Remember "Beverly Hills Cop"? It was a loose-jointed movie you could have fun at if you wanted to badly enough--manic but energized, its scatter-gun violence somewhat offset by its sassy, engaging characters. "Beverly Hills Cop II" (citywide) isn't a sequel, it's a heart attack.
For unfathomable reasons, producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer have brought in the "Top Gun" team--director Tony Scott, cameraman Jeff Kimball, editors Billy Weber and Chris Lebenzon plus Michael Tronick--presumably to give a light comedy the pulsing sleekness of aerial warfare. Even though they didn't succeed, it's a very peculiar choice.
The first thing to get to you is the music, pounding, pummeling, drubbing you into numbness. The camera work is close up and insistent--you want to back away but you can't. The mainspring has been wound up tightly on all the action: No one drives if he can careen; no one speaks if he can scream. (Fifteen minutes of "Beverly Hills Cop II" and you begin to know how a tenderized flank steak feels.)
The joke of the first movie was Axel Foley, the streetwise kid from Detroit outsmarting the snobs of Beverly Hills, a sucker bet but an amiable one. And the jokes dreamed up for Eddie Murphy so he could run rings around the smart set's police force were brash and funny--the banana in the tailpipe, the put-down of the snooty maitre d'. They were fast-talking, quick-thinking ruses that let him thumb his nose at these overprivileged honkies. Wish fulfillment for everyone.
Eddie Murphy hasn't slowed down; he still runs at 185 words a minute. Some of his routines are spiffy, especially the early ones in Detroit where Axel's an undercover cop trying to nab the wholesaler of fake credit cards. To play this deep undercover role, Axel has a Ferrari, Italian silk threads and enough gold jewelry to drown him if he fell into a fishpond--all on Detroit Police Department requisitions.
The aggressive bravado Axel uses to get himself out of a tight corner is some of the movie's better stuff. Then screenwriters Larry Ferguson and Warren Skaaren, working from a story by Robert D. Wachs and Murphy himself, put this whole situation on ice, the better to get Axel back to Beverly Hills. He's rallying to the aid of Captain Bogomil (again Ronny Cox), who's been elegantly bushwhacked.
This action in California is impenetrable, something about escalating heists planned by rich mastermind Jurgen Prochnow (how the splendid actors have fallen), whose real business is apparently arms dealing. Do not ask to whom or for how much--whole Senate committees couldn't unravel this one.
Prochnow's companions in crime are Dean Stockwell and leggy Brigitte Nielsen, who looks flintier than ever. Again on Murphy's team are Judge Reinhold as the daffy young detective and John Ashton as the older sergeant, separated from his wife to accommodate the maximum number of wife-hating jokes. (The last one, in connection with Nielsen, is really poisonous.) The apoplectic Beverly Hills police chief is Allen Garfield, who seems to have limitless funds of rage to draw from.
The only person for whom Axel comes to heel is Gil Hill, who plays his black superior in Detroit; he's the one man who can out-rap him and call him on his jive. Axel's white buddies are perpetually in awe of him; they spend most of their time slack-jawed and dumbfounded at his skill and inventiveness. It's no wonder--Axel can follow tracks like Tonto and match dirt samples found 20 miles apart with one quick glance.
The writers have been so busy making Axel infallible that he's barely any fun--half the delight of Indiana Jones came from his rare foul-ups, like that reach for the gun that wasn't there. Axel is practically stainless steel, and sleek can border on boring. Murphy avoids this, but only just--self-satisfaction is beginning to replace his raw, cocky self-confidence.
But in California, Axel's opponents aren't worthy of him: haughty Playboy bunnies or icy blonde receptionists at posh gun clubs. There's no one to challenge his outrageous rap.
The dialogue, which had some tang and wit to it before, is squashed and crude, and when the trademark Murphy scatology is mixed with gratuitous nudity, the effect isn't worldly fun but childish crudity. (The movie's R rating comes from its profanity, vulgarity and occasional nudity.)
Of the rest of the cast, only the sunny, weapons-happy Reinhold is allowed to float free a little, to expand in his role, and he becomes one of the movie's real virtues. (His part is a real patchwork, though--one moment he's a man who plays Mozart to his jungle of house plants, the next he's an escalating one-man army.)
There's some attempt at the action of a caper movie, as Nielsen, heading a squad of black-hooded men, captains jewelry store and bank robberies, counting off the seconds for each precision heist. But director Scott never lets us enjoy the planning and execution of these capers, the best part of the ritual. Pushed along by that damnable music, we're dropped into confused, panicky action, never quite sure what's supposed to happen--and before long, not caring.
It's hard to believe that the group who came up with the hard, clean edges of "Top Gun," sleek and unfeeling though it may have been, could make a picture as crude, as muddled, as destructo-Derbyish as this one. If "Beverly Hills Cop II" is its opening salvo, this is going to be a long, smoggy summer.
'BEVERLY HILLS COP II'
A Paramount Pictures release. Producers Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer. Executive producers Robert D. Wachs, Richard Tienken. Director Tony Scott. Screenplay Larry Ferguson, Warren Skaaren. Story Eddie Murphy and Wachs, based on characters created by Danilo Bach and Daniel Petrie Jr. Camera Jeffrey L. Kimball. Production design Ken Davis. Editors Billy Weber, Chris Lebenzon, Michael Tronick. Musical score Harold Faltermeyer. Art director James J. Murakami, set decorator John Anderson. Sound William B. Kaplan. With Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Jurgen Prochnow, Ronny Cox, John Ashton, Brigitte Nielsen, Allen Garfield, Gil Hill.
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.
MPAA-rated: R (persons under 17 must be accompanied by parent or adult guardian).