A fun yet streetwise policing comedy that tells a great story, delivers on action and enough detective schtick to satisfy and shot Eddie Murphy into stardom thanks to one of his better roles and still one to this day.
After an insane introduction to Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy), he sees his old friend in his apartment and they catch up though trouble for the dodgy dealing mate is around the corner leading Foley to try and catch the people behind the crime. This drive takes him to Beverly Hills where he claims to be on vacation to prevent losing his job if he actually makes it clear he’s detecting. The case ramps up in this new wealthier climate and with some help from a friend and some tailing cops he could just crack this case wide open.
The introduction itself is wonderful, a brief yet vibing opening credit sequence to illustrate the plight and poor side of Detroit does the job to ‘The Heat is On’ by Glenn Frey and then we’re straight into some backstreet cigarette deal in the back of a lorry. It has to be said for this period of release that the character intro of Foley is spot on and unexpected as he’s set up to be a criminal and clearly the assumption of his race at the time would have pushed that stereotype further but then on the wind down of the destructive police chase we’re revealed that he is in fact a policeman. The police chase is like I said, wonderful. It takes huge glee in being as mad and high octane as it can get with the cigarette truck smashing into nearly everything and the fun the driver takes by crashing up vehicles feeds into the audience as you can’t help but get wrapped up in the fun energetic style of this scene either.
Also to this film’s massive credit is the writing helped along by Murphy but it’s quick and witty with sharp observational humour about police and crime and the written behaviour of Foley is brilliant. The story ticks along nicely with breakneck pace to keep the tension up along with the humour. Moments of genius lie with bananas, coffee ground suspicions and a homosexual dilemma at a country club. The way that Foley is scripted to keep up the charade of vacationing but being smart to work out who is behind the Detroit crime is pitch perfect and you believe his street smart manner. The detective story itself by not be too groundbreaking but it’s substantial enough that you buy into it and follow it intently for the duration. The only kind of flaw at times in the writing is of the two tailing cops in Taggart and Rosewood who sometimes feel drawn out as stupid bumbling double act material.
It’s a great buddy cop movie that is helped along with the electric sounds of the music. A fantastically 80’s soundtrack lifts certain moments or sequences and as characters drive to the next place or Axel in particularly goes along we hear the frankly all time classic tune from Harold Faltermeyer which has become an iconic piece that works as a character backing for Axel F even if it was brutally slain by a crazy frog. The film with its soundtrack feels cool, just cool and resembles the driving around GTA I used to do with the blaring of Bounce FM aiding my meandering about San Andreas. It sets the time and place of Beverly Hills brilliantly and adds great cultural flavour.
Eddie Murphy is energetic and madcap as a talented cop with potential and he delivers that note of misbehaviour and breaking the rules with ease. That manic wide grin of his is all kinds of infectious as he smiles openly to the tailing cops as he knows they’re there. The act he plays at the country club is great and he starts the slope with comedy and precision leading the confrontation with Victor where you see his darker more motivated side as he tries squaring up to an intimidating villain. It’s an enjoyable ride and you can tell that Murphy too is enjoying playing Axel as he goes about his vacation/detective ways. It truly is one of his finer roles probably.
Considering this film is now 30 years old it still retains freshness and comedy appeal that works in this day and age and that’s incredible. A highly 80’s movie that can still thrive as a watchable smart funny piece of filmmaking today.