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Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F review: a blast of summer fun

Eddie Murphy holds his hands up in front of a police officer in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.
Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F
“Netflix's Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is a refreshingly carefree blockbuster and a testament to Eddie Murphy's enduring star power.”
  • Eddie Murphy's commanding, charismatic return as Axel Foley
  • Mark Molloy's confident, capable direction
  • A consistently funny screenplay
  • A forgettable villain
  • A few ham-fisted emotional moments
  • One unnecessary cameo that falls flat

In recent years, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the big-screen heroes of the ’80s and ’90s come back older and less invulnerable than before. Such a trend is the inevitable end result of Hollywood becoming increasingly reliant on its existing franchises. While some films, like Top Gun: Maverick and Ryan Coogler’s Creed, have managed to bring beloved movie characters back to great results, though, others — like last year’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny — have failed to add anything truly new to their characters’ stories and previous adventures. Many of these legacy sequels have felt as tired as the middle-aged heroes they refuse to let retire, and that very well could have been the case with Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.

The new, fourth installment in one of Hollywood’s best-ever action-comedy franchises has been in development for years with everyone from Brett Ratner to Bad Boys: Ride or Die directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah attached to it at one point or another. By the time Netflix and commercial director Mark Molloy had become involved, it seemed like the project had already become overworked and saddled with the baggage of all the years that preceded its production. It is, therefore, one of the biggest surprises of the year so far that Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is anything but stale or overloaded. The film is, instead, just as much fun as you’d hope and lighter on its feet than it should be.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Eddie Murphy look at each other in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F finds its eponymous protagonist, Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy), still causing trouble on the streets of Detroit by routinely taking down criminals in the loudest, most destructive ways possible. He hasn’t lost his passion for high-speed pursuits or gunfights in the time since we last saw him, but the forced retirement of his longtime boss and protector within the Detroit Police Department, Jeffrey Friedman (a returning Paul Reiser), makes it clear that the world isn’t the same as it was 30 years ago. That reality is only made clearer, if not necessarily to Murphy’s stubborn Axel, when he’s forced to return to Beverly Hills to help his estranged, grown-up daughter, Jane (Taylour Paige), uncover the hidden truth of a dangerous case involving the death of an undercover cop.

The conspiracy at the center of Jane’s case isn’t particularly complex, but Will Beall, Tom Gormican, and Kevin Etten’s screenplay wisely doesn’t draw out Axel F‘s mysteries longer than it should. Instead, the film relies on some good old-fashioned police incompetence to justify its 115 minute runtime and, in doing so, gives Murphy’s rule-breaking crusader the chance to stand out even further from most of his scene partners. These include a few familiar faces, like Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), now a private detective, and John Taggart (John Ashton), who has risen up the ranks to become the chief of the Beverly Hills Police Department when we meet him again. Tagging along for the ride are also a number of new allies and foes for Axel to contend with, including Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a Beverly Hills police detective and Jane’s former boyfriend, and Cade Grant (Kevin Bacon), a cocky L.A. police captain.

Murphy has electric chemistry with all of his co-stars, which makes otherwise forgettable characters like Gordon-Levitt’s Bobby pop off the screen more. He and Paige, in particular, get the chance to trade more than a few memorable jokes and barbs during their drives around Los Angeles together. Their comedic banter makes it easier to digest some of the exposition-heavy lines they’re forced to exchange, as well as the ham-fisted, therapy-driven moments of emotional dialogue that drag down what should be far messier arguments. Thankfully, Beall, Gormican, and Etten’s script also keeps the film moving at such a snappy pace that Axel and Jane’s troubled history doesn’t ever stop it from bouncing swiftly from one set piece and hare-brained investigative scheme to another.

Eddie Murphy walks with Taylour Paige in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.

For Molloy, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F marks his feature directorial debut, but you’d never know that watching the film. He doesn’t pack nearly as much style or attitude into the sequel as Martin Brest and Tony Scott did in Beverly Hills Cop and Beverly Hills Cop II, respectively, but he doesn’t cut unnecessary corners or let the scale of Axel F‘s set pieces overwhelm him, either. He proves to be well-suited for the film’s blockbuster scale — constructing action sequences that aren’t just easily legible but have a practical quality that makes watching them unfold a thrillingly fun experience almost every time. That’s particularly true of the movie’s opening set piece, a chaotic pursuit through Detroit at night, and a chase through the glamorous streets of Beverly Hills that features one unforgettably funny cut to a reverse shot.

As impressive as Molloy’s direction and the contributions of its supporting cast members are, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is ultimately, like the franchise’s first three installments, a showcase for Eddie Murphy. The performer, one of America’s greatest comedic voices, slides so seamlessly back into the role of Axel Foley here that it feels like he never stopped playing him in the first place. Not all of the dramatic beats that Axel F tries to hit in its final third fully land, but Murphy is so effortlessly cool and charismatic that he lifts the entire film up from start to finish. Molloy and co., meanwhile, don’t pass up the chance to spotlight their leading man — peppering several of its action and drive-along sequences with gags and jokes that feel like they could have (and very well may have) come straight from Murphy himself.

Eddie Murphy smiles at Paul Reiser in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.

It’d be a stretch to call Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F a new classic of its genre. It doesn’t have enough of an aesthetic or narrative personality to rise above either of its franchise’s beloved first two entries, but it does sit comfortably below them. It was made with such visible passion and excitement by those involved in it, and that fact alone makes Axel F a more impactful and infectiously fun movie than so many of the needlessly expensive blockbusters that Netflix specifically has produced over the past five years. That may seem like faint praise given the other movies in that category, but don’t let that dissuade you from giving Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F a chance. It’s the rare legacy sequel that doesn’t feel like a waste of your time.

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

Alex Welch
Alex is a TV and movies writer based out of Los Angeles. In addition to Digital Trends, his work has been published by…
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