‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’ Review: This Supercop Story Is Working

Aaron Neuwirth reviews Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, a return to form for Eddie Murphy's iconic Detroit dectective in this entertaining action-comedy legacy sequel.
User Rating: 7

At this point, legacy sequels to a film or a series arriving after ten years or more have become frequent enough to be their own sub-genre. The variable is obviously quality. For every Top Gun: Maverick or Creed, there is also a Terminator Genisys or Independence Day: Resurgence. If anything, fair or not, being a direct-to-streaming release only takes down my expectations. Eddie Murphy, a comedy legend, struck out with me when it came to Coming 2 America. Having already missed before with his iconic Axel Foley character, would a fourth round with Beverly Hills’ favorite Detroit detective work out? Against the odds, yes, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is a fitting return to form. It may rely on many familiar elements but handles it much more comfortably than a banana in the tailpipe.

Following an action-packed opening that both reminds us this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production (car chases! gun fights!) and that Axel may prefer doing things his own way but can’t keep getting away with his over-the-top antics, we are thrust into the main storyline… which will unquestionably lead to Axel participating in over-the-top antics. Taylour Paige plays Jane Saunders, Axel’s estranged daughter who works as a criminal defense attorney. She has reason to believe a supposed cop-killer may be innocent, and Billy Rosewood (a returning Judge Reinhold) may have the evidence suggesting corruption is afoot. Learning Jane is being threatened for her efforts, Axel returns to Beverly Hills to help uncover the alleged conspiracy.

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Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

I figure it makes sense to be prepared for old references to come about. Whether it’s hearing Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On” as the opening track for the film or the eventual appearances of former supporting co-stars Paul Reiser and Bronson Pinchot (Serge!), it stands to reason that a sequel being distributed by Netflix wants to be part of providing the audience with familiarity. Yes, that can go wrong, and films may test my patience by not knowing how to capitalize on what they have. This was my main issue with Coming 2 America. It felt very lazy in its approach to the return to the Kingdom of Zamunda and all involved (but yes, it has its moments). What works for Beverly Hills Cop is that it’s still, ostensibly, a crime story that happens to be an action-comedy.

No, this film does not rewrite any rules like director Martin Brest’s 1984 blockbuster classic did. The second Axel walks into Chief John Taggart’s (a returning John Ashton) office, a sudden shift in camera angles reveals Kevin Bacon’s obviously crooked Captain Grant, giving me plenty of ideas for what to expect going forward. Even the buddy format follows a familiar path, as we are introduced to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Detective Bobby Abbott, Jane’s ex-boyfriend and a smart cop who’s not immediately ready to fall for Axel’s charms. Do they eventually realize they work better together? That’s not designed to be a big mystery, but it is designed to entertain.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

I mentioned this being a Jerry Bruckheimer production. Beverly Hills Cop III (directed by John Landis) notably wasn’t, and it showed. With this film, while Mark Molloy is making his feature film debut here, Axel F feels like the product (a collaborative one, to be fair) of people who have been doing this long enough to work well with the formula given and wanted to return Beverly Hills Cop to things that worked. This movie may be structured like an 80s cop movie, but it also has the production values of one. Having been filmed in and around Beverly Hills, California, let alone staging action sequences in the area, for a Netflix release not being helmed by an acclaimed auteur, I was surprised how much this felt like some cinematic effort was taking place.

Is this a fancy way of saying Axel F is a big, dumb action movie? Perhaps, though the wild card is still Murphy. I’m not going to say he’s hysterical here like he was as a breakout sensation in the early 80s, but he’s very much game to put the Lions jacket back on and have fun. He’s the central figure of this movie and putting in the work. Whether it’s comedically, in an action-hero sense (although there’s a subtle bit about him not daring to ever run), or even dramatically, Murphy shows he was ready to do this again.

In addition to the film’s crime plotline, the other major development concerns Axel’s relationship with Jane. It’s not the most profound stuff (both characters moved on from each other for reasons), but thanks to the efforts from Murphy and Paige, there’s effective work on display to make the arc land as needed. For a series like Beverly Hills Cop, the status quo never needs much of a shakeup. So, rather than having to dramatically upset where we last left off with these figures based on a multi-faceted series of events, the idea of catching up with them and appreciating their latest adventure means building toward achievable resolutions based on grounded stakes.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

Now, this film is still mostly fun and games. Lorne Balfe’s heavily Harold Faltermeyer-inspired score makes sure to remind us of this. We get scenes of Axel making up characters and lying on the spot to get his way into places where he’s not so welcome (and a couple of fun reversals of these situations). His banter with nearly everyone he encounters is a joy to see. Even the return of Rosewood and Taggart felt more like something I was just happy to take in, as opposed to an obligation.

Given the decades spent trying to develop a fourth Beverly Hills Cop movie, while I was never expecting a film that could re-capture lightning in a bottle or something as stylistically ambitious as Tony Scott’s take with the 1987 sequel, I’m pleased to have been as entertained as I was. I’m not saying we need Trading Places Again or The Nuttiest Professor, but as far as the further tales of Axel Foley go, Murphy’s efforts to bring back a familiar sort of joy that he knows will make audiences smile are infectious. I may not be here doing the Neutron Dance over it, but they do seem to love him in Beverly Hills, and I can still see why.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F will be available to stream on Netflix starting July 3, 2024.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

7
Good
Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Firstshowing.net, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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