The Globe and Mail (Canada)
December 12, 1984

Eddie Collars a Winner

Written by Jay Scott

For months, "movie insiders," the soothsayers who say their sooth regularly to Aljean Harmetz, Marilyn Beck, Laurie Deans and the designer mannequins of Entertainment Tonight, have been whispering that the single sure-thing Christmas hit is the new Eddie Murphy comedy Beverly Hills Cop, which opens tomorrow.  They're right.  But not, as it turns out, because Beverly Hills Cop is an Eddie Murphy movie - so was the titanic turkey Best Defense - but because it is a Martin Brest movie, and Brest is a director whose taste is exceeded only by his talent.

That assessment is not meant to detract from Murphy's wonderfully protean performance of Alex Foley, a Detroit detective who travels to Beverly Hills in an attempt to track down the killer of Mikey (James Russo), a disreputable friend: this time around, the occasionally undisciplined comedian is in control of everything from his gummy grin to his luminous skin, and more than matches Robin Williams or Richard Pryor laugh for laugh.  Detective Foley may not be an entirely consistent characterization (any cop this funny would have gone to Hollywood long ago and become Eddie Murphy), but psychological realism is the last thing that needs to be hauled into this coolly commercial comedy.  Complaining that Foley is too amusing and too smart to be doing what he's doing is like pointing out (some people do) that Liza Minnelli is too accomplished a singer to be believable as the third-rate Sally Bowles down at the Cabaret.  In the happy-go- lucky, anything-goes world of fantasy, believability can be an academic bummer.

So it doesn't matter that there's no chance the audience is going to believe a second of the murder mystery premise that more or less animates Daniel Petrie Jr.'s script (Petrie is the son of Petrie Sr., the Canadian director of The Bay Boy) and there's even less chance the audience will care.  Not when the film opens with one of the most indescribably beautiful chase scenes ever filmed, an outlandishly excessive, Spielbergian celebration of machinery and its destruction; not when Murphy cavalierly impersonates a courier with a bouquet and quips, "Flower delivery is my life" not when he  mercilessly Mau Maus a black brother for having been around whites too long; and not when he orders the room service guys at a swank Beverly Hills hotel to send salmon in dill sauce and a Bay shrimp salad to the unmarked car containing the two cops assigned to follow him.

As the two "polite" policemen on Murphy's tail - Beverly Hills cops are presented in the picture as crypto-Canadians: tidy, competent, considerate - Judge Reinhold and John Ashton hold their own with the star, as do Ronny Cox, Stephen Elliott and Gilbert R. Hill (an actual Detroit detective).  One actor, Bronson Pinchot, playing a linguistically surreal art gallery employee whose ethnic origin is anyone's guess, even manages to swipe a scene from the charismatic Murphy, a feat equivalent to extracting a liberal sentiment from Alexander Haig.  (Pinchot's scene, which includes the pricing of art objects and the serving of espresso, is a classic on par with the La Cage Aux Folles lesson in masculinity encompassing toast and John Wayne.)

In Hollywood terms, Beverly Hills Cop harks back to the semi- good old days, to the studio era when stars were not always relied on to fix everything - this is unquestionably a star vehicle, but the star, an employee of his own production company, has been smart enough to surround himself with other, by no means lesser lights.  Murphy has proved to be secure enough to accept the security that only collaboration can provide.

At his age, with his fame and his power, that's practically unprecedented.