Release Date(s)1984 (December 1, 2020)
Studio(s)Simpson/Bruckheimer Films/Eddie Murphy Productions/Paramount Pictures (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B
Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is a street-wise Detroit police detective, who’s not afraid to bend the rules once in a while to catch the bad guys, an approach that’s gotten him into a bit of hot water with his boss. But when his childhood friend Mikey (James Russo) shows up at his apartment one evening with a bag full of German bearer bonds—and is subsequently shot by a pair of professional hitmen—Axel makes it his business to find Mikey’s killer. This leads him to Beverly Hills, California, where another mutual friend, Jenny Summers (Lisa Eilbacher), had gotten Mikey a job at a warehouse run by Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff), a wealthy businessman who owns the art gallery she manages. When Axel goes to confront him, Maitland’s goons throw him out window. Subsequently arrested for disturbing the peace, Axel becomes the problem of Sergeant John Taggart (John Aston) and Detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) of the Beverly Hills Police Department. Taggart and Rosewood are a pair of straight-arrow cops, who work strictly by-the-book. But Axel isn’t going to let Taggart, Rosewood, or the book stop him from bringing Maitland to justice.
While Eddie Murphy’s time as a regular cast member on Saturday Night Life in the early 1980s put him on the map, and his HBO stand-up comedy special (Delirious) made him infamous, it was the role of Axel Foley that catapulted him to Hollywood stardom. Beverly Hills Cop was an instant hit upon its release into theaters. The film’s plot is simple, and the bad guy is sinister enough to add a bit of narrative momentum. But it’s really Murphy’s charm, charisma, and humor that carries the film. It’s easy to forget, if you haven’t see this film in a while, just how effortlessly good he is here. Murphy fits into this role almost effortlessly and he has wonderful chemistry with his co-stars, particularly Aston and Reinhold. Sure, the film’s pace is a little slower than it would be if it was made today. A glossy soundtrack full of 80s pop hits keep things moving though, including The Pointer Sisters’ Neutron Dance, Glenn Frey’s The Heat Is On, and Harold Faltermeyer’s iconic Axel F theme—which was in near-constant rotation on FM radio back in the day. Points also for the film’s memorable cameos, which include Paul Reiser, Bronson Pinchot, and Damon Wayans. And yes, that is Jonathan Banks as Zack (you might recognize him as Mike Ehrmantraut from TV’s Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul).
Beverly Hills Cop was shot on 35mm photochemical film using Panavision Panaflex cameras and spherical lenses. It was finished on film for an intended theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. For its release on Ultra HD, it appears that Paramount has scanned the original camera negative in native 4K to create a new Digital Intermediate, with color grading for high dynamic range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are included on this disc). The resulting image is very good looking overall, though it’s also a bit uneven. Grain is light to light-moderate at all times, and resolution is much improved over earlier Blu-ray releases (though it should be noted that the January release—reviewed here on The Bits—was mastered from this same 4K scan). In most shots, the detail is crisp and refined, though in others it’s just a bit softer looking. Colors are accurate and vibrant through much of the film, though they occasionally look a little bit desaturated. And while the shadows are often deep and well-detailed, with inky blacks, there are shots from time to time where they look a tad crushed. Don’t get me wrong—this is a strong image and easily the best the film has ever looked at home. But it falls short of the best 4K presentations for films of this vintage.
Primary audio on the Ultra HD disc is presented in an excellent English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix—the same track found on Paramount’s remastered Blu-ray release. Some fans might wonder why there isn’t an Atmos mix here, but the truth is this film really doesn’t need one. The sonic action just isn’t that dynamic. What’s most important is that the music is presented with near-perfect fidelity, and that’s certainly the case here with lossless audio. The mix is tonally full, with excellent low end. The soundstage itself is front-biased and medium-wide, with clear dialogue, and some nice occasions of panning and movement in set pieces (including the opening truck chase through the streets of Detroit, as well as the film’s climactic shootout). The surround channels are used mostly for atmospherics, and music, though the occasional sound effect can be heard as well. Again, this isn’t a dazzler of a 5.1 mix, but it represents this particular film very well. Additional audio options include English Audio Description and Dolby Digital 2.0 in German and French. Optional subtitles include English, English for the Hearing Impaired, German, and French.
Paramount’s 4K disc actually includes the following extras:
- Audio Commentary by director Martin Brest
- Isolated Score by Harold Faltermeyer
- Deleted Scenes (HD – 2 scenes, footage in SD – 3:49 in all)
- Behind the Scenes: 1984 Interviews (HD – 4 segments – 6:49 in all)
- BHC Mixtape ’84 (6 tracks)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:34)
The commentary is workmanlike and interesting, if recycled from previous releases. Beverly Hills Cop was arguably Brest’s biggest commercial hit, though his other films include Going in Style (1979), Midnight Run (1988), and more recently Gigli (2003). It should be noted that optional subtitles are available for this commentary in English, German, and French—a nice touch. The Mixtape feature is just a song-selection option—selecting one of the tracks just takes you to that scene in the film. The other extras are the same as those found on the recent remastered Blu-ray release. Note that the Isolated Score is accessible through the Settings menu.
As it happens, Paramount’s 4K package includes that remastered Blu-ray too, featuring the film in 1080p HD. It offers the same extras listed above, and adds the following additional features:
- Beverly Hills Cop: The Phenomenon Begins (SD – 29:11)
- A Glimpse Inside the Casting Process (SD – 9:37)
- The Music of Beverly Hills (SD – 7:49)
- Location Map (SD – 7 clips – approximately 8 minutes in all)
The featurettes are all vintage promotional clips from the time of the production, while the Location Map is an interactive feature that shows you the various L.A. shooting locations on a map and links to a series of short SD clips featuring the film’s production designer talking about each of them. The package also includes a Digital code on a paper insert. All in all it’s a decent package of bonus content.
Beverly Hills Cop is a film I enjoyed a great deal back in the day, first in the theater and later in repeated viewings on pay cable through the years. So the opportunity to revisit it again in this kind of quality on 4K has been welcome indeed. I’m pleased to report that it holds up very well. This is a good nature action-comedy with its heart in the right place, and Eddie Murphy’s performance is every bit as good as I remembered. If you’re a fan of the film, Paramount’s new 4K release is recommended.
- Bill Hunt