Film reviews and more since 2009

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (2024) review

Dir. Mark Molloy

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★

In the opening minutes of the new Beverly Hills Cop, as Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley cruises through the dichotomously violent yet friendly streets of Detroit, you can practically see the dust come off the record player as Glenn Frey’s “The Heat is On” tries to set the mood. Provoke a smile, it might. Make you realize you remember every word, it will. But it can’t hide the sad reality that this concept was good for exactly one movie. Each and every one thereafter is a flawed carbon-copy, this one in particular made sadder due to its overreliance on nostalgia and tropes.

Even the title is pathetic in a low-key way. Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. Just say it aloud. Ever notice how in later sequels (usually past the third movie), the numbers in the title begin to disappear? It’s as if Jerry Bruckheimer and company are embarrassed they made so many. The more sequels a studio makes to a flash-in-the-pan success, the more logical it would be to number them.

However, that’s the least of the fourth Beverly Hills Cop‘s problems. A lot has changed since the ill-fated third installment. Axel is obviously older. The Detroit Lions are finally good. And he has a daughter we never knew about, despite the fact that she would’ve been at least a toddler during the last installment. Moreover, in lieu of Rosewood’s (Judge Reinhold) retirement, Axel again bolts from the D to Beverly Hills to visit his daughter, Jane (Taylour Paige), a lawyer who takes on a client who was framed for the killing of an undercover cop.

In one of a couple well-staged scenes, the goons hook Jane’s vehicle up to a tow-truck and dangle her off a parking garage to convince her to drop the case. Don’t try and think too hard about why these dudes would bother doing this in broad daylight. It looks cooler that way.

Axel links up with Jane’s cop ex-boyfriend, Bobby (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), but not before he arrests Axel after a raucous chase through the streets of California. Then there’s Captain John Taggart (John Ashton), still in charge, and for some reason, refusing to believe a notoriously corrupt police captain named Grant (Kevin Bacon) could be working with the cartel to conjure up all of this.

An Eddie Murphy performance of any kind is a rare commodity these days, so we must appreciate what we can still get from one of the greatest living comics. Because I missed Candy Cane Lane, the last Murphy movie I (and allegedly many) saw was You People, which had the comedian playing an unusually stoic character that limited his ability to be spontaneously funny. In Axel F, Murphy once again appears to be sleepwalking through his performance, awoken from his slumber by only a few scenes that wisely show him being a mile-a-minute motormouth and combustible smart-ass.

During the aforementioned police chase early in the film, Murphy’s Axel chides the arresting officers’ tiny “FisherPrice police car” and refers to them as “LEGO cops.”

Later, when him and Jane enter a ramshackle acting officer, Axel makes small-talk with the clerk, who can’t wait to tell him about his tiny role in the forgotten Jupiter Ascending. Axel plays off as if he’s seen the movie. Jane presses him to relay the plot:

“It’s… It’s Jupiter. It’s Jupiter, and it’s, um…,” he starts.
“Ascending?,” Jane responds, sarcastic.
“That’s it,” Murphy claps back, quick as a whip. “Oh, you kidding me? The way it ascended? That shit… That’s my favorite scene. I love that part.”
Suggesting this encounter is a sign of “kismet” (destiny), Murphy says, “This is some kismet shit for your ass!”

This kind of humor from Murphy is priceless, and demonstrates his enviable ability at back-and-forth in any given scene or setting. So of course, the trio of screenwriters (Will Beall, Tom Gormican, and Kevin Etten) instead make this a movie about Axel’s fraught relationship with Jane; daddy-daughter issues take the foreground in legacyquels.

Murphy’s incandescent charm has been the most valuable asset to every Beverly Hills Cop movie. The varying quality of the later films makes you wonder how the series would’ve developed had Martin Brest, the man behind the first, came back to do at least the second. One might argue that Axel Foley developed throughout the later movies. Where he was a true loose cannon in the original, Beverly Hills Cop II saw him acting as more of an intense and seasoned police officer, while the third movie showed a significant maturation (largely thanks to a misguided script with muted comedy). Due to the various script and director changes on the ensuing installments, it’s odd to think that one of Murphy’s most famous series is one, I’d argue, in which he never got fully comfortable.

In Axel F, he just looks like the life has been drained out of him, even in should-be exhilarating moments, such as an ambush at a Red Wings game, or a shootout at Grant’s compound. When the trio of writers aren’t exhausting Axel’s deadbeat dad qualities in pervasive arguments with Jane, they’re rehashing lines and making off-handed references to the first film. Rosewood and Taggart operate on the periphery of the story, which seems like an ideal time for Gordon-Levitt’s Bobby to assert himself into something other than a squeaky-clean cop. That too doesn’t happen.

Axel and Bobby’s friendship gifts us precisely one quality scene, and that’s a disaster of a helicopter chase that has Bobby getting back into the pilot seat after many, many years. In most action-comedies, the pilot would be able to shake off the rust and fly the chopper flawlessly. Not Bobby. He flies a helicopter worse than me in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, barely getting off the damn ground. It’s funny because in how unexpectedly sloppy and catastrophic it is for everyone involved. However, it has nothing to do with the dynamic between Murphy and Gordon-Levitt. It’s simply just a good set-piece in a film that has a budget with no excuse not to have a few strong ones.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F will play just about as well as any other Netflix movie of the past few years. Remember Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Home Team, or even Bright? It will be a talking point for about a week after its release. It might even linger on Netflix’s dubious “top 10” for two or three weeks. A sequel will be greenlit based on equally opaque viewing metrics. Fittingly released in time for the Fourth of July holiday, however, it will have all the staying power of a firework, to the point where when/if referenced in conversation in a year’s time, someone will find themselves saying, “oh yeah, I forgot about that.” Such is the streaming era in which we live.

NOTE: Ahead of the release of Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, I got to chat with Lorne Balfe, the composer of the film and many other notable blockbusters. Take a listen to my interview below!

My review of Beverly Hills Cop
My review of Beverly Hills Cop II

My review of Beverly Hills Cop III

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Taylour Paige, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Paul Reiser, Bronson Pinchot, and Kevin Bacon. Directed by: Mark Molloy.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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