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How the Explosive Beverly Hills Cop Made Eddie Murphy a Generational Comedy Superstar

Stepping into a project that was built for another actor has gone wrong dozens of times in the past. However, Jerry Bruckheimer, Don Simpson, and Martin Brest hit a home run with Beverly Hills Cop. Originally developed as a project for names like Sylvester Stallone and Mickey Rourke, the casting of Eddie Murphy launched the comedic talent into the stratosphere. It was far from a sure thing, but Murphy proved too magnetic to ignore. It’s why Netflix pushed hard to acquire Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, and a huge reason for Murphy’s rise into the mainstream.

Beverly Hills Cop

Eddie Murphy Before Beverly Hills Cop

While Beverly Hills Cop was not Murphy’s first leading role, it paved the way for him as an A-lister. 48 Hours and Trading Places proved he could hold his own against prodigious talents. However, he worked as a pairing or ensemble, not the driving aspect of the comedy. Delirious had also been released by the time he took on Beverly Hills Cop, but even that did not guarantee the level of success Murphy would generate with his franchise starter.

Brest knew that casting Murphy worked on many levels. Brest never ignores Murphy’s position as an influential black comedian. It provided a narrative shift for Axel Foley’s outsider status to drop him into 1980s Los Angeles. Mere years before the LA Riots would have race relationships explode within the city, Beverly Hills Cop could tap into the whiteness of the uber-rich in California. Additionally, Murphy was one of Hollywood’s youngest and brightest stars, having just turned 23 a month before filming. While Murphy had just left SNL in February of 1984, he would return to host in December to further promote Beverly Hills Cop.

The Plot of Beverly Hills Cop

A young cop, Axel Foley (Murphy), runs afoul of his captain and local department. One night, a longtime friend, Mikey (James Russo), invites Axel for a drink. However, gangsters arrive and kill Mikey, Axel pursues the case. It brings him to Beverly Hills, where he reunites with childhood friend Jenny Summers (Lisa Eilbacher). Axel soon finds himself in the crosshairs of a local gangster as the Beverly Hills PD (Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, and Ronny Cox) follow Foley’s every move.

Beverly Hills Cop

Why Murphy is so Good in Beverly Hills Cop

It’s undeniable that Murphy owns Beverly Hills Cop from the word go, partly because of his charisma. He dominates the screen as its central source for comedy, forcing almost every joke to filter through Axel Foley. Not only does this keep him centered within the narrative, but having him play against the tone of the other performers makes Murphy stand out further. His performance style is big and bubbly, allowing him to play a Looney Tunes style against the uptight characters surrounding him. It’s not uncommon to hear the role compared to Bugs Bunny, and frankly, his prankster approach also helps move the plot along.

Additionally, Murphy never wavers in his commitment to the bit. As he chews out a security guard and poses as a Customs Agent, he shines in every moment. He not only makes the other characters believe his routine, but he gets the audience to borderline believe it as well. Murphy’s charm powers the scene and once again helps advance the plot. Very few actors can so thoroughly charm a room like Murphy, and he does it over every scene in Beverly Hills Cop.

Finally, Murphy transforms seemingly simple interactions into comedy gold. Asking for bananas to stick in a car’s tailpipe becomes a moment of vintage slapstick humor. The back-and-forths with the police are hysterical and showcase Foley as a team player. Moments that should not work do, and with one of the great comedians believably playing both the comedic engine and the action hero, Beverly Hills Cop was destined for classic status.

beverly hills cop

In Conclusion

With a stunning performance from Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop grew in popular culture. While Murphy’s comedy provided the foundation, an incredible score, great singles, and a brilliant screenplay all found love. It allowed Beverly Hills Cop to earn a place as the highest-grossing movie of 1984 and the third highest (when adjusted for inflation) of any Rated R movie in history. Beverly Hills Cop was a phenomenon, and we’re very excited to see Murphy return to the iconic character that brought him into the stratosphere.

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