Review: ‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’

It's Like Eddie Murphy Never Left In Funny, Action-Packed Sequel Made For The Fans

Leaning too hard into nostalgia can be tricky. We’ve seen it work quite often, like with the recent revival of Bad Boys, and fail disappointingly as with the latest Indiana Jones. Eddie Murphy has already dredged up the past to fairly decent reviews with Coming 2 America, but now he returns to another of his iconic roles, Detroit cop Axel Foley, in Netflix’s Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, and this time he’s got the formula just right. Providing the R-rated wisecracks, action, familiar characters, and Murphy’s abundant personality that was sorely missing from the terrible Beverly Hills Cop III, the fourth movie leaves you glad that Axel is still on the case.

Right from the start, it’s clear that Axel F is going to play ALL of the hits. “The Heat Is On” scores Axel’s ride through the Detroit streets, where he’s a local legend and a cop that most people love, but others hate because he’s still kindof a jerk. Thirty years older, but not exactly wiser, Axel’s career has never gone anywhere. He’s still a cop on the beat; his marriage ended in an ugly divorce, and his relationship with his daughter Jane (Taylour Paige) is strained.

The film’s biggest action sequence happens right at the beginning, as a Detroit Red Wings game ends in a massive car chase and shootout with millions of dollar in property damage. Uh, hello! This is Detroit, one of the poorest cities in the country. Axel should be thrown out on his ass. Fortunately, Paul Reiser is back as Axel’s former partner Jeffrey Friedman, now the police Captain, who has been covering his ass for years. A major plot point throughout is that Axel is his own worst enemy and it’s due to the assistance of others that he still has a job, or hasn’t been killed by now.

Speaking of which, Axel F keys in on those relationships that are important to Axel. Judge Reinhold and John Ashton return as Billy Rosewood and John Taggert, the latter now the Chief of the Beverly Hills PD.  It’s Billy, still the moral center of the trio, who draws Axel back to Beverly Hills when he uncovers a massive case of police corruption and involves Jane, a criminal defense attorney, putting her in harm’s way. With Axel out of her life, she sees Billy and Taggert as closer than family. Also in the mix is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Detective Sam Abbott, a former military pilot and an ex-boyfriend of Jane’s. When Axel gets back into town, he has some fun trying to figure out whether Jane and Sam have had intercourse.

Director Mark Molloy puts the R-rating to good use with violence that is surprisingly brutal, while the screenplay by Will Beall mixes in plenty of wisecracks and vulgarity to lighten the mood. Beall also recently co-wrote Bad Boys: Ride or Die and the vibe is similar. Axel F plays great whether it’s Murphy holding court or when he’s paired up with a partner, whether it be Paige or Gordon-Levitt.  The tone differs depending on who Murphy is sharing the screen with. Axel and Jane have serious father/daughter issues to work out, which aren’t helped by his self-centered personality. But their conversations sound legit and set Axel on the path to evolving as a character, something that was unexpected for this movie. They could’ve just coasted along and gotten by on brand recognition, but Axel Foley is different at the end of this movie than at the beginning, pleasantly so.

The plot is pretty basic, though, and you can spot each turn long before they actually occur. When Kevin Bacon shows up looking an acting like an absolute dickhead authority figure, you already know the path his character is taking. The villains as a whole are weak, and don’t get enough to make an impression. On the plus side, we get a lot of time with the returning Reinhold and Ashton, while Bronson Pinchot makes a fun extended cameo as Serge.

But Axel F belongs to Murphy, and it’s so refreshing to see him this light-on-his-feet again. He’s quick, hilarious, raunchy, and it just feels so natural to have Murphy back as Axel Foley. Murphy hasn’t been this good in ages, this is the funniest Beverly Hills Cop since the original, and if Axel F is the start of more sequels I’d be all for it.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is streaming now on Netflix.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F
Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-beverly-hills-cop-axel-fLeaning too hard into nostalgia can be tricky. We've seen it work quite often, like with the recent revival of Bad Boys, and fail disappointingly as with the latest Indiana Jones. Eddie Murphy has already dredged up the past to fairly decent reviews with...