Before watching the movie:
I’m sure I’ve seen Eddie Murphy in an action movie, but I can’t remember one. Unless Harlem Nights counts as action, and I wouldn’t. So as far as I can recall, this is the first time I’ll really see Eddie Murphy doing “action hero”. It doesn’t seem like a good fit, but I know there were at least two sequels. I could see him doing a straight-up parody, but that’s not what comes to mind here.
After watching the movie:
As a former criminal himself, savvy Detroit police officer Axel Foley goes after results first, and authorization later. When his old friend gets murdered right outside Foley’s apartment, Foley takes the time off to track down the powerful man who ordered the killing to Beverly Hills, where he’ll bring justice for his friend even if he has to run circles around the by-the-book BHPD officers to do it.
This is hardly the first time I’ve seen Eddie Murphy play a very smart character, but it’s always a pleasant surprise. He’s got experience on both sides of the law to use against… both sides of the law. It’s an unusual spin on the standard cop movie that he has to work without the support of his fellow officers from the beginning. Not only does it open the story to stunts designed to lose and confuse the police, it also makes it that much more rewarding to earn his backup later. My only problem with the character is that he doesn’t fit the name “Axel Foley” at all. “Axel” should not be recognized by the English language as a name, and if it must be a name, it seems it should be attached to a meathead type.
Taggart and Rosewood are clearly supposed to be major players. They get the most development out of the local police. They get some of the funniest moments, usually at their expense. But they get so much emphasis that it feels like a hiccup in the story when they’re pulled off Foley’s case and get replaced by some other cops for the better part of a day. They’re very relevant characters who lose their relevance for longer than they should for major supporting characters.
This was billed as an action comedy, and I guess for the 80s, it fits. I didn’t see enough action that I’d class it as an action movie today, but the ante has been significantly raised in the last 29 years. However, I like that there isn’t much action, because it gets out of the way to make room the story and comedy. The kind of spectacle-oriented car crashes and explosions action movie the term makes me think of is much more like junk food. It’s mesmerizing to watch at the time, but there’s nothing to think about later. With this movie, I have a lot of jokes and story developments to look back on.
Watch this movie: as a flawed story but an excellent comedy.
Don’t watch this movie: with small children or their moral guardians. This isn’t Shrek‘s Eddie Murphy.