Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Third Time's the Harm: "Beverly Hills Cop III" (1994)

Eddie Murphy comes back to the role that made him famous one time too many, giving us a mess of an action film.

Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is back in Detroit, and about to bust an illegal chop shop. Little does he know the place has just been shot up by a bunch of machine gun toting baddies headed by DeWald (Timothy Carhart). In the ensuing melee, Foley's beloved captain is killed, and Foley traces DeWald and the clues to the Disneyland-type Wonder World in California.

Billy (Judge Reinhold) is still in Beverly Hills, and Jon (the funny Hector Elizondo) kind of replaces Billy's now retired partner Taggart from the first two films. We then follow a pretty standard case as Foley uncovers a counterfeiting operation run by DeWald and Sanderson (John Saxon). Luckily, the love interest Janice (the very lovely Theresa Randle) also works security at the park. We even find time to toss in Bronson Pinchot's return as Serge, who pops up (very unlikely) trying to sell a giant weapon. Foley keeps stepping on the toes of federal agent Fulbright (Stephen McHattie), who is trying to nail Sanderson and DeWald on his own. This leads to umpteen shootings and chases, and absolutely no laughs.

Murphy should have quit while he was ahead. "Beverly Hills Cop III" is even worse than Part II, which was pretty lousy to begin with. Director Landis never finds any kind of pacing, as the acting company moves from one shootout to the next. Hey, John, stop putting famous directors in cameos in your films, there is a reason some of them belong behind the camera! They are directors, not actors! Since Axel Foley is not really a character, Murphy could be acting in "48 HRS III," but without Nick Nolte. He grins and makes one liners through everything, but the big counterfeiting case is so boring you will not care if Foley gets the bad guys in the end (and is there any doubt about that happening?).

Harold Faltermeyer's relic theme from the 1980's is played again and again as Murphy and Reinhold try to find the old magic that is not there. The script contains way too many chances for Murphy to improv something funny, but Murphy drops the ball. Elizondo is the only one who makes any jokes funny. The villains are unmemorable, I had to take notes to tell them apart. While the film makers could have stuck it to big corporate amusement parks like Disney World, they took the safe way out.

"Beverly Hills Cop III" was released to no box office in 1994. Let's hope this franchise has been put to rest for good. (*) out of five stars.