What If John McClane Had A Mullet & Threw Ninja Stars?

I was only vaguely aware of what The Taking Of Beverly Hills was when I agreed to review it. Over the years I’ve gotten familiar with who Ken Wahl is, even if I’ve seen blessedly little of his big or small screen output. I’d probably read a few lists ranking the greatest Die Hard clones and the film made its way into the outer reaches of my brain. Our own Victor Pryor had also reviewed the title for The Action/Adventure Section here at Cinapse. So when Kino Lorber dropped the film on Blu-ray, it seemed now was the best time to experience it.

And what a way to ring in 2018! (Yeah, I happened to be watching 1991’s The Taking Of Beverly Hills as my neighbors shot off fireworks to ring in 2018… what of it?!). Featuring a gloriously over the top premise, a “buddy cop” angle with Matt Frewer (Max Headroom, The Knick, and literally 132 other IMDb screen credits), and a SWAT tank blowing up mansions throughout Beverly Hills, this film captures four times the excess of Die Hard on a quarter of the budget.

Ken Wahl’s (The Wanderers, TV’s Wiseguy) Boomer Hayes is a pro football quarterback schmoozing with the Beverly Hills elite one minute, and Beverly Hills’ only hope for rescue the next when a virtual army descend on the town to rob it blind. There’s a fundraiser set up at the beginning establishing a few key players such as Robert Davi as the owner of Boomer’s team and the obvious bad guy because come on it’s Robert Davi, Boomer’s plucky love interest Laura (Harley Jane Kozak), and also Ferris Bueller’s Dad (Lyman Ward) as the clueless chief of police. Oh, also the sidekick guy from TV’s Renegade, Branscombe Richmond, shows up as the tank-driving heavy.

A whole mess of former Beverly Hills cops stage an environmental crisis and block off the entire city of Beverly Hills. Frewer gives a stellar monologue at the beginning of the movie laying out the rules of how Beverly Hills works, how rich it is, and how all the blue collar folks (like himself) can’t even afford to live there. It’s just enough information to set the tone and set the ludicrous and highly entertaining plot in motion. Before long, an army of former cops are robbing every house in the town while all the residents have been evacuated. Boomer teams up with Frewer’s Ed Kelvin and they start throwing molotov cocktails at the thieves from stolen Rolls Royce’s. It escalates about that quickly. Boomer thinks he’s the man for the job because… he leads a team down a field. Branscombe Richmond is chasing the guys around with a tank, they’re running all over town creating makeshift weapons, and eventually Boomer is throwing actual ninja stars at bad guys. You know, because he’s a quarterback.

There’s very little the film has to say beyond “Hey, blue collar people sometimes get jealous of rich people” and “Quarterback skills translate directly into action hero skills” and “Beverly Hills is vapid”. Frewer fires off one liners, Wahl’s mullet distracts the viewer at all times, and it’s never anything less than hugely entertaining. This film may never find a wide audience here in 2018 aside from folks like me who love a great Die Hard clone, but man will it continue to earn a spot on those best clone lists now that it’s available in gorgeous high def for a whole new generation of aspiring ninja star throwers.

The Package

The Taking Of Beverly Hills was directed by one Sidney J. Furie, rather late in his career (though he’s still around and who knows what fate might allow). Furie was perhaps best known as the helmer of such classic 1960s cinema as The Ipcress File with Michael Caine and The Appaloosa with Marlon Brando. But he also made some killer stuff like Iron Eagle and Superman IV for Cannon Films. I’d say this is a man who has lived the entire Hollywood experience. And The Taking Of Beverly Hills shows a filmmaker who’s not at all afraid to have a good time. So as a piece of his work, a time stamp of 1991, and a hugely entertaining motion picture right here in 2018, this is an awesome disc to pick up.

There’s a commentary track here from Furie experts Howard S. Berger and Furie biographer Daniel Kremer. I’m glad it’s here, and I’d love to dive a little deeper into Furie’s work than I have personally (I haven’t even seen the 2 huge 1960s films I mentioned above). But this commentary is a tough listen. I only lasted a half hour or so. These guys are like listening to PhD’s when it comes to Furie. I’m watching Ken Wahl toss molotov’s in a football jersey while they’re waxing poetic about Furie’s deepest cuts. It’s a little disorienting.

Fans of the entire subgenre of film that Die Hard inspired should seek out The Taking Of Beverly Hills at their earliest possible convenience. You could do a whole lot worse within the subgenre and now you can own this bad boy in high definition for all of eternity.

And I’m Out.

The Taking Of Beverly Hills hits Blu-ray January 16th, 2018 from Kino Lorber Studio Classics

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