Beverly Hills Cop II

February 28, 2020

Beverly-hills-cop-twoThe sequel to the monster hit Beverly Hills Cop didn’t have to be great to make a tidy piece of money. If ever a bonanza were guaranteed, this is it.

As it happens, Beverly Hills Cop II isn’t great. But it’s good enough to earn its inevitable megahit status honestly. There’s nothing unexpected here, no daring variation from the successful blueprint, but at least it’s a clever enough outing.

Much of the original cast is retained. Eddie Murphy plays Axel Foley, a Detroit cop who wings West again to aid his pals out in Los Angeles. This time, his policeman friend (Ronny Cox) gets seriously wounded during the investigation of a crime wave called the Alphabet killings. Foley and his cohorts (Judge Reinhold and John Ashton) are curtailed by an unsympathetic chief of police (Allen Garfield), so they decide to track down the bad guys on their own.

The trail leads to a sinister East German (Jurgen Prochnow), a flunkie (Dean Stockwell), and an Amazonian trigger woman (Brigitte Nielsen). It’s not giving anything away to reveal this: The movie’s more interested in the fun of the pursuit than in any mystery about who’s guilty.

And, well, it’s reasonably fun. Murphy gets to do more character business, adopting accents and attitudes, and he’s almost unerring in his comic sense. But, like the first film, there are some good laughs for the supporting players, too – from the bumbling chemistry of Reinhold and Ashton to the schtick of comedians Paul Reiser and Gilbert Gottfried.

As well-greased as the machinery is, and as much moolah as this film will make, it’s not an improvement over the original. Some of the looseness of the first film is drained off by director Tony (Top Gun) Scott’s relentlessly controlled frames. His style isn’t really appropriate to Murphy’s improvisational manner, and Eddie’s anarchy seems contained rather than liberated.

The nicest moments are those that have nothing to do with the plot: Murphy idly musing about the sex life of a turtle, some impromptu harmony on the music from The Dating Game, Reinhold’s curious emulation of Rambo – the latter is an inside joke, I guess, since Sylvester Stallone was at one time slated to play Murphy’s role in the original Cop, and Stallone’s wife, Brigitte Nielsen, is the villain here.

Every time the movie threatens to get too mechanical, Murphy steps in and confidently holds court.

First published in the Herald, May 21, 1987

It looks like another of those reviews that got lopped off for space at the end. But Murphy does hold court, without question. Of course the really controversial part of this review is my complaint about Tony Scott’s relentlessly controlled frames. As much as it amazes me, there are critics who feel that T-Scott is not only an underappreciated auteur but a kind of master, a claim which I will respectfully deny, and if I need to be disrespectful, I will. How this movie in particular gets defended I don’t know, but then I haven’t seen it since the press screening.

Night Visitor

February 24, 2011

Night Visitor makes a bid to be the kookiest horror movie of the year, and it may well end up with that distinction. For its first half-hour or so, it’s a straightforward teen horror flick, full of strained adolescent banter and some leering jokes about voyeurism.

In this section, a teen (Derek Rydall) watches intently as his new neighbor moves in. She’s a shapely, extremely friendly blonde (former Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed) who seems to be a call girl. One night while Rydall is peeping into her window, he sees her murdered. The killer is wearing a devil mask. When it falls off, Rydall recognizes the perpetrator; it’s his history teacher!

Obviously, there’s a certain amount of wish-fulfillment going on here, in fantasies of high school teachers as demonic emissaries. At this point, Night Visitor takes a turn for the wacky, as it turns out the teacher (Allen Garfield) and his half-wit brother (Michael J. Pollard) are practicing Satanists. Garfield flounces around their home in a fire-red jogging suit while bossing his brother (“Praise Satan. Now start my kidney pie”). They also kidnap and chain up prostitutes in their basement, before sacrificing them in a room decorated with pentagrams and goats’ heads.

Garfield is a balding, rotund character actor who always brings an offbeat gleam to his work. The elfin Pollard, who gained fame (and a supporting actor Oscar nomination) for Bonnie and Clyde, is also a reliably peculiar performer. In their scenes together, they seem to be making an entirely different movie; blackly humored and subversive.

And the film isn’t even finished throwing curveballs. Arriving halfway through is a burned-out ex-cop (played by Elliott Gould) to help the young heroes prove they’re not just making the whole thing up.

Properly handled, Randal Viscovich’s screenplay might have had some fun possibilities. But Night Visitor is so ineptly and unevenly shot and acted that it’s pretty much a wash. When Garfield and Pollard are on screen, though, the film takes on a crazed grin.

First published in the Herald, May 1989

The cast also includes Henry Gibson and Richard Roundtree—well, sure it does, it’s that kind of movie. The IMDb entry on screenwriter Viscovich gives this movie as his sole credit, but under the “Trivia” section it says, “Mentor – Howard Hawks.” And I suppose we will never know more than that.