Beverly Hills Cop II/III

Beverly Hills Cop II  *½

Beverly Hills Cop III *½

It should be noted that I had this review written in a draft since before the 4th, which explains the opening. I was so disappointed with the films I put of finishing it until yesterday.

After watching the two really lousy Beverly Hills Cop sequels that followed what I thought was a fun (if a bit overrated) 1984 Eddie Murphy star vehicle that certainly (when packaged with Walter Hill’s 48 Hours from ’82 and the Saturday Night Live era of his young career, not to mention Trading Places…), I need to cleanse the palate. I’m doing something a little different this year around the 4th. Of course, before and after enjoying the usual 4th of July festivities with the fam, I will get in my Twilight Zone fix. But in preparation for the 60s episodes (no plans on which I’ll watch this year, really…), I decided I’d watch some 80s reboot episodes on Monday and then hit Midnight watching a few from the 60s. Sounds like a plan!

Okay, so the BHC sequels. I didn’t even want to dedicate individual reviews to the sequels. They were that lousy to me. To tell you the truth, I didn’t remember Landis’ BHC III being so disappointing. I kind of recall enjoying it. Welp, that wasn’t the case this go-around. In fact, I was watching the BHC films in order Saturday night into early Sunday and had just been so underwhelmed and bummed with the second Tony Scott film that about thirty minutes into the Landis’ sequel I went to bed. I think the second film is a tragic example of “how it all goes horribly wrong” in regards to sequels. I think of three individual things that stood out as positive from Scott’s film that has nothing to do with his direction. The score which is very much Fletch (I realized that right away and it helped such a great deal to get through the film), “Shakedown”, the cool, peppy song from Mr. Segar, and the chemistry of Axel, Taggart, and Billy, the trio reunited. The decision to plop Axel in the middle of this departmental change where the new boss over Taggart and Billy is such a blowhard asshole grated on my nerves to no end. 

Look, I’m a guy that loves car chases, automotive vehicular carnage, gunfights, and noise, but in this film they are seemingly used frequently and throughout to salvage a nothing plot without a good enough villain or Eddie Murphy comedy to help rescue this. Sadly Axel Foley is indeed not as charming or appealing as he was in the previous film, although he retains his smile and laugh. I agree with the critique of Part II that it lacks proper balance of action and laughs. I hated that I just wanted it to end.

I really thought the first film at least never got tiresome to me, even if it didn’t emerge as perhaps the masterpiece I seemed to remember from my youth. I really think it handled the Foley character as well as it could, not allowing him to be as suspect as he does in the second film. Pickpocketing, crashing in the home of a couple away on vacation (he causes the construction company renovating the home to stop work, using chicanery as only he could just so he could stay there for the time he was in Beverly Hills!), getting Taggart and Billy into all kinds of trouble (they tell him over and over that their new boss is out to fire them yet Axel refuses to let them return to traffic duty), and yelling at people (I tried, I really did, to forgive the character of a couple of these exchanges with folks while working the “alphabet case” involving robberies which resulted in Ronnie Cox being shot); Axel Foley just kind assisted in the film’s unfortunate ruination. The robberies that involve our heroes and the alphabet letters left behind kind of result in a whimper of a climactic shootout, not even close in terms of riveting to the previous film. Axel and the chief (Cox) are presented as good fishing buddies at the beginning of the second film, but nothing in the previous film indicated that’d ever be the case. It was as if those involved in the second film failed to even bother watching what made the first film work…and the departmental yelling and abuse (resolved in the expected firing at the end) just kind of gnawed at my guts. Prochnow and Nielsen (as well as the criminal unused and abused Dean Stockwell) as the heavies are so sadly colorless and fail to generate any real heat during their time on screen: seemingly just garden variety villains involved in heists that result in structural damage from machine guns and the customary dead bodies certain to fill up the city morgue. Bring out the body bags!

The third film replaced Taggart with Hector Elizondo. I was glad to see him because he was probably the sole reason I liked Landis’ sequel at all. At this point you could parade as many extras in suits firing machine guns as you want inside a satirized version of Disney World (complete with a figurehead closely resembling Walt) and it just wouldn’t matter. Axel is now as colorless as the villains of the two sequels. No longer is the smile and laugh maintaining any verve or spirit. I think anyone watching just about can tell Murphy didn’t want to be in this film. Landis had commented on his resistance to the material, and I can guess why: because the material fucking sucked. Landis tries to direct the violence and explosions as over-the-top and outrageous. I do think the direction does indicate a level of tongue-in-cheek, with the location quite unusual for Axel engaging gunfire with counterfeiters in this place called Wonder World. The head of the counterfeiters (Timothy Carhart) is in bed with chief of security (John Saxon) at Wonder World and even a DEA agent (Stephen McHattie) and is responsible for the murder of Inspector Todd, Axel’s long-time, and long-suffering, Detroit boss. That is what motivates Axel this go-around—only in the second film did a friend or mentor survive from wounds intended to kill him. Gilbert Hill, as the oft-suffering Detroit Inspector Todd who just can’t seem to rein in Axel, gets his send off in the third film. I think, if anything, he could have been used more for this third film…it could have used all the help it could get. Still, I thought John Ashton was sorely missed as Taggart. Carhart is a smarmy enough antagonist, I guess, but he lacks that certain level of heel the 80s could produce in its villains (well, the second film an exception, sad to say…). McHattie clearly tells us right from his first appearance he’s bad news regardless of how many times he flashes his DEA badge and tells Foley to back off.

Taggart’s missing presence is a bit of a drag but Reinhold remains endearing as ever, in a better position, with a much better office. With Elizondo and Reinhold enduring Murphy’s continuous trips to Wonder World to unearth the counterfeiting station and hold accountable the criminals, it should be a real hoot, but besides a couple giggles that I cop to, the third film just features a lot of noise and not much else. There is Murphy saving kids from a ride, going into superhero mode when the operational controls come under damage, and he evades all types of bullets aimed right for him until the very end when the film could afford to have him gassed and wounded without any concern for further harm.

Landis’ film includes setpieces throughout the park featuring rides like “Alien Invasion” and this prehistoric funhouse with dinosaurs and saber-toothed tigers. Pinchot’s Serge returns, no longer making espressos but making weapons “classy”. Even his exchange with Murphy fails to hit a homerun because there is simply no energy included. I think that is my personal critique of the third film: it never feels like it a legit BHC film. It has Axel Foley in it, but he’s more or less acted by Murphy as bored and uninspired. Not long after BHC III, Murphy took his career into a different direction, aimed more towards families and kids. Ten years after the first film, BHC III seemed to conclude that the Axel Foley character needed to be retired. There was talk of his return, but I think it was perhaps wise to just let sleeping dogs lie. Despite director cameos and some fun faces in the criminal roles, an amusement park to “liven up” the formula, and the modernization of the police station of Beverly Hills; Landis just couldn’t revive a series on life support. The car chase at the beginning was somewhat amusing: Axel takes a car in a chop shop, during a raid that falls apart on him as he drives after the bad guys!