Beverly Hills Cop

Saw this at the BFI as part of their 'Black Star' season. Although Eddie Murphy carries the film, was interesting that the role was once intended for Sylvester Stallone, and the script doesn't make many overt references to Murphy's blackness. Only occasionally does Murphy's character nod to it – when he accuses hotel staff of prejudice in order to get a room, and when he's shaming another black cop for playing at being white. In both situations, Murphy is playing mindgames with his mark in order to gain the upper hand. In fact, that's what he does throughout the film. His blackness is just another tool used to overcome the obstacles in his way.

It struck me that the film also contained a faintly homoerotic subtext. Murphy goes to California to avenge the murder of a childhood friend – someone who confesses he loves him before being killed. If it was sexual love, it was probably unrequited (Murphy flirts a bit with the only female character in the film, who becomes a damsel-in-distress at the end). But the relationship is strong enough to provide the motive for Murphy's actions throughout the film. Murphy does pretend to be gay in another scene in order to gain admittance to a private members club. And he has some memorable interactions with 'Serge', a camp employee at an art gallery. But the film's gayness, like its blackness, is understated. It's almost as if too many mentions of racism or AIDS would spoil the fun.

The other interesting thing about the film is its pacing. It kicks off with a very long-winded and expensive car chase, which apart from establishing Murphy's recklessness,i is entirely gratuitous. It goes to show that (like the intros of Bond films) frontloading action sequences is not a new phenomenon. That said, compared to modern action films, the pacing in Beverly Hills Cop turns out to be rather loose – the film lingers on not very important details, sometimes purposefully to frustrate the audience who want to find out what's happening elsewhere. It's hard to imagine getting away with that kind of thing in today's hyper-compressed blockbusters – where missing a stray bit of dialogue renders the plot incomprehensible. Instead Beverly Hills Cop is a film you can drift in and out of without losing your bearings, and it feels longer than its 105 minutes. It gives you a break. I for one found it a welcome reprieve.

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