DirectorMartin Brest/Tony Scott/John Landis
Release Date(s)1984/1987/1994 (January 14, 2020)
Studio(s)Paramount Pictures (Paramount Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: C+
- Overall Grade: C+
Catapulting Eddie Murphy to superstardom, the Beverly Hills Cop series has been a mainstay with movie lovers since it began with the original film, which was Paramount’s biggest money maker in 1984. Two sequels were eventually made with varying degrees of quality and talk of a TV series or a fourth film have been circulating for decades. Despite having a memorable DVD release in the early 2000s, the series has been absent in high definition in the US until now.
Beverly Hills Cop establishes Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) as an intelligent, wisecracking Detroit police officer who doesn’t entirely play by the rules, much to the dismay of his boss, Inspector Todd (Gil Hill). Axel’s old friend Mikey (James Russo) comes to visit after working in Beverly Hills for respected art dealer Victor Maitland (Steve Burkoff), and after Mikey is gunned down by a pair of hit men, Axel heads to Beverly Hills to find them, despite being told to stay out of the investigation. He begins checking up on Maitland, causing havoc in the process and receiving static from Beverly Hills Detectives Taggart (John Ashton), Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), and Lieutenant Bogomil (Ronny Cox) along the way.
Despite the many dated things about it, Beverly Hills Cop has aged quite well. Why it holds up so well is not just because of Eddie Murphy’s towering performance, but also because of how well mounted it is; from its structure to its cinematography, it’s a hallmark of the 80s action era. Everything was given considerable thought, characters and situations not excluded. Axel Foley is set up in his own environment and given excellent motivation for going to Beverly Hills and taking down Victor Maitland with complete disregard for the rules. Not a moment is wasted, and the film can be just as dark and dangerous as it can be funny and easy-going, and Eddie Murphy’s humor feels natural to the situations and not outside of them. Few films are perfect, but Beverly Hills Cop continues to endure as one of the most solid action comedies ever made.
Beverly Hills Cop II picks up with Axel Foley, Taggart, and Rosewood back as old friends, but this time dealing with a more tougher police environment in Beverly Hills. Back in Detroit, Axel is “deep, deep, deep undercover” on a case, but heads to California after Bogomil is shot by the mysterious Karla Fry (Brigitte Nielsen), who along with her cohort Maxwell Dent (Jurgen Prochnow), leaves letters of the alphabet at the scene of their crimes as calling cards. Axel and company jump on the case against the orders of the new Police Chief Harold Lutz (Allen Garfield) to find Bogomil’s shooter who is also behind a rash of robberies all over the city.
Diminishing returns begin with Beverly Hills Cop II, but not all is to be unappreciated. It’s nice to see all of the major characters from the first film (aside from Bronson Pichot as Serge and Lisa Eilbacher as Jenny) back for one more go around. It’s also the slickest of the three films visually, thanks in no small part to Tony Scott’s direction and Jeffrey Kimball’s cinematography. However, the story lacks motivation. Bogomil is shot, but we’re told at the very start that he’s likely to pull through, which lowers the stakes considerably. And throwing in a comically angry and overbearing chief of police who’d rather scream and yell at his officers instead of listen to them doesn’t do itself any favors either. However, it does give Rosewood and Taggart a nice moment at the end, despite being immediately undercut by Murphy’s mugging for the camera. Eddie Murphy also feels much less like the character he created in the first film, freefalling into more and more zaniness that feels forced rather than natural. Despite itself, Beverly Hills Cop II is mostly entertaining, but not quite up to the task of following in the first film’s footsteps with ease.
Beverly Hills Cop III finds Axel back in Detroit attempting to take down a group of car thieves, which inadvertently and tragically leads to the death of his boss Inspector Todd (Gil Hill). Making his shooter and following clues left behind at the scene on the crime, Axel heads back to Beverly Hills to find him. Rosewood, now the head of his own department and partnered with Detective Flint (Hector Elizondo) after Taggart’s retirement, aids Axel in investigating in and around the Wonder World theme park, causing problems for the park’s manager (John Saxon) and head of security Ellis DeWald (Timothy Carhart), the latter of whom Axel recognizes immediately as Todd’s killer. Befriending one of the park’s tour guides Janice (Theresa Randle), Axel discovers a counterfeiting ring within the park, but must find a way to prove it before they get rid of him.
