New ‘Beverly Hills Cop’: Funnier Than It Has Any Right to Be (2024)

There’s a good reason that, despite numerous attempts, Eddie Murphy hasn’t resurrected Axel Foley for the last three decades: 1987’s Beverly Hills Cop II was terrible and 1994’s Beverly Hills Cop III was worse. Nonetheless, the 63-year-old comedian finally steps back into the role that made him a big-screen superstar with Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, a Netflix feature, debuting July 3, that—as its title indicates—takes the same basic nostalgia-fueled tack as Top Gun: Maverick.

“This is gonna be fantastic—trust me!” exclaims the hero at the end of this long-awaited return engagement, and while that’s not exactly true, Mark Molloy’s action comedy is far better than anticipated (or has any right to be), thanks in large part to Murphy recapturing some of the wisecracking magic that originally made Axel a sensation.

Full of the cameos, callbacks, car chases, and shootouts expected of such a legacy sequel, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F follows a familiar template that proves, against all odds, to have a bit of life left in it. Though a sexagenarian, Axel is still the same old rebel, as he demonstrates at a Red Wings game attended with colleague Mike Woody (Kyle S. More), who’s stunned to hear that they’re not there to hang out but, rather, to bust a group of thieves.

An early conversation about Axel’s love of the sport—he claims that his great-great-grandfather played for the “Winnipeg Black Guys”—immediately sets a humorous tone, and the duo’s ensuing, destructive pursuit of the criminals in a giant snowplow establishes Molloy’s skill at staging goofy large-scale action. Moreover, this incident underlines that Axel is as capable as ever, including when it comes to getting into trouble with his superiors. Back at the station, he learns that his buddy Jeffrey Friedman (Paul Reiser) has taken the fall for this mess and opted to retire in order to save Axel’s job.

In the wake of this chaotic bust, Axel receives a phone call from pal Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), who informs him that his daughter Jane (Taylour Paige)—who’s a high-powered Beverly Hills lawyer—has had her life threatened by mercenaries over a case involving a client who’s accused of murdering an undercover cop for the drug cartels.

Axel promptly hops on the next flight to California, where he rents a jalopy and cruises down palm street-lined streets, chuckling at a variety of L.A. weirdos. Billy is now a private investigator, and when Axel arrives at his office, he discovers it’s in the process of being ransacked by burly henchmen. Cue the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” and another chase in a meter maid’s vehicle, which lands Axel in police custody. There, he’s reunited with John Taggart (John Ashton), who’s become the chief of police, as well as Detective Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a former LAPD helicopter pilot who’s Jane’s ex-boyfriend.

    Taggart and his colleague Captain Cade Grant (Kevin Bacon) are sure that Jane’s client is guilty, but Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F doesn’t try very hard to hide that Grant is the nefarious mastermind behind this criminal affair. Axel hears that Billy left the force because of his suspicions about Grant, and now that he’s missing, Axel goes in search of him while simultaneously trying to reconcile with Jane, who’s spent most of her life being furious at her dad for abandoning her (after sending her to Beverly Hills to avoid gang trouble in Detroit) and for putting career before family. Tense arguments between the two pepper much of the action, underlining Axel’s continuing stubbornness, no matter his sincere love for his daughter.

    Written by Will Beall, Tom Gormican, and Kevin Etten, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F initially avoids going overboard with shoutouts to past installments, and the few that do sneak in are slyly amusing (such as Abbott reciting Axel’s prior Beverly Hills exploits and deeming 1994’s adventure “not your finest hour”). Sleuthing and bickering are part of this generic package, as are appearances from recognizable faces, most notably Serge (Bronson Pinchot), who adheres to protocol by referring to Axel as “Acquail” in his cartoonish accent. Because of his training, Bobby is eventually compelled to fly a helicopter in a sequence that gets considerable mileage out of Murphy’s facial expressions, and surrounding it are gun fights that functionally pad the runtime and emphasize Axel’s undiminished badass bona fides.

    New ‘Beverly Hills Cop’: Funnier Than It Has Any Right to Be (1)

    Netflix

    Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F isn’t as funny as 1984’s blockbuster yet it’s infinitely more entertaining than the series’ last two entries as well as 2021’s Coming 2 America, Murphy’s previous stab at revisiting a hit. Much of that is due to Murphy himself, who seems reinvigorated by his trademark Detroit Lions jacket and a spry story that asks him to spout one-liners and battle wealthy villains with requisite charming co*ckiness. Jokes about his age notwithstanding, Murphy is lively throughout this rehash, and his sharp wittiness is energized by just the right amount of self-consciousness, which helps overshadow the fact that a few gags go nowhere fast, including a trip to a bar where Axel and Bobby have a sit-down with Luis Guzman’s clownish karaoke-loving crook.

    During its finale, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F abandons any minor pretenses of originality and indulges whole hog in references to its predecessors, and if that’s somewhat depressing, it’s also comforting—not only because those particular elements remain likable, but because the film is at least upfront about its fundamental nature as a gleeful IP extension. Better than those winks and nods, however, are the moments when Murphy is allowed to engage in the type of rat-a-tat-tat back and forths that first made him an A-lister, highlighted by a spat with a valet attendant that turns the table on Axel by mocking him for trying to use race as a shortcut for requesting (unreasonable) assistance.

    As with most legacy sequels, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is a reunion fueled by fond feelings for yesterday, and little else. Still, that Murphy makes it work as often as he does is evidence of his enduring stardom—and suggests that the back-from-the-dead franchise’s heat really is on.

    New ‘Beverly Hills Cop’: Funnier Than It Has Any Right to Be (2024)

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