Paramount Catalog Titles! Beverly Hills Cop was the film that cemented Eddie Murphy’s status as a film star, and Le Mans put Steve McQueen in a car for much of its running time. These films have little in common, other than being very manly movies at the end of the day. Both are now on Blu-ray in the best transfers of their home video lives. Check our reviews of both after the jump.
For Eddie Murphy 48 Hrs was the breakthrough role, and though his presence on Saturday Night Live was electrifying, he got paid a shitload of money to appear in Best Defense – a fairly miserable Dudley Moore film to which he was inserted seemingly at random – which was considered a possibly career-ending decision. And though he had two hit films to his credit (also, Trading Places), there was concern he soured his audience. When Beverly Hills Cop came out in December of 1984, it was a make or break for Murphy. Cut to the chase, Beverly Hills Cop made $234 Million dollars, which in today’s dollars equals something over a half a billion.
Murphy stars as Axel Foley, a Detroit cop whose old high school friend Mikey Tandino (James Russo) shows up with some unmarked bonds, and is quickly assassinated. Foley wants to investigate, and so he goes to Mikey’s old job haunts in Beverly Hills, where he is the definition of a fish out of water. He quickly goes to investigate Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff), and quickly susses out that he’s an asshole, so he probably did it. But he gets thrown out a window, so he gets to the BHPD, where he’s followed by Detectives Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and John Taggart (John Ashton).
Though Murphy is allowed to do run wild, what makes this film still work like gangbusters is that it’s anchored to a tight script (the film runs 105 minutes) that actually works as an action film. Though there’s no real mystery, and it has a very black hat approach to the villain (at no point does anyone in the movie think that guy is innocent), the film has Murphy following clues and trying to put together a case. Much of his comedy here is drawn from the scene in 48 Hrs where he pretends to be a cop, but Murphy was still an underdog, and that sense of him pulling one over while still being in control works for the film. It’s too bad the sequels don’t work (both have interesting things, but…), but this was also Murphy at a period where he was still disciplined enough to work hard and deliver. Two years later he was bored and doing The Golden Child. Beverly Hills Cop is also populated with talent actors who come in and do what their good at. Ronny Cox has just enough meat to his role that he makes his Captain seem like he gets it but can only go so far. It works.
In terms of Murphy’s work, it’s hard to put this on the level of his best work; it just misses. Even though 48 Hrs has some bumpiness his performance is that much more fresh, and he’s actually playing a character. Regardless, it’s still a great movie, and top to bottom entertaining. After this he was really funny in Coming to America, The Nutty Professor and Bowfinger. And that’s about it.
Paramount’s Blu-ray offers all of the supplements from the previous DVD releases, and presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Surround. The picture is excellent for what it is (this isn’t a film that was known for its great look), and the soundtrack – while front-heavy – is fine. Extras include a good commentary by Martin Brest, and featurettes “The Phenomenon Begins” (29:11), covers the development of the film (with Sylvester Stallone the film’s budget ballooned to $20 Million!), and it’s huge success, “A Glimpse Inside the Casting Process” (10 min.), and “The Music of Beverly Hills Cop” (8 min). For more interactivity there’s a location map of the Los Angeles locations with minute long interviews with the production designer on each spot, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
Le Mans is one of those films that feels like it was made more by a hobbyist than a director. Until I looked at the IMDb, I assumed that a random person shot a bunch of footage from the race and then decided to build a narrative around it. But director Lee H. Katzin worked heavily in TV so there’s less of an excuse. I’m sure that the film happened partly because of McQueen’s love of racing, but this makes Howard Hawks’s less than great Red Line 7000 look that much better. You’ve got some stories about a recent crash, which circle McQueen’s character – who’s the epitome of cool, but car racing isn’t that cinematic, and so you’ve got the great photography of the racing, and little else to latch on to.
I can’t tell if this is a guy’s guy movie, or if this is just one of those films that linger because of the cult of McQueen, but this doesn’t compare to his best work, and it’s mostly because it feels like an anti-film. Cars crash, life is led, but the main thrust never feels like the people in it. Cars going in circles have led to some great comedies, and one of the best films by Monte Hellman. This is just boring.
Paramount/CBS Film’s Blu-ray is optimal though. The film is presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 7.1 surround. Though on the grainy side of things, the picture looks perfect for its age, and the colors look spot on for a film that’s 40 years old. Extras include a making of (24 min.) hosted by Chad McQueen, and features interviews with the director (who passed on in 2002). Also included is the film’s theatrical trailer.