“The Script Pile” is a biweekly column on Splitsider that takes a look at the screenplays for high-profile movie and TV comedies that never made it to the screen.
Eddie Murphy has been trying to get a fourth Beverly Hills Cop movie made since the late ‘90s, and it’s something he and director Brett Ratner are still currently working on. Beverly Hills Cop IV was briefly called off last year as plans to shift the franchise towards a CBS series called Beverly Hills Cop starring Axel Foley’s son, Aaron Foley (played by Brandon T. Jackson, Tropic Thunder) with Murphy producing and playing a recurring role, but when the network passed on the pilot, plans to get another Beverly Hills Cop movie going again were put into motion, with Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy returning to the project.
The script I’m reviewing today is not the current draft of Beverly Hills Cop IV that’s in development, but rather a 2008 draft for a sequel that could have been, called Beverly Hills Cop 2009. Both Murphy and director Brett Ratner were attached to the script, which was written by action movie duo Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (Wanted, 3:10 to Yuma, creators of Chicago Fire).
Brandt and Haas were actually brought on to write Beverly Hills Cop IV in kind of a strange way. Here’s Haas telling Coming Soon what happened:
…Of all the scripts that we worked on, that one is the one that we least sought out … We had written a spec script that Paramount really liked and they called us and said, “What about turning this into Beverly Hills Cop?” We said no and they said, “We’ll buy the script. We’ll turn it into Beverly Hills Cop. We’re going to do it anyway. Maybe you guys spend three weeks on it and at least just make it sound like a Beverly Hills Cop movie?” Rather than have somebody else do it, we thought we’d do that. Then three weeks turned into about nine months and it didn’t go. That one is a little strange.
It’s pretty rare to hear about a script for an original movie being bought and being forcibly transformed into a movie in an existing franchise, but the script to Beverly Hills Cop 2009 doesn’t actually feel as slapped together as it sounds. Reading it, I never would have guessed that it wasn’t written to be a Beverly Hills Cop movie and that it had been its own original story.
In Beverly Hills Cop IV, Axel Foley is still a cop in Detroit who doesn’t like playing by the book. The script opens on a shootout/car chase set piece on the Detroit-Canada border, involving an old sofa, a wheelchair, and a bleeding Puerto Rican guy. After the cold open, Axel learns that his old partner Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), now higher up in the Beverly Hills PD, died falling from a 20-story window in what LAPD is calling a suicide. Having received a phone call from a frightened Rosewood just prior to his death, Axel realizes that Rosewood was killed and travels to the West Coast to attend the funeral and kill the person who killed Rosewood.
Kicking the movie off with Billy Rosewood’s death gives BHC IV a somber tone at the top that’s tough to shake off and that’s unusual for the the franchise. Sure, the original Beverly Hills Cop also started with an old friend of Axel’s being killed and him traveling to LA to find out who did it, but it didn’t begin with the death of a beloved character who the audience has grown acquainted with for three movies already:
Once in LA, Axel starts investigating Rosewood’s death. He learns that, before his fall, Rosewood had been selected by the mayor to lead a joint task force to clean up LAPD corruption. After poking his nose around, Axel is quickly thrown in jail by the LAPD police commissioner, making him more suspicious. The BHPD bails him out but asks him to stop his investigation as the LAPD is powerful and the BHPD doesn’t want to ruffle feathers looking into Rosewood’s death. Axel Foley, of course, refuses to play by the book as he is wont to do.
With Judge Reinhold and John Ashton both only in the script briefly as Rosewood and Taggart (the only returning supporting characters), Axel teams up with Ethan Goodwin, a slobbish cop in his early 20s, who’s working as a “community relations officer” for the BHPD and takes him under his wing:
Goodwin is intended to be a Rosewood surrogate, so much so that the script sloppily finds Axel telling him, “You remind me of Billy” at one point. While he shares Rosewood’s dopey earnestness, Goodwin is a much broader and more buffoonish character than Rosewood ever was:
Axel and Goodwin soon learn that Rosewood was killed by Babcock, a corrupt LAPD cop who’s running an illegal gun distribution operation with a rich 20something Beverly Hills punk named Johnny Kaps, selling said guns to East LA gangs. Rosewood was close to catching Babcock before he was murdered.
Over the course of the story, Axel teaches Goodwin to be a good detective as they butt heads with Babcock and Kaps, culminating in a giant, expensive Rodeo Drive shootout between the LAPD and Axel and Goodwin involving automatic weapons and rocket launchers.
While the ending is a little much, there’s a scene in Griffith Park and an ensuing car chase three-quarters of the way into the script that’s exciting, elaborate, and well-written. Action isn’t really the script’s weakness, as Michael Brandt and Derek Haas are sought-after, accomplished writers of action movies. Comedy is where this version of Beverly Hills Cop IV hits trouble, with a lot of the script lacking the wit of the original Beverly Hills Cop.
Axel’s elaborate, confident lying to get what he wants and manipulate people to help his investigations makes for some of the best moments of the original films, but when it happens here, it just feels like a pale imitation:
And sending Axel Foley to In-N-Out Burger feels a little hokey and off:
Sequels are always tough, especially in the case of the Beverly Hills Cop franchise. The second and third BHC movies were reviled by critics and weren’t massive box office hits like the original, and that’s more due to not being able to pull off the tricky balance of genres that Beverly Hills Cop accomplishes rather than normal sequel woes. The first Beverly Hills Cop juggles comedy, drama, and action so masterfully while still feeling like those elements are part of the same world, and any sequel to it will be judged harshly for not being able to catch lightning in a bottle like the original.
This is just an early draft of Beverly Hills Cop IV, and it likely would have been rewritten and punched up drastically had it made it into production, so it’s a little unfair to judge it as if it was a completed movie. Still, it is an early indication of what this version of Beverly Hills Cop would have looked like and why the movie didn’t get made. “We wrote a draft that we really liked but, for whatever reason, not everyone responded to it,” Haas recalls. “None of the movie scripts were right,” Murphy told Rolling Stone in 2011. “It was trying to force this premise. If you have to force something, you shouldn’t be doing it. It was always a rehash of the old thing. It was always wrong … I did more sequels than anybody. I did my share of sequels for now, anyways.” That was three years ago, and Eddie Murphy is once again working on Beverly Hills Cop IV, so maybe he will end up finding the right script to the story someday.