by Byron BixlerMy relationship with the Beverly Hills Cop franchise goes like this: The first film is one of my favorite comedies. It was a total surprise — an instant favorite straight out of the gate. It was also the first movie that helped me discover my inexplicable love of ’80s Eddie Murphy films. The sequel wasn’t great, but it was excusable. Helmed by Tony Scott, it copy and pasted the story structure of the first one without much originality, but was engaging enough for a single viewing. Nothing especially solid, but not the worst movie by a long shot.
This, however, is a different story. I was vaguely aware of its reputation as the worst of the trilogy, but I didn’t know just how terrible it was.
Beverly Hills Cop III isn’t just a bad buddy cop movie or a bad Eddie Murphy movie — this is just a godawful movie in general. About 15 minutes into my initial viewing, I started to realize just what I was getting myself into and I wanted out as quickly as possible. Not allowing myself to break my “code” of finishing whatever I start watching, I soldiered on, but I needed a little help. You see, there was just so much unbelievable crap going on at once that I knew I wouldn’t remember it all. I grabbed a notepad and listed every ridiculous moment, line, or plot point…for awhile. When Axel dons a cartoon character’s mascot outfit to infiltrate “Wonder World” (a faux-Disneyland used as a cover by the villains, who counterfeit money below the park) I sat slack-jawed and remained that way for the rest of the film. The note-taking was over. I was in awe of how bad this was and suddenly the details didn’t matter anymore.
Where to begin? I’ll start on the opening scene just because it’s simple. Don’t expect this to be chronological or especially coherent, I don’t have the patience for that. Beverly Hills Cop III opens with a raid on a garage in Detroit where illegal activity is suspected. Axel Foley (Murphy) leads the team of cops and they’re greeted by heavily armed men who secure a truck and then proceed to kill everyone in the garage. It’s gratuitous, it’s over the top and it’s just like the violence in the second movie (which is a bad thing). They have a massively overblown shootout with the cops outside that goes on for far too long as the gunmen spray the side of a car with bullets over and over. They don’t actually hit anyone outside, though. Even when the cops are standing in full view, they just shoot the side of the car. Anyway, this is followed by a chase scene in which Axel pursues the truck. He shoots at the vehicle and the men in the truck shoot back (with machine guns), but they don’t hit Axel a single time despite having perfect angles on him. He crashes. They escape. You get the picture.
Axel Foley should have died several times in this film. He might be standing in the open with nothing but a bench shielding his lower body from two men who have guns trained on him, but somehow he survives. He might give himself up to the bad guys who just showed that they can shoot one of the most recognizable people in the world in public and get away with it (long story), but somehow he isn’t killed by them (WHY NOT JUST SHOOT HIM ON THE SPOT?!). However, the problems with this film go beyond the protagonist repeatedly cheating death.
The screenplay is atrocious. Characters do things that don’t make any sense and there’s no feel for pacing or timing in the story. Axel isn’t like himself. Billy (Judge Reinhold’s lovable detective character) isn’t like himself. Taggert (John Ashton’s dependable curmudgeon) is missing without an explanation (lucky him). Dramatic sequences like a rescue of two kids from a dangling amusement park ride ride overstay their welcome. A love interest is Forced (yes, with a capital ‘F”) into the story. The plot is painfully uninspired and the gags are painfully unfunny — cringeworthy even. Some of the humor is so childish that if it wasn’t for the language, I would think I was watching a PG children’s film (the story is certainly simplistic enough to belong in one). Additionally, many of the comedic dialogue-driven scenes are drawn out way past any acceptable stopping point (I’m looking at you “walking gay stereotype” Serge).
All things considered, Beverly Hills Cop III is an amazingly careless attempt at making a sequel that draws people to the theater based on the title recognition and star alone and then puts no energy into character, comedy, action or plot. All the way down to the cheap soundtrack that constantly repurposes the original theme and loops a new shitty synth tune during the action, the film reeks of laziness. Avoid this if you can, especially if you love the two films that preceded it.