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  • Writer's pictureSaxon Whitehead

'Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F': Eddie Murphy is Back in Action in Fun, Charming Sequel

The road to get a fourth Beverly Hills Cop movie made has been a long and winding one, with several false starts and evolutions over time. The project first entered development in the mid-90s, shortly after the third installment in the series, Beverly Hills Cop III, was poorly received by critics and audiences alike. In the 30 years since that film, Eddie Murphy has been rather persistent in his quest to return to the character of Axel Foley, with talks of a fourth movie and a TV show cropping up from time to time. In the late 2010s, these talks began to crystallize, ultimately leading to Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. Given how disastrous the third film was, as well as the 30 year gap between entries, one can’t help but wonder if this film is coming too late, or if it is preying on nostalgia. But much like the recent revivals of iconic Jerry Bruckheimer/Don Simpson produced properties like Top Gun and Bad Boys, Axel F exceeds expectations. It sees Murphy step back into his classic persona, but with a dose of maturity that comes with getting older. It also puts the franchise back on track, with a blend of the charm and humor that put it on the map, and some more modern touches that helps bridge the gap between past and present. It certainly has its flaws, but it is incredibly fun and quite funny to boot. If nothing else, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is a good old-fashioned, highly entertaining action-comedy, just like the film that started it all nearly 40 years ago. 

30 years after his last adventure in Beverly Hills, Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is still fighting crime as a detective in the streets of Detroit. One evening, he gets a call from his old friend and former Beverly Hills Police Officer Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) warning him that his estranged daughter Jane (Taylour Paige), a Los Angeles-based defense attorney, is in danger. She has become involved in a case of a young man who has been framed in the murder of an undercover cop, and suspicious figures have begun to threaten her. Axel returns to Beverly Hills to reconnect with Jane and to help solve the case with his trademark wit and rebellious attitude, but soon discovers that there is a larger conspiracy afoot.

In a time where seemingly every beloved IP is being resurrected decades in one way or another, it is easy to get cynical and assume that a film like Axel F is cashing in on nostalgia. While there are references to the previous films, this film doesn’t feel like it is dwelling too much on the past. Sure, it has a lot of familiar faces and features of the original Beverly Hills Cop, but these feel more like seeing an old friend as opposed to just playing the hits. Perhaps it is because it has been so long since the last film in the series and because that particular film was widely disliked by most people (including Eddie Murphy himself), but this film avoids most of the issues that decades later sequels often have. It allows this entry to feel fresh, and for the film to feel all the more charming as a result. It clearly wants to honor what came before it, but doesn’t want to be like “Remember this?” for two hours either.

The key to the film’s success, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t feel overly concerned with nostalgia and refrains from focusing too much on mortality or legacy like most sequels of its kind tend to do. Instead, it is concerned primarily with just being a good Beverly Hills Cop movie. It is easy to understand the want for reboots and sequels of movies from the 80s and 90s to surround themselves with prestige and to deconstruct various aspects of the series or various relevant themes to their respective series, but not every one of them needs this. Much like the first Beverly Hills Cop, Axel F is more focused on being an entertaining action-comedy than anything particularly deep. It has a self-awareness to it that feels so refreshing to see in this day and age, never trying to be something it’s not, while fully acknowledging its strengths and playing to them so well. It’s one of the many reasons why I wish this film could have gotten a theatrical release instead of being a Netflix exclusive. This movie would have played so well in a theater, and is the exact type of movie that we don’t get very often nowadays. It’s a bit of a throwback, and a welcome one at that, which isn’t always guaranteed with sequels like this. Sometimes much delayed sequels can be a let-down, but that is not the case at all with this film. 

That’s not to say the film is perfect, as it does stumble a little here and there. Part of what makes the first and, to a lesser degree, the second Beverly Hills Cop movies work as well as they do is their more economic approach to storytelling. Both films focus more on what is important to the film as a whole, whether that is from a narrative standpoint or an entertainment one. They both seem to know how to keep the viewer hooked, and don’t take any unnecessary detours. Axel F, adopts a similar strategy, but it doesn’t always follow through with it. It mostly stays on track, but does feel a bit stretched out in places. I wouldn’t say that anything in this film needs to be cut, but it does take its time a smidge more compared to the rest of the series. Considering how direct and to the point the other Beverly Hills Cop films are, it feels a bit off when it does this. Thankfully, the film always regains its footing, and these moments are few and far between.

