The Taking of Beverly Hills (1991) Blu-ray Review: Try Hard

The ridiculously fun 'Die Hard' knock-off with a mulleted Ken Wahl finds its way to BD thanks to Kino Lorber.
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Any time you depict a filthy rich jock as someone the average moviegoer should be able to sympathize with, you're bound to run into some trouble. In the instance of Sidney J. Furie's 1991 non-hit The Taking of Beverly Hills, we get just that ‒ played to the hilt by former Hollywood heartthrob and Wiseguy star Ken Wahl. Sporting a perfect urban mullet (which perfectly compliments this thick bushy eyebrows) throughout, Wahl plays a football hero nicknamed Boomer. While Boomer's career may have recently ended due to a leg injury (an eerie omen to our lead actor's fate: Wahl effectively retired from film soon after due to a broken neck), he's still a big beefy show-off to bad guys and girls who love big beefy show-offs sportin' urban mullets alike.

Serendipitously, his injury is completely concealable with the help of a huge boost of cortisone. Which comes in quite handy once all of Boomer's hometown, Beverly Hills, falls into the scheming hands of villain Robert Davi (License to Kill, Showgirls) ‒ the very presence of whom makes this guilty pleasure Die Hard knock-off all the more humorous. After a gang of bitter ex-cops stage an elaborate phony toxic chemical spill in the famously ultra-rich community with its own private police department, the whole of the town is rounded up and escorted to one of the least-posh Beverly Hills hotel lobbies I have ever seen (it wasthe early '90s, after all!), giving the bad guys an open window to loot the homes and banks of the city before the National Guard figures out what's going on.

Alas, they forget all about good ol' Boomer, whose own elaborate scheme to "get some" from Davi's would-be girlfriend (played by Harley Jane Kozak) goes south. Teaming up with a weird cop (Matt Frewer, alias Max Headroom) who defects from the bad guys so our clichéd hero will have the proverbial goofy sidekick, Boomer goes on a (mostly) one-man rampage to make Beverly Hills rich again. Amidst the many action sequences brought gloriously to life here are even more action sequences, so if you enjoy seeing automobiles crash, burn, and explode while a musclebound stud in a football jersey miraculously dodges bullets and rockets from fake cops throughout abandoned and exploding streets of Beverly Hills Mexico, your toxic tanker to fun just skidded in.

Achieving that rare form of high-grade camp Renny Harlin ultimately failed to capture in Die Hard 2 the previous year, The Taking of Beverly Hills is the perfect sort or enjoyable, brain-dead fun for action movie acifionados and anyone who automatically claims anything made in the 1990s cool by default (you know who you are). Wasting little time with what little plot there is to throw around, Furie and Co. undoubtedly had a blast blowing buildings and automobiles up when they aren't staging yet another shoot-out sequence, and Wahl's "wiseguy" jock makes for a surprisingly formidible motion picture (anti-)hero. The fact that the entire last quarter of the story seems to have been written by somebody else at the very last minute makes it all the more amusing to bad movie geeks.

Former Fear frontman Lee Ving, Lyman Ward, William Prince, a doomed George Wyner, and an unknown Pamela Anderson are also featured in this laugh-a-minute anti-classic. A special shout-out goes to the great Branscombe Richmond, who co-stars as the "Boss Level Henchman" who chases Wahl around town (including a memorable chase in a SWAT tank!); surpassing Launchpad McQuack's personal record of surviving multiple vehicular impacts in the process. Miami Vice theme composer Jan Hammer (please, don't hurt 'em) provides the very appropriate music score for this silly action movie, which was filmed in Los Angeles and Mexico. Mr. Furie also co-wrote the story and screenplay; Graham Henderson (The Return of the Living Dead, Hoosiers) served as producer.

Originally slated to be released by Orion Pictures, The Taking of Beverly Hills wound up receiving a limited (and disastrous) theatrical screening by Columbia Pictures in late '91. Fortunately, the film found a cult audience on home video the following year, though the video artwork almost always concealed Wahl's fresh urban mullet for some reason. 27 years after its less-than-catapulting theatrical debut, The Taking of Beverly Hills returns to astonish once more via an all-new MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer. Served up in its intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It's a pretty solid presentation throughout, with few distractible elements. The accompanying DTS-HD MA 2.0 English soundtrack (complete with plenty of poorly looped audio) is just as gratifying. No subtitles are included with this release.

Special features for this Kino Lorber Blu-ray release include an audio commentary with historian Howard S. Berger and Daniel Kremer, the author of Sidney J. Furie: Life and Films. Two trailers for the film ‒ both of which were clearly culled from low-res 240p Internet videos ‒ and a handful of other action movies from the era (some of which were also ripped from inferior sources or improperly deinterlaced) wrap up this ridiculously fun picture, which is best viewed in the drunken accompaniment of your wealthiest friends (urban mullets optional).

Recommended for all of the wrong reasons.

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