The heat is back on in this episode of Revisited, as we follow up our last outing with Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop with the inevitable sequel. Part one proved to be such a mammoth hit that not only helped send Eddie Murphy’s career into the stratosphere but it guaranteed that part two wouldn’t be too far away.
If you take a look back at the 1980s, which is something we love to do here at JoBlo, there are many franchises that started in the era and still have longevity or an influence in modern Hollywood. However, when you have a movie as popular as Beverly Hills Cop, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a sequel will match the quality of the first, and it’s been a problem that Hollywood has faced over the years. Just how, exactly, do you keep your inbuilt audience happy while simultaneously bringing something fresh and new to part one, without alienating your audience? The answer is probably in finding a happy medium between familiarity and developing the franchise for newcomers, however, that’s easier said than done.
Obvious examples where the second in the series has matched or perhaps even surpassed the original have to be films such as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Teen Wolf Too. OK, that last one may have been a dig at the hopeless, hairy follow up to the fun Michael J. Fox original but the point is, sequels can be hit, or miss. Teen Wolf Too isn’t alone in being a howling disaster (sorry!) as the 80s and other decades onwards have delivered some prize turkeys from time to time. Staying Alive, Highlander II: The Quickening, The Sting II, Speed 2: Cruise Control (and that movie was literally on cruise control, with its ‘high octane’ thrills of being on a super slow ocean liner. Seriously, what were they thinking?).
I digress, theaforementioned titles are all examples of movies that completely shat on the original. You can perhaps even throw Robocop 2 into the mix while we’re at it, or have I gone too far? Check out our Revisited episode on that movie to see what our deep dive into it brought up, the link is in the video description below. However, what I’m getting at is, if done the right way, sequels can be an awesome way to follow up a classic original, or just a shameless cash-in of an existing IP. But which way did Beverly Hills Cop II go? Stay tuned as we tool-up, Billy Rosewood style, here on Revisited!
SET-UP: Looking back on the year in which Beverly Hills Cop II arrived, 1987, audiences were spoiled by many classic movies that lit up movie theaters. Just consider the following list and if only modern day movie-making had the same level of originality we’d all be rushing to our local cinemas in droves. I’m talking about movies such as; Predator, Robocop, Batteries Not Included, The Witches of Eastwick, The Untouchables, Evil Dead Two, Innerspace, Lethal Weapon, Wall Street, The Lost Boys, The Princess Bride, Dirty Dancing, Full Metal Jacket, were all released in 1987 and that’s just several examples.
So, by the time Beverly Hills Cop II was released in October, audiences had been exposed to a seriously good time at the movies, or were waiting for the next big thing to immerse themselves in for a couple of hours. That’s not to say there’s a glut of originality in modern filmmaking, far from it, but it would be great to see the studios take a punt on some more original ideas, rather than relying on existing franchises or superheroes for audiences to fork out for. The streamers and the studios are trying their best to provide decent entertainment and maybe I’m being too nostalgic, but are there any original movies or franchises from the 2020s we’ll be writing about in thirty years time? Again, let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
After the huge success of the first movie, Paramount Pictures had initially planned on making a TV series based upon the antics of Axel Foley and co. However, leading star Murphy was less than keen on diving head first into a TV project, but would be willing to take a punt on a theatrical sequel. Fresh from the massive success of Top Gun in 1986, the late-great North-East England born director, Tony Scott, was chosen by producers Bruckheimer and Simpson to take Axel Foley back to Beverly Hills. Scott had shown an excellent flair for visual storytelling with the Tom Cruise aerial actioner and his work on The Hunger plus his previous efforts in television and advertising brought him to the attention of the studio and production team.
With everything in place to commence shooting, production began on the movie on November 10th, 1986, and ultimately wrapped on March 25th, 1987. Eddie Murphy’s salary to reprise his role as Axel Foley was reportedly $8 million, which is quite a chunk of the movie’s alleged budget of $27 million. However, what is perhaps not common knowledge to fans of the series is that original director, Martin Brest, was jettisoned by producers Brukheimer and Simpson in favor of Tony Scott, and after the first cut of the movie arrived, it was clear that Scott’s not too subtle but effective style was front and center in terms of action, but it lacked the comedic touch of the first movie. The script shot by Scott didn’t have enough gags for the producers’ liking so, despite being impressed by the action beats, they ordered re-writes and subsequently re-shot several scenes with more humor.
Returning for the sequel, of course, is Eddie Murphy as the wise-cracking cop, Axel Foley as well as detectives Taggart and Rosewood, again played by the irrepressible John Ashton and Judge Reinhold. We also get more of Robocop veteran Ronny Cox, who plays an important part in how the narrative develops. Probably the most notable addition to the cast has to be the Danish amazonian-esque Brigitte Nielsen as Karla Fry, a proper wrong-un and a thorn in the side of Foley throughout the movie.
German-American actor Jurgen Prochnow joins Nielsen on the side of the bad guys as Maxwell Dent, who may be implicated in the “Alphabet Crimes”, a series of mostly high-end-store robberies distinguished by monogrammed envelopes with an alphabetical sequence that the assailants leave at the crime scene. A few other familiar faces return for the sequel with the most notable being Paul Reiser’s Detective Friedman, Gilbert Roland Hill as the awesome Inspector Todd, Chris Rock as a parking valet and Playboy legend himself, Hugh Hefner. Unfortunately we don’t get to see Bronson Pinchot’s Serge in the sequel but such was the characters’ popularity, he wouldn’t stay away from the franchise for long.
