Reel Rewind: The Golden Child

The Golden Child theatrical poster: Paramount Pictures

Back in 1986 Eddie Murphy, following the success of his stint on Saturday Night Live and films like 48 Hours and Beverly Hills Cop, starred in a little ditty titled The Golden Child.  We’ll be taking a look back at this film that gives you all those 80s nostalgia feels without any substance.

This film was first written as serious action/adventure film with Mel Gibson in mind to play the role that Murphy would take on.  After the Gibson turned down the role, with Eddie Murphy replacing him, the script was rewritten to better suit Murphy’s strengths.

Once Eddie Murphy came on to the project his first choice for Director was George Miller.  Miller would turn down the film because Murphy was four hours late for a meeting they were to have regarding the film.  John Carpenter was then tabbed, but declined and ultimately directorial duties were given to Michael Ritchie.  Carpenter would then direct a similar film in Big Trouble in Little China, casting Victor Wong, James Hong, and Peter Kwong, who all has roles in the Golden Child.

The film also stars Charles Dance who many recognize for his work on Game of Thrones as Tywin Lannister.  The film is Dance’s second feature film role, and he would continue a distinguished career in both Television in film with notable genre roles in Alien 3, Last Action Hero, Underworld: Awakenings, Dracula Untold, and GoT amongst many other credits.  He plays the films main villain Sardo Numspa, and delivers the same menace in this role that oozes out of him when playing Tywin Lannister.

Charlotte Lewis plays  Murphy’s main love interest and guide Kee Nang.  Charlotte Lewis was just 18 at the time of filming, and this would be one a just a few notable films in which Lewis stars.

Lastly  J.L. Reate plays the titular Golden Child.  Reate was only seven years old during the filming of the movie, and although the Golden Child is labeled a him, Reate is actually a girl.  This film would represent her lone billable acting role.

According to rumors Eddie Murphy turned down a role in Star Trek: the Voyage home in order to make this film, although other rumors insist Paramount was hesitant to bring Murphy in one of their major franchises, especially after the success of Beverly Hills Cop.  Murphy would go on to trash the film when promoting Coming To America in 1988, unhappy with the changes made to the original script.  He felt the Original script was much better than what would become the final product.

Eddie Murphy and Charlotte Lewis in The Golden Child: Paramount Pictures

I have Nostalgic feelings for this movie as I remember watching it back in 1986 at the Movie Theater with my dad and brothers.  However nostalgic I am I still must be honest in my assessment of the movie.  Although the movie was a box office success ranking 8th in box office take for 1986 this movie is one of the rare duds for Murphy in the 80s.   The plot of the film is crystal clear, but the story feels incomplete.  We never quite learn the importance of the Golden Child or what will happen if he is indeed killed, and the underlying romance between Chandler Jarrell(Murphy) and Kee Nang(Charlotte Lewis) seems underdeveloped at best, and wholly misplaced.  The movie is not a bad watch, as Eddie Murphy is both funny and charismatic, and saves this movie from being absolutely terrible.  Charles Dance is also good as the villain, but his character too is underdeveloped and never really poses the threat implied.  Lastly the Special effect for the film feel absolutely dated and are almost comical.

In conclusion, if you’ve got a jones for 1980s Eddie Murphy try sticking to Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places or Coming to America.  This film tries to marry Action and Adventure with Comedy and completely fails, and doesn’t fit with either genre.



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