There’s no nice way of saying that Beverly Hills Cop III is easily the weakest film of the series. Most decry the lack of repartee, which Eddie Murphy was consciously attempting to break out of for this sequel, but it’s also not that interesting of a story. John Ashton and Ronny Cox are both out of the picture, leaving the chemistry between Rosewood and Taggart behind, which is an issue unto itself. The film also feels more PG than R at times as there’s hardly any violence or bloodshed. All of the grit seems to be gone and in its place is awkward attempts at comedy with a leading actor who purportedly pushed back against it. Though the film does have a major character death that gives Axel ample motivation to get the bad guy, it’s ultimately an afterthought as so many other things occur in the plot that the focus is lost. Certain sequences, including Axel saving a couple of kids from falling off of a Ferris wheel, are memorable and give him more to do than just crack jokes or humiliate the bad guys as he is wont to do, but Beverly Hills Cop III has the overt feel of a compromised production—because it was.
For Paramount's Blu-ray re-release of the first film and the US Blu-ray debuts of the second and third films, new 4K remasters have been carried out for each and presented on three separate discs—though why they were not released as UHD titles is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they’re being saved for a later date, but in light of Paramount releasing several franchise titles on the format (Mission: Impossible, Transformers), Beverly Hills Cop—one of their most enduring properties despite only containing three entries—is not given the same treatment.
That being said, the new transfers mostly top their 2011 counterparts. All three films were released on Blu-ray in the UK at the same time, and flipping back and forth between those discs and these new ones, there are clear improvements. All three exhibit enhancements in detail, grain refinement, cleanliness, and framing since the previous transfers appear slightly squashed. The first film is the grittiest of the three in terms of its look, and the fresher scan yields much higher levels of detail, lessening the chunkiness of the grain but still retaining its down and dirty appearance. Black levels are much deeper with more shadow detail while the color palette has been tweaked to appear a bit more natural. The first film has never had an abundance of colorful hues, but like all of the films in this set, it no longer dips into a blue-ish haze. Skin tones are also remarkably improved, as is stability and overall brightness.
The second film, the more aggressively stylized of the three, maintains its look as well. The color palette is slightly warmer in certain scenes, particularly outdoors near foliage or on sun-drenched desert landscapes, but doesn’t often look that much different than its predecessor. Like the first film, skin tones are more natural and detail is improved in the shadows. The scenes in the gun club appear much bluer in the background while contrast is dialed up a tad, giving the film a less cloudy look than before. As such, Tony Scott’s and Jeffrey Kimball’s deliberate style for the film has not been compromised, only improved for the format.
The third film, which has a flatter look to it than the previous two films, is slightly less consistent overall. The same improvements in detail, shadow textures, black levels, and contrast are gained, but the color palette is less uniform. While the blue-ish haze is absent, certain scenes, particularly the funeral scene at the beginning, look more aggressively golden and brown than other scenes that take place outdoors. The office interiors of the Beverly Hills Police Department and Wonder World have more prevalent grays and whites, but exteriors with the same type of architecture have less alteration. Skin tones are improved, but some of the hues pop less than they did in the previous transfer. Overall, it’s not a poor upgrade, but aspects of it seem more like steps back instead of forward.
All three films feature audio in English 5.1 DTS-HD. The first film is the lesser of the three in terms of a surround experience and more of a fold-out of the elements without any sweetening. The one aspect of the soundtrack that really kicks is the music and score, both of which are large and in charge. Dialogue is discernable, but sound effects are weak and have little impact, though they do sound natural to the original soundtrack. The second film’s 5.1 mix is much more aggressive when it comes to its sound effects, particularly exchanges of gun fire, car chases, and general destruction. The music also stands out and the dialogue is clear. The third film’s soundtrack is the best of the bunch (and likely had the most money and time poured into it). It’s incredibly active with a variety of sounds heard throughout Wonder World, in addition to the music, score, and other action-oriented effects. Dialogue is crisp and clear as well. It would have been nice to have had the first and second films’ original stereo soundtracks as alternate options, but oh well.