Some of the minor hiccups might be due to director Mark Molloy, who makes his feature debut with this film. While Molloy has some experience in television and commercials, it is a bit surprising that he was tapped to direct this film. The film was originally going to be directed by Adil and Bilall, the duo behind the third and fourth Bad Boys movies, before they left to direct the now canceled Batgirl movie. Molloy is certainly an unlikely replacement, but he seems to have a good understanding of what a Beverly Hills Cop movie should be, and how one would work in 2024. He likely had help from the film’s screenwriters, and Eddie Murphy, of course, but he feels like an instrumental part in bridging the gap between the past and present. Molloy knows how to make things look appealing to viewers, which helps in the film’s action sequences and in giving it a sleeker look compared to its predecessors. His greenness shows in some of the film’s finer points, but overall, he is a much better fit for the film than I would have guessed. 

Of course, the reason that most people will want to watch this film is Eddie Murphy, who is back in classic form as Axel Foley. Murphy hasn’t really been at the level he is here in a while (with the notable exception of his tremendous work in 2019’s Dolemite is my Name), so it is great to see him back in the persona that helped launch him to superstardom. He has the same quick wit and high energy that he did back in the first film, but he also has the mindset of an older man. The two couple together in an interesting way, allowing us to see that Axel has grown older, but he is still the same character we all know and love after all these years. I like that the film and Murphy himself don’t lay the character’s aging on thick, but still allow it to be felt, often in small moments and references. There is a joy that shines through Murphy’s performance, as you can tell he’s so glad to be back in that iconic letterman jacket. If nothing else, this film shows that he’s still got it, and that he was born to play Axel Foley.

The rest of the cast is rounded out by familiar faces and newcomers, all of whom are quite solid. Judge Reinhold and John Ashton return as Billy Rosewood and John Taggart, respectively, and much like Murphy, it is so nice to see them in these roles again. Both of them aren’t in as much of the film compared to the other installments in the series, but both are great as usual, and the developments for both of their characters are interesting and feel earned. Bronson Pinchot and Paul Reiser also show up in smaller roles, and are quite good as well. Pinchot is especially hilarious, reprising his role as Serge from the first and third films with great aplomb. The new faces in the series are welcome additions, and are woven into the world of the series rather nicely. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is really good as Detective Bobby Abbott, a Beverly Hills Police Officer who partners up with Axel. He fills the Judge Reinhold role from the previous films in a way, as he is affable, but also the type of guy you want on your side in a fight, even if he doesn’t look it. Gordon-Levitt plays off Murphy quite well, and gets to have some cool moments in the film’s action sequences. Taylour Paige is an actor I enjoy seeing in films, as she has such a natural presence that draws you into the characters she plays. Her character, Jane, is Axel’s estranged daughter, and she uses her presence to help the viewer empathize with her and to feel the array of feelings she feels towards him. She shoulders a great deal of the emotional weight of the film through the plotline with her and Murphy, but she still gets to have some fun. I really like the scenes where she’s on the case with Axel, as they have such an interesting dynamic. She may play things mostly straight, but she is still quite good throughout the film. Kevin Bacon also shows up as Captain Cade Grant, a police officer who Axel becomes suspicious of. Bacon is good in everything, even if the material is a bit lacking, and this is certainly the case here. The character itself is a bit thinly written, but Bacon is such a pro that he’s able to breathe some life into it. 

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is quite possibly the best film in the series since the first one, and is so much fun to watch. It manages to avoid the pitfalls most sequels that come decades later often experience, and is a highly entertaining action-comedy in its own right. This film reminds viewers that Eddie Murphy is still a star, and that Axel Foley is one of his best characters. The film is far better than I would have ever guessed, and it is both a surprisingly good sequel and a solid blockbuster. It is clear that Murphy wanted a chance to do things right after his horrible experience making Beverly Hills Cop III, but he wanted to make sure everything was right before going forward with it. It may have taken 30 years between the third and fourth Beverly Hills Cop movies, but if that’s what it took to make sure that this film would be a worthy sequel that honors the series and the character of Axel Foley, it was definitely worth it.

Rating: 3.5/5

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