Eddie Murphy is the King of Comedy. The man who saved Saturday Night Live and became arguably its biggest star. The first comedian to dominate TV, stage and film. And the 4th highest grossing movie star ever. He's remembered for so many things, some controversial and others adored. But his biggest calling card is 1984's Beverly Hills Cop and his character Axel Foley.
His legend status was already established young when he debuted at age 19 on SNL, rescued it from cancellation by dominating the show with hit characters and sketches every weekend. Then, he embarked on a movie career that surprised everyone with its freshness, quality and popularity. All of this while still an SNL castmember, which led him to become the first SNL castmember to host the show WHILE STILL IN THE CAST.
Having scored a few more successes, he accepted the role of a Sylvester Stallone-abandoned cop movie called Beverly Hills Cop. What could have been a run-of-the-mill action-comedy became a cultural milestone. Internationally, audiences loved Murphy as "Axel Foley" - a tough inner city kid turned police detective out for revenge in the colorful wonderland of Los Angeles. Eddie Murphy blew up the formula of classic comedy vehicles by being uncensored, improvisational, sexy and most of all cool. He was the first cool comedian to break out in Hollywood, doing what Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor couldn't. And he gave Paramount the highest grossing film of 1984.
After BHC, Eddie Murphy coasted on his success making a few classic, a few duds and a lot of in between. He's enjoyed plenty of comebacks (Coming to America, The Nutty Professor, Dr. Doolittle, Life, Shrek, Dreamgirls) and Beverly Hills Cop 2 was an enormous success. But the critical and commercial failure of Beverly Hills Cop 3 created the most doubt in Murphy's box office star power. BHC4 has been in Development Hell for over 20 years now. Could it still soar? Would new audiences care to see it? Could Eddie Murphy ever be that funny and exciting again? And what would it take to be as good or better than the original? Or at least, better than Part 3?The Right Director/Producer Team
As producers, Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer were the golden boys of 1980s Hollywood. And they assembled a perfect relationship by teaming Eddie with Martin Brest, a solid dramatic director who knew how to A. direct dramatic action scenes B. make a gorgeous low-budget film and C. stand back and let Eddie do what he does best. Simpson and Bruckheimer brought on the excellent Tony Scott for BHC2, who was the most cutting-edge commercial director in 1987. Scott revved up the style, action and comedy to insane degrees while still delivering a solid continuation of everything established in the first film. It was full of glam and excess, perfect for the 1980s.
But 1994's BHC3 brough new producers as well as John Landis, the once great comedy director who directed Animal House, The Blues Brothers and Eddie Murphy's ubersuccessful Coming to America. The older and milder Eddie Murphy wanted to take the film in a more serious and dark direction, akin to the James Bond series which was on hiatus at the time. But John Landis wanted to direct a slapstick comedy for children and oldtimers, knowing nothing about action films and wanting to avoid controversy following an unfortunate and fatal accident on the set of The Twilight Zone: The Movie. Landis may have gotten the director's chair out of Murphy's loyalty to him and/or his desperate need of a favor. Either way, it was the wrong choice.
BHC4 needs an able director who not only knows the modern standards for action and comedy in film, but can marry that with the classic flavor of the established series. Brett Ratner has been closely related to the project, having worked with Eddie in Tower Heist and handled the BHC-inspired Rush Hour series. But he's in need of a comeback as well since his Hercules wasn't the smash it was intended to be. And perhaps the job shouldn't go to another of Eddie's friends but to a newer and fresher voice.
The Perfect Cast
BHC has Eddie surrounded by solid performers all around, from his allies to comic cameos to the villains. But what sold audiences was the unlikely pairing of a wiseass black kid with three conservative white police officers in Judge Reinhold, John Ashton and Ronny Cox. Their chemistry was special. It seemed real, the tension as well as the camaraderie. Ronny Cox was barely in Part 2. And Ashton was dropped from Part 3. Enough time has passed that their roles should be filled in a new film. Judge Reinhold could play the small leadership role that Cox originally handled.
But to make things fresh, Eddie should team with someone younger and edgier than he is. Kevin Hart is the most logical choice, as he's "The New Eddie Murphy" to many audiences and he has a friendly rivalry with Eddie in real life, which could play out amazingly on a big screen. Think 21 Jump Street but bigger, blacker and funnier. Also, the series could pass the torch to Hart in a fashion that won't annoy the original fans.
Someone who definitely needs to come back is Bronson Pinchot. His small but iconic role of a flamboyant art dealer named "Serge" is one of the highlights of the first and third films. His improvised comedy is genius and his friendship with Eddie is beautiful to watch. This alone would bring back a lot of older fans who don't even go to theaters anymore, but crave that nostalgia. Pinchot has avoided TV and film for so long and his comeback is overdue. Mad Max: Fury Road was helped in many ways by recasting the same actor who played the original film's villain as the 4th film's villain. This was praised highly by fans and should become a hot trend in these reboots and decade-spanning sequels.
All three of the BHC films center around revenge. Axel Foley loses a close friend to a violent mobster slaughter and must get payback in the city of Los Angeles. What ain't broke don't need fixin' (Eddie could be avenging Reinhold this time and needs the help of Reinhold's partner played by Hart?).
But the classic premise could use a facelift. People's ideas about Hollywood, police, crime, film and America has changed so much over the years. And this is a perfect film to be about that change. We need to see race talked about and police violence and corruption played out in a major motion picture. In a comedy it could make for very risky and brilliant satire.
One thing sorely lacking in the last BHC film was Axel Foley's mischievous detective work, fearless tongue and very capable heroism. He has to have a mission, has to have the balls to save the day and has to do it with a sense of humor and style. This is the perfect opportunity for Eddie to downplay all of the children's film stigma and address haunting Hollywood gossip and maybe look like a dashing action star again. It worked for Lethal Weapon 4 and Die Hard 4, but it can't venture into Terminator 5 territory. All of this needs to be pulled off by a tight script. Apparently, this is Eddie's number 1 concern and why he's put off the sequel for so long. Hopefully, the pieces are falling into place and we can see the finished film get a welcome debut in theaters sometime before the year 2020. Its been 21 years since the last one so there's no rush if it means Hollywood can get it right this time. Its easy, Hollywood.