Beverly Hills Cop” wasn’t even supposed to be a comedy. Picture Sylvester Stallone as Axel Foley.

Sly went on to do “Cobra” and the studio brought in Eddie Murphy, saving about $10 million and grossing over $150 million more in box office receipts.

The magic in the movie is Eddie Murphy and the decision to surround him with actors who were either experienced or open to improvisation. Murphy’s performance was amazing.

I wonder how much of Murphy’s dialogue was actually scripted, because scene after scene is carried by Murphy, and by the looks of the actors around him, he is free-lancing.

Judge Reinhold, John Ashton and Bronson Pinchot are excellent with Murphy, never missing a beat. Apparently, many takes hit the cutting room floor due to cast members laughing at Murphy’s ad-libs.

This was not an exercise of devout adherence to a script.

Director Martin Brest didn’t direct many movies, although he seems to have a flair for getting the best out of improvisational actors (directing Al Pacino to an Oscar for “Scent of a Woman”). He gives Murphy all the freedom here and captured him at his best.

Every time I watch this film, and it’s been dozens, I am always wondering what was scripted and what was discovered while the cameras were rolling. In these days with everything planned down to the inflection on each word, it’s great to see another take at filmmaking that comes from a collaborative creative process as it is shot.

It’s clear to see that the spine of the story is more action movie than comedy, but comedy it is and edged out Ghostbusters as the Box Office champion of 1984.

In seeing some of Murphy’s later comedies, one wonders where the magic went.

The Highlight Reel

Murphy’s best blend of scripting, improve and true acting is in the strip club scene. Ignore the dancers for the moment and watch Murphy work. Within a few minutes, he goes from smart-alec party guy to deadly serious policeman noticing something is up, and a great improve as a drunk friend, and into action hero. Ashton and Rienhold play off him perfectly, and the scene tells us all we need to know about Murphy’s character – that for all the joking and smart-mouthing, he is an excellent cop who knows his job.

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