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Familiar faces in `Beverly Hills Cop II'

``Beverly Hills Cop II'' is what Hollywood calls an ``eagerly awaited sequel.'' And no wonder. The original ``Beverly Hills Cop'' has copped a huge $108 million in earnings so far.

What's more, the sequel is produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, and Tony Scott directed it. Mr. Simpson and Mr. Bruckheimer put together the first ``Cop'' and later teamed with Mr. Scott to give us ``Top Gun,'' which shot down $82 million of its own last year - becoming the fourth biggest hit in Paramount Pictures history, not far behind the original ``Cop'' in the No. 2 position.

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If the pairing of these filmmakers and the ``Cop'' format pays off anywhere near as well, plenty more ``eagerly awaited sequels'' will inevitably follow - and studio executives, dollar signs flashing in their eyes, will surely be the eagerest of all.

``Beverly Hills Cop II'' has a few things in common with its eponymous predecessor. Chief among them is Eddie Murphy as hero Axel Foley, a freewheeling and foul-mouthed policeman who leaves his native Detroit to crack a case in California.

This time he's out to avenge the shooting of a pal. The job reunites him with characters from the first movie, including Judge Reinhold as a mostly likable young cop who seems (paradoxically) more gun-crazy with every new scene. Together they solve the shooting and stop a major crime wave - armed with an arsenal of weapons and, just as deadly, a barrage of Eddie Murphy wisecracks that no mere criminal could withstand.

What the new ``Cop'' doesn't have at its disposal is the wit and imagination of Martin Brest, who directed the original opus. While it was no masterpiece of auteur filmmaking, Brest laced it with bits of deft visual storytelling.

``Cop II'' partakes of the slick, shallow, slam-bang style that marked Tony Scott's last hit. This style matches the raucous and vulgar screenplay of ``Cop II,'' which gives both violence and humor the same sledgehammer touch. The combination of caveman dialogue, overcooked action, and anything-for-an-effect performances is maddeningly crude even by cop-movie standards.

Adding to the brawl are racist and sexist undertones - nearly all the good guys are white, and the villains are led by a freakishly evil woman - and a music score of ear-pulverizing disco.

Combine these trendy ingredients, and you have a mind-numbing concoction that might tempt you to flee Murphy and his pals as frantically as the on-screen crooks eventually do.

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Incidentally, the character who sparks the story in the first place - the shot-up California policeman - survives to face another day. Which means another sequel is definitely in store, unless audiences holler ``Enough!'' and head for exits during this one.

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