Credit: Netflix
by Matt Lynch Featured Film Streaming Scene

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F — Mark Molloy

July 3, 2024

The first Beverly Hills Cop movie turns 40 this year, and it’s hard to overstate just how electric that movie is even today, a then-mostly-novel gritty cop movie merged with a slobs-vs.-snobs comedy. It even managed to be — perhaps accidentally — a satire of so-called by-the-book law enforcement. More importantly, it starred a 23-year-old Eddie Murphy, who at the time was already one of the most incandescent performers the movies had ever encountered — the film simply could not have functioned with a white actor. It was a massive hit, with the sequel coming a few years later and directed by a still-hungry Tony Scott, following up Top Gun. By that point, Murphy was a genuine phenomenon and movie star, and Beverly Hills Cop II is simultaneously an epic tribute to Murphy’s ego and an incredibly slick and definitively ’80s action movie despite not being actually any good (though it is monumentally entertaining and an obvious harbinger of the evils of Bad Boys II). The less said about John Landis’ third entry (released in 1994), the better, but to be clear, it essentially killed the franchise for the next three decades.

Okay, history lesson over. We’re back. Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F returns Murphy to the franchise that played the greatest role in his fame, and it’s a legacy sequel in every sense of the term. We’re reunited with any and all surviving recurring players, we reckon with an aging hero facing new responsibilities, running gags and cameos are re-hashed, previous action sequences are elaborated on (or merely repeated), and even the needle drops on the previous soundtracks are recycled. A lot of that approach worked in something like Top Gun: Maverick (also a legacy Jerry Bruckheimer production), and you can feel Axel F straining for that film’s inordinate (and frankly so completely surprising that it may in fact be sui generis) gravity and pull of nostalgia. It should not be surprising that it widely misses the mark.

Once again, Detroit Police Detective Axel Foley returns to Beverly Hills, this time to help out on a case involving corrupt cops who have gone after his estranged daughter (Taylour Paige), a criminal defense attorney representing an alleged cop killer. Their relationship remains strained even while she reluctantly allows him to assist in her investigation, along with the help of a new character, Detective Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). By the way, the second Kevin Bacon shows up as the swaggering head of a narcotics task force, viewers will understand the bad guy has arrived. And don’t worry, Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Taggart (John Ashton) show up again, too.

Axel F is an entirely paint-by-numbers affair. That’s not a terrible thing in and of itself, but it is the path to mere adequacy. The film’s action sequences are perfectly decent (especially a late one involving a stolen helicopter), if a little monotonous — there are no less than three chases involving a big stolen truck; way to really lean on that callback! — though the violence is suitably bloody. New director Mark Molloy has done a competent job, even if the whole thing has that all-too-common Netflix televisual sheen. And although it’s by design here that Axel is meant to be older and wiser and just generally a better guy in his age, the series has always been founded on his complete distrust of any authority, whether it be a wealthy politician or a hotel concierge. Granted, some of the shtick that Axel has pulled in previous films has been both wildly politically incorrect and so silly that it’s absurd to think anyone at all would fall for it, but here, that stuff mostly gets deliberately deflated or sanded down so as not to seem quite so mean. In essence, Axel F‘s vibe is entirely off, and there isn’t any energy to be found. Murphy’s attempts to soften Axel in this resurrection make dramatic sense, but they’re simply no goddamn fun to watch.

DIRECTOR: Mark Molloy;  CAST: Eddie Murphy, Taylour Paige, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kevin Bacon;  DISTRIBUTOR: Netflix;  IN THEATERS/STREAMING: June 3;  RUNTIME: 1 hr. 55 min.