Film Review: Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F


Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F
Director: Mark Molloy
Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Productions and Eddie Murphy Productions
Streaming on Netflix 07.03

If you were an adult or a teen in the latter half of the ‘80s, you know that Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop practically defined what was cool in movies and music, with spectacular box office returns and hit soundtrack albums to match. After the success of Top Gun: Maverick in 2022, it was a no-brainer that Eddie Murphy’s signature franchise would get a similar treatment, and while Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F doesn’t soar to those kinds of heights, it’s still an arresting entry in the long-running series.

Detroit Police Detective Axel Foley (Murphy) is a lot older than when audiences first met him in 1984, though he’s still the same loose cannon who gets away with his unorthodox methods because he gets results. When Axel receives a call from his old friend, Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, The Santa Clause), who has quit the police force in Beverly Hills and is now a private investigator, Axel has two reasons to be concerned. The first is that his old friend is in over his head with a dangerous case, and more significantly, so is the public defender that Billy is working with—Axel’s estranged daughter, Jane (Taylour Paige, Zola, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). Axel rushes to Beverly Hills, only to find Rosewood missing and Jane defending Sam Enriquez (Damien Diaz, Hard Miles), a young man whom Rosewood believed was set up as a fall guy in the killing of a cop. When Axel gets shot at while poking around Rosewood’s office, he and Jane both find themselves being carefully scrutinized by BHPD Police Captain Cade Grant (Kevin Bacon, Footloose, Apollo 13), whom they both suspect knows more about the Enriquez case than he’s letting on. As they become embroiled in a mystery involving drug trafficking, they join forces with Jane’s ex-boyfriend, Detective Bobby Abbot (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Inception, Flora and Son), and the three mismatched partners must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is designed primarily to appeal to ‘80s nostalgia enthusiasts, right down to the inclusion of the franchise’s three most iconic songs: The Heat is On, Neutron Dance and Shakedown. It’s a return to form for the series after the major misfire of Beverly Hills Cop III in 1994, and first-time feature director Mark Molloy very capably mixes the styles of the first and second films while updating it to a modern setting. The screenplay by Will Beall (Aquaman, Bad Boys: Ride or Die) and the team of Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten (The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent) stay quite faithful to the characters and tone of the original while going out of their way to ditch the cringe-inducing sexist sensibilities that marred those films, and to make Jane the fist fully-realized female character in the history of the series. While there’s still an emphasis on comedy, the father-daughter dynamic adds a dramatic heft to this movie that is refreshingly new territory, and Axel is forced to grow up and take a hard look at himself in ways that give him a far superior character arc this time around. The action sequences are a lot of fun, with a helicopter chase through the city among the highlights.

Murphy brings his star presence to the proceedings and steps comfortably back into the character, though this is a less glib and hyperactive version of Axel. He’s in his 60s now, and still may not act quite like a responsible adult by the standards of a normal person, but it’s a considerably more grounded and even weary version of the character. Paige is a wonderful addition as Jane, shining in the more dramatic moments and bringing a great new dynamic to this entry. Gordon-Levitt is a welcome addition to any movie, and the oddball buddy-cop dynamic with Murphy is entertaining. Bacon is one of the most reliably unsavory villains in the franchise, and the decision to bring him into the mix was a strong one. While Reinhold doesn’t get a lot to do, it’s good to see him back, along with John Ashton (Midnight Run) as Rosewood’s former partner, John Taggart, who is now the Chief of Police in Beverly Hills. A brief appearance by Bronson Pinchot (Perfect Strangers), returning as the ultra-chic art dealer Serge, is unnecessary and borders on intrusive, though Paul Reiser (Aliens, Mad About You) is a major highlight as Jeffrey Friedman, Axel’s old buddy in Detroit—now his Captain, which ranks as one of the best things about the film.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F isn’t the must-see event that Top Gun: Maverick was, but as a straight-to-Netflix release, it doesn’t have to be. It’s a comic action film that should be familiar fun to many a child of the ‘80s, and meets and even surpasses expectations. Axel F is most certainly a movie that’s geared at letting fans relive the past, but the character relationship at its heart makes it far more palatable than trying to revisit its chauvinistically problematic predecessors.  –Patrick Gibbs

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