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Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 6


Starring Eddie Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Taylour Paige, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Paul Reiser, Bronson Pinchot, Kevin Bacon, Mark Pellegrino, Luis Guzmán, Tony Jones, Ed Cali, Brandon Butler, Kyle S. More, Kenneth Nance Jr., Chuck McCollum, DA Obahor, Jon Lee Richardson, Bee-Be Smith, Keith Pillow, Christopher Matthew Cook and Christopher McDonald.

Screenplay by Will Beall and Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten.

Directed by Mark Molloy.

Distributed by Netflix. 115 minutes. Rated R.

A few years ago, Eddie Murphy decided to do a sequel to his then 33-year-old popular comedy Coming to America. Murphy had been fighting the idea of returning to that film’s world for years, claiming that he’d only revisit if he found the absolute perfect script. Of course, when it finally did come out (with the unimaginative title Coming 2 America) it turned out to be pretty bad and the whole world was kind of shocked – he waited that long for this???

Now Murphy is going even further back in his filmography, to his smash 1984 hit film Beverly Hills Cop. Of course, Murphy has never been nearly as coy about revisiting this series. There are already two sequels – 1988’s pretty bad Beverly Hills Cop II and 1994’s absolutely awful Beverly Hills Cop III. Still, is the world waiting around for the latest chapter in a story that started 40 years ago, and whose last chapter came out 30 years ago?

The truth is that Murphy has been – unsuccessfully – trying to get the Beverly Hills Cop train back on the tracks since the late 1990s – if for no other reason than the fact that he didn’t want the saga to end with Beverly Hills Cop III. There have been a series of scripts and aborted filming plans for another movie on and off over the years – in the 2000s they even toyed with the idea of turning it into a series about Axel Foley’s son, with Murphy recurring in his famous role as a supporting character. None of these projects came all that close to happening in the long run.

So, now, 40 years on from the first film, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F shows up on Netflix. Interestingly, Coming 2 America was filmed for a streaming service as well, Amazon Prime Video. What does that say about the state of filmmaking and distribution?

The pleasant surprise is that Axel F is actually pretty much fun – not as good as the original but certainly more watchable than Beverly Hills Cop II and III were. It’s a 1980s film in a 2020s world, but it has enough humor, adventure and nostalgia to actually make it worth giving a shot. It’s certainly better than most Netflix films, and the infamously aloof Murphy actually seems more engaged in this role than he usually has been on film in years.

Like the TV series idea, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F somewhat revolves around one of Murphy’s children, but instead of his son it is his estranged daughter Jane (Taylour Paige), a defense lawyer who has been pulled into a politically charged murder trial by dad’s old friend Billy (Judge Reinhold, looking haunted throughout). When Billy disappears, dad takes time off of his Detroit police career and returns to his old Rodeo Drive stomping grounds to help find Billy and to make sure Jane is safe. (Part of this sabbatical has to do with blowback from one of Axel’s infamously destructive high-speed chases in his hometown, too…)  

Axel F is a fun mix of old friends (Reinhold, John Ashton, Bronson Pinchot) and new friends and foes (Paige, Paul Reiser, Kevin Bacon, Luis Guzmán). It has old-fashioned buddy-cop chases and just enough plot to hang the whole thing on. However, Axel F isn’t about story, it’s about nostalgia for the original film (it even uses several songs from the original soundtracks). On that level it succeeds pretty darned well.

I’m not sure that the world needs any more Axel Foley after this (although whispers are suggesting they are already working on a follow-up film), but at least Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F reminds us why we loved the original in the first place.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2024 All rights reserved. Posted: July 3, 2024.


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