Review: BEVERLY HILLS COP: AXEL F A Fun Throwback

Beverly Hills Cop Axel F, Eddie Murphy
Image via Netflix

It has been 40 years since Eddie Murphy’s fast talking, cross country transplanted police detective Axel Foley first blasted across movie screens in Beverly Hills Cop. Two sequels and a lengthy hiatus later, Murphy is back in the fourth installment of the franchise, Axel F. And yes, there is a little wear around the edges for Murphy and the other returning cast members, but they are still game to deliver a fairly entertaining action-comedy that hits all the expected notes of a Beverly Hills Cop film.

As we catch up with our hero, Axel Foley is still a detective in Detroit, somehow not getting fired for the amount of property damage he has caused over the decades. But he once again finds himself heading west to California when he receives word from his friend Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) that his estranged criminal defender lawyer daughter Jane (Taylour Paige) is representing received a death threat over the case of an alleged cop killer she is defending. By the time Axel gets to Beverly Hills, Billy has disappeared and his other old friend, Taggart (John Ashton), now in charge of the Beverly Hills police force, is being uncooperative in trying to figure out what is going on. Axel soon finds himself paired up with a Beverly Hills detective (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and butting heads with another (Kevin Bacon, with the smarm turned up to 11) while trying to figure out what has happened to Billy and who is would threaten to kill his daughter to keep people from finding out the truth about a cop’s murder. All with the right amount of mayhem that tends to accompany Axel’s trips to Los Angeles.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F walks a thin line between entertaining 1980s action film throwback and nostalgia bait legacy sequel. On one hand you have a film that strictly adhere to the formula that the series operates on – After wrecking havoc on a case in Detroit, Axel gets drawn to Beverly Hills on a case in which he has a personal connection and where he will cause more havoc and property damage. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it seems to be the order of the day and for the most part it’s an approach that works for most of this new film. A pair of early action sequences are scored to two 80s pop hits previously heard in the franchise but whether you regard them as a fun nod to the past films or a cynical attempt to trade on one’s feelings for the old material will depend on the individual.

Legacy sequels often take a stab at acknowledging the passage of time since their predecessor’s heyday and Axel F is no exception. There are the requisite jokes about getting older while still trying to play a young man’s game. The storyline about Axel and Jane working through their family issues feels somewhat slight, but works mostly because we have seen these beats play out before in similar situations so we know that it will work out for them here. Not that any of the Beverly Hills Cop previous movies have been about Axel growing and becoming a better person or a more responsible, by-the-book cop. They’ve always just been a peg on which to hang Murphy cracking wise in the midst of car chases and shootouts. And that’s when Axel F works the best here. Although most likely enhanced with some CGI, the action is fun, thrilling and seemingly rooted in actual laws of physics.

Now it should be noted that I was able to view this film in a manner a different from how a majority will get to see it – in a theater with an audience. As Axel F has been produced by Netflix, it is going directly to the streaming service, bypassing a regular theatrical run as is their usual wont. The service does preview some of its bigger titles for critics in theaters though. I’ll always advocate for the theatrical experience for any film, especially those films whose experience is enhanced by the emotional reactions of the crowd. And Axel F certainly fits that criteria. The original three films grossed over $712 million in their theatrical run, and that’s unadjusted for inflation. It is safe to say that the Beverly Hills Cop films are crowdpleasers and this new installment is no exception. (Well, maybe not the third film so much, as it was bad enough to cause Murphy to hold off on returning to the franchise for thirty years. However the general point stands.) And I feel that people coming to the film may laugh a little harder, feel the impact of some of the gnarlier ways a few villains are dispatched a little stronger and cheer a bit louder in a theater than they might at home on their couch. And while the economics of spending whatever it was that Netflix spent to get the film made while still turning a profit remain somewhat murky to me, bypassing theaters feels like it does Axel F, the audience and perhaps even Netflix itself, a disservice.

Beverly Hills Cop Axel F Eddie Murphy
Image via Netflix
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About Rich Drees 7221 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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