The first film includes the additional audio options English Audio Description; German, Spanish, French, and Italian 2.0 Dolby Digital; and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital. The second film offers the same, minus the description track. The third film offers German, French, and Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital; and Spanish and Japanese 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks. All three films offer multiple subtitle options in English, English SDH, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish. In addition, the first film includes optional subtitles for the audio commentary in English, English SDH, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, and Korean.
BEVERLY HILLS COP (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): A+/A/B+
BEVERLY HILLS COP II (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B/A/A-
BEVERLY HILLS COP III (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C+/A-/A
The following extras are included for the first film only:
- Audio Commentary with Director Martin Brest
- Isolated Score Audio Track
- Deleted Scene: You Might Be on the Right Track (HD – 2:18)
- Deleted Scene: Axel Gets Ready for Beverly Hills (HD – 1:31)
- Behind the Scenes: 1984 Interviews – Axel’s Wild Ride (HD – 0:46)
- Behind the Scenes: 1984 Interviews – Detroit Cops Vs. Beverly Hills Cops (HD – 1:31)
- Behind the Scenes: 1984 Interviews – Eddie’s Impromptu Lines (HD – 2:34)
- Behind the Scenes: 1984 Interviews – Taggart and Rosewood (HD – 1:57)
- Beverly Hills Cop: The Phenomenon Begins (SD – 29:11)
- A Glimpse Inside the Casting Process (SD – 9:37)
- The Music of Beverly Hills Cop (SD – 7:49)
- Location Map: Beverly Hills Police Station (SD – 01:28)
- Location Map: Victor Maitland’s Mansion (SD – 01:45)
- Location Map: The Biltmore (SD – 0:51)
- Location Map: Warehouse (SD – 0:58)
- Location Map: Art Gallery (SD – 01:31)
- Location Map: Harrow Club (SD – 0:40)
- Location Map: Strip Club (SD – 0:28)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 02:33)
- BHC Mixtape ’84
Most of the material is culled from the film’s previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. The audio commentary with Martin Brest is mostly enjoyable as he occasionally sprinkles in bits of interesting information, but falls into the trap of watching the film, leaving too many gaps of silence. The isolated score is included in 5.1 Dolby Digital, which is a new addition, but a shame that a lossless option couldn’t be materialized. The newly-discovered deleted scenes are very brief, but do highlight a section of the film that is glossed over, which is Axel making the decision to go to Beverly Hills after Mikey’s death. There’s more of that here as we see him meet with a mob boss for advice and then pack up his bag and drive away. Again, brief, but nice to have them included. The new interviews are also quite terse, highlighting subjects of discussion from the film’s EPK material (though seeing the entire package would have been better). The vintage featurettes are great as well, but are squashed widescreen presentations when they really should have been pillarboxed. The Location Map featurettes include snippets of interviews with production designer Angelo P. Graham about the film’s shooting locations. BHC Mixtape ’84 is a new feature that allows viewers to watch corresponding scenes to the film’s soundtrack, including The Heat is On, Neutron Dance, New Attitude, Do You Really, Stir it Up, and Nasty Girl. The only thing missing is the photo gallery from the original DVD release.
Unfortunately, Beverly Hills Cop II and Beverly Hills Cop III get the short end of the stick and are completely bare bones, missing all of the nice extras from their original DVD releases, which included the following:
BEVERLY HILLS COP II
- Beverly Hills Cop II: The Phenomenon Continues Featurette (SD – 22:13)
- Vintage Behind the Scenes Featurette (SD – 7:09)
- Deleted Scene with Introduction by Tony Scott (SD – 3:23)
- Shakedown Music Featurette (SD – 5:02)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 2:34)
BEVERLY HILLS COP III
- Beverly Hills Cop III: Triple Axel (SD – 24:55)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 1:56)
In addition to those extras, it would have been nice to have had new audio commentaries for the sequels, still galleries, TV spots, and new interviews. At least something would have been better than nothing, outside of the first film that is. If Paramount could go to the trouble of having someone create a few new extras for the first film, then what kept them from including the vintage material for the other two?
Regardless, it’s just nice to finally have all three films in the Beverly Hills Cop series on Blu-ray in the US. Still, a 4K-UHD release with a better extras package would have made this set a must-own. As is, it only gets a mild recommendation.
– Tim Salmons