As well as the key characters and actors who had to return for part two, another iconic highlight also makes a return in the sequel; Axel F by Harold Faltermeyer. The synth score, that must have helped to sell a billion Yamaha keyboards in the 80s, is such a cool piece of music and so very 80s that it’s now synonymous with the character and the movies. As well as the main theme we also get some ‘interesting’ choices on the soundtrack. The song “Hold On” by Keta Bill plays during the scene in which Foley, Taggart and Rosewood confront Maxime Dent at the Playboy Mansion, while the movie also introduced audiences to George Michael’s controversial hit, “I Want Your Sex”. The song reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and was also a hit internationally, however, it did have the ignominy of winning a Razzie for Worst Song. The Jets hit song, “Cross My Broken Heart” also features on the soundtrack, as does the hugely popular “Shakedown” by Bob Seger. Harold Faltermeyer also provided his song “Bad Guys” for the movie and while the soundtrack didn’t quite hit the heights in the charts as the first movie’s soundtrack, it still provided a suitably upbeat and memorable addition to the movie.
REVIEW: As we’ll touch upon a little later in this retrospective, Beverly Hills Cop II polarized critics when it was first released and while I found it to be a worthy sequel when I first saw it as an impressionable young pup, I’ve always been in two minds about it ever since. This is the perfect opportunity, then, to re-appraise the film and I actually appreciate the movie more now than I think I initially did.
Sure, the shift in tone that the late great Tony Scott brought to the franchise is a little jarring at first, and you can see why they shoe-horned in some extra gags, but that harder edge works in the movie’s favor, for this reviewer at least. Scott has great fun choreographing set pieces, shoot-outs, dangerous chase scenes, so much so that the polished shine he displayed in previous movies, really stands out here. The erotic melodrama of 1983’s The Hunger may seem like a world away from Beverly Hills Cop II, but that visual panache is here and Scott channels as much of the testosterone fuelled mayhem in Top Gun as he can with the action scenes. Also, would anybody have expected uber producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer to NOT bring anything other than just a facsimile of the first movie, but with more bang for your buck in the sequel?
Set three years after the events in Beverly Hills Cop, the sequel sees Eddie Murphy’s streetwise detective Axel Foley return to the city after an assassination attempt on his friend, Captain Andrew Bogomil, played of course by Ronny Cox. The action is set against the backdrop of an endless string of violent smash-and-grab robberies, known as the “Alphabet Crimes”. Detectives Rosewood and Taggart are struggling to solve the case and while they have their number one suspect in their sights, Brigitte Nielsen’s striking hitwoman Karla Fry, their pursuit leads them and Murphy’s Axel Foley, into another life or death mission. The concept is pretty sound and the inclusion of Neilson is a great move. The Danish amazonian had just come off a trio of roles that saw her star on the rise; the fun but flawed Red Sonja in 1985, and a double bill with Sly Stallone in Rocky IV, also from 1985, plus action crime thriller Cobra from 1986. Neilson was married to Sylvester Stallone at the time and there’s a few scenes poking fun at his movies throughout the movie, suggesting some ‘tension’ behind the scenes.
Much like in the first movie, the best parts of the sequel, and arguably the funniest, are the scenes in which Murphy plays off against Reinhold and Ashton’s Rosewood and Taggart. Their chemistry is great and they provide some more iconic and memorable sequences to expand upon what we got in the original. Also, while Brigitte Nielsen and Jurgen Prochnow make great villains,their evil scheme involving a multi-million heist seems to be slightly convoluted and more elaborate than it needs to be. Overall, however, the movie is a worthy sequel to an admittedly stronger part one. It may not have the natural charm and humor that the original seemed to provide effortlessly, but its action and terrific chemistry with the main leads makes this a must watch, ideally as a double-bill with part one.
LEGACY / NOW: Beverly Hills Cop II was one of the most anticipated movies of 1987 and while it didn’t make quite as much as Beverly Hills Cop, it was still a box-office hit upon release. The film debuted at number one at the US box-office and recouped $33 million dollars over its opening weekend, making it the highest weekend opening for not just the year but of all time, at the time. It ultimately grossed almost $154 million in the US and Canada and was the third biggest hit that year, domestically, coming in behind the bunny boiling Fatal Attraction and hit comedy Three Men and a Baby. Its final gross worldwide was $276 million, making it the second highest grossing film of the year, again being beaten by Glenn Close’s fluffy bunny hating thriller, Fatal Attraction.
Critically, the movie was met with a, predictably, mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 46% “rotten” rating, based on 39 reviews, while the site’s critical consensus reads, “Eddie Murphy remains appealing as the wisecracking Axel Foley, but Beverly Hills Cop II doesn’t take him – or the viewer – anywhere new enough to justify a sequel”. The Washington Post were very positive in their appraisal of the movie, calling it, “a sequel that’s as good as the original, if not better.” Roger Ebert did not like the movie, at all, awarding it one star out of four and stated, “What is comedy? That’s a pretty basic question, I know, but Beverly Hills Cop II never thought to ask it.” Star Eddie Murphy probably sums up the movie’s reception better than anybody with an honest assessment, saying that, “Beverly Hills Cop II was probably the most successful mediocre picture in history. It made $250 million worldwide, and it was a half-assed movie. Cop II was basically a rehash of Cop I, but it wasn’t as spontaneous and funny as the original.”
As always, let us know your thoughts on Beverly Hills Cop II in the comments section and keep a further look-out for more from Axel Foley and friends, as we tentatively dive into the much maligned part three. Was it really the worst entry in the franchise or did Murphy and co manage to at least bring some humor and raucous action to the threequel. Serge is back so it can’t be all bad, right? Plus, the poster’s pretty cool, it’s got a rollercoaster on it and everything…Stay tuned to find out movie fans!