This year marks the 35th anniversary of Beverly Hills Cop.
The surprise hit would be the highest grossing R-rated film of all time until it was dethroned in 2003 by The Matrix Reloaded. (Adjusted for inflation, though, it is the third highest-grossing R-rated film of all time behind The Exorcist and The Godfather.) The movie was directed by Martin Brest (who would see film glory with Scent of a Woman and end in shame and disappointment with Gigli) and produced by Don Simpson and action impresario Jerry Bruckheimer.
The story follows wise cracking Eddie Murphy at his Eddie Murphiest in a fish-out-of-water comedy. (You’ll be seeing a lot more of Eddie Murphy soon, by the way, with Dolemite Is My Name on Netflix and the Coming to America sequel coming out next year.) You see, he’s from Detroit. He’s tough and street-smart. What happens when you take him out of his familiar environs and stick him in the frou-frou Beverly Hills? Well, you get a lot of embarrassed looks from Judge Reinhold and John Ashton, two officers assigned to tail Axel Foley (Murphy) as he tracks down the men who killed his friend. I often dream of pulling the movie where Foley stops at a green light, acts friendly to the cops, and then floors it just when the light turns red. Oooooh, we’ll get you next time, Foley!
The movie was also beloved in my hometown because of the opening shots. The majority of the movie takes place in sunny Beverly Hills, but the first part of the movie is hard-working and industrial Detroit, Michigan. It’s not necessarily a flattering portrayal, but it was real and authentic. Later entries would have an audio cameo from Dick Purtan, a radio personality who locals were very familiar with due to his stints on numerous stations (from easy listening to oldies). You didn’t get many movies portraying Detroit in those days, especially when it wasn’t Dallas or Houston standing in for the Motor City.
There are some downsides. I think that the building in the opening scene (the Ransom Gillis house) is in a decent part of town. Don’t hold me to that, though. The building is near the new sports stadiums, and those generally go up in areas where property values are low… and when the movie came out it was unoccupied. However, I did take off-hours classes at an art school a couple of blocks away and I’m pretty sure I passed it a few times in the early to mid 90’s.
Garbage and empty shopping carts strewn about to reinforce that contrast between Detroit and LA. Hence, I do sympathize with Indian critics (especially around the time Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar) feel when it seems like every Western movie about their country is set in the slums. See also: the Philippines in Bourne Legacy.
Hometown pride almost always overrides that, though.
This might be why I give the Transformers movies a pass at times. Detroit is featured prominently, and I can identify the landmarks. In those cases, Detroit is standing in for Los Angeles and Beijing. You can even see the People Mover driving around in the background of Age of Extinction. Those concrete silos that they blow up at the end? I’m pretty sure I know where those used to be.
Today’s prompt (inspired by a similar one from Couch Avocados): what’s your favorite cinematic portrayal of your hometown?