Review: ‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F,’ starring Eddie Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Taylour Paige, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Paul Reiser, Bronson Pinchot and Kevin Bacon

July 7, 2024

by Carla Hay

Pictured clockwise from left: Eddie Murphy, Taylour Paige, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bronson Pinchot in “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

“Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F”

Directed by Mark Molloy

Some language in Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Beverly Hills, California, and briefly in Detroit, the action comedy film “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” features a racially diverse cast of characters (African Americans, white, Latin and Asian) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Detroit police officer Axel Foley returns to Beverly Hills and investigates a murder case involving the jailed client of his estranged daughter, who is the defense attorney of the accused suspect.  

Culture Audience: “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Eddie Murphy, the “Beverly Hills Cop” movie series and action comedy films that don’t take themselves too seriously.

Eddie Murphy, John Ashton and Kevin Bacon in “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Because sequels usually aren’t as good as the first film, “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” should meet expectations for most viewers who aren’t expecting this fourth movie in the series to be as fresh and original as the first (and still best) movie in the series: 1984’s “Beverly Hills Cop.” “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” relies heavily on nostalgia and a transparently predictable plot. However, this lively sequel overcomes its weaknesses with some funny moments, well-cast new characters, and plenty of expected action spectacles.

Directed by Mark Molloy, “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” was written by Will Beall, Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten. The previous sequels in the series are 1987’s “Beverly Hills Cop II” and 1994’s “Beverly Hills Cop III.” “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” is better than the abysmal “Beverly Hills Cop II” but it’s not as entertaining as “Beverly Hills Cop II.” The concept is essentially the same for every movie in the series: wisecracking and rebellious Detroit police detective Axel Foley (played by Eddie Murphy) gets pulled into an investigation that requires him to go to Beverly Hills, California, to solve the case.

The beginning of “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” shows Axel in Detroit at a hockey game with a co-worker named Detective Mike Woody (played by Kyle S. More), who hasn’t been able to solve a case in the five years since Mike has been a Detroit police detective. Mike is an eager admirer of Axel, but Mike is socially awkward and slow to pick up on clues.

At this hockey game, Axel informs Mike that they’re not spending leisure time at this hockey game. They’re really on a stakeout for a major robbery that will take place during the game. The robbery an inside job involving a security guard named Junior Bollinger (played by Kenneth Nance Jr.) and several other people. If they can thwart this robbery and have the criminals arrested, Axel wants to help Mike by giving Mike some credit for helping crack this case.

Axel and Mike make their move to prevent the robbery, but they are outnumbered by several thugs. It all just leads to car chases and shootouts, including Axel stealing a large construction truck and crashing it. You know where all of this is going: The criminals are caught, but Axel leaves a trail of car chase destruction as part of the mayhem.

Back and police headquarters, Axel gets scolded by his supervisor Jeffrey Friedman (played by Paul Reiser), who tells Axel that the police department no longer tolerates the types of irresponsible shenanigans that Axel has been getting away with for years. “They don’t want swashbucklers. They want social workers,” Jeffrey says.

Jeffrey also tells Axl that Jeffrey is retiring so he can spend more time with his family. Axel is upset by this news and asks Jeffrey to reconsider. Jeffrey has already made up his mind though, and he gives this piece of advice to Axel about reconnecting with family: “Talk to your daughter.”

Who is Axel’s daughter? She is Jane Saunders (played by Taylour Paige), an outspoken and independent defense attorney who works for an elite law firm in Beverly Hills. Jane is a 32-year-old bachelorette with no children. She has not spoken to Axel in several years because she chose to cut off contact with him.

It’s later revealed that Jane has a lot of bitter resentment toward Axel because she felt that Axel neglected her after her parents’ divorce. Jane’s mother/Axel’s ex-wife is mentioned in the movie as still being alive, but she’s never seen in the movie. Because Jane has refused to communicate with Axel, he has stayed away from her too and gave up on contacting her. It should come as no surprise that all of that is about to change as Axel finds himself in Beverly Hills again.

Jane represents a low-level criminal named Sam Enriquez (played by Damien Diaz), who has been arrested and is in jail for the murder of an undercover narcotics officer named Lieutenant Copeland (played by David Rowden), who worked for the Beverly Hills Police Department. Sam admits he was a short-lived drug mule, but he denies being a killer. When Jane visits Sam in jail, he can’t believe that this high-priced attorney wants to represent him.

However, Jane tells Sam that she thinks he’s innocent of the murder charge, she’ll represent him for free, and she wants a chance to prove that Lieutenant Copeland was a dirty copy who might have been killed by someone working with the Beverly Hills police. The person who gave her this tip and asked her to take Sam’s case is none other than Billy Rosewood (played by Judge Reinhold), who recently quit the Beverly Hills Police Department over. Fans of the “Beverly Hills Cop” movies know Billy as the earnest, bungling sidekick who has a history of helping Axel. Billy was also in the first two “Beverly Hills Cop” movies.

During a courtroom appearance, Jane says her “dirty cop” theory in open court. And not long after that, a group of three or four masked thugs ambush Jane in a high-rise parking garage while she’s in her car. The masked goons force her car out of the garage window, but leave it dangling with some cable wires. It’s an obvious threat but also an indication that Jane has made certain people very nervous with her theory. Billy comes to the rescue (presumbly because he was following Jane), and he calls for help to get Jane (who isn’t physically hurt) and her car back into the garage.

Billy then calls Axel and asks him to come to Beverly Hills to help with this case. When Axel goes to Billy’s former office, he finds two hoodlums named Kurtz (played by James Preston Rogers) and Silva (played by Joseph Aviel), who are searching the office. Axel, who is quick to invent personas when he’s in tricky situations, says yes when the thugs asks if their boss Beck (played by Mark Pellegrino) is the one who sent him.

Of course, the thugs find out that Axel is lying. It leads to another destructive chase scene. Axel ends up getting arrested and right back at the Beverly Hills Police Department. The police detective who questions him is Bobby Abbott (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is fairly easygoing but tough when he needs to be. It’s the first time that Bobby has met Axel, but Bobby sees that Axel has a history of getting into trouble in Beverly Hills, going back to 1984.

Axel calls Jane for help in baling him out of jail, but she hangs up a few times until he tells her he knows about the case she’s working on and has valuable information to share. Bobby knows Jane already and finds out after Jane shows up at the police station that Axel is Jane’s father. And what a coincidence: It’s revealed later in the movie that Bobby and Jane used to date each other, but she ended the relationship because she told Bobby that she couldn’t date a cop. Bobby still hasn’t gotten over the breakup.

Axel is able to get off the hook for this arrest because he knows police chief John Taggart (played by John Ashton), a no-nonsense leader who was in the first two “Beverly Hills Cop” movies. John explains that he came out of retirement because he doesn’t want to be at home with his wife. John scoffs at the idea of the deceased Lieutenant Copeland was a corrupt cop.

John also introduces Axel to Lieutenant Copeland’s former boss Captain Cade Grant (played by Kevin Bacon), a smirking character who’s in charge of the police department’s interdepartmental narcotics task force. Cade use to be a Beverly Hills Department police detective and was personally trained by John. Cade also backs up John’s statement that Lieutenant Copeland was a trustworthy and honest cop.

The rest of “Beverly Hills Cop” is about Axel helping a skeptical and often-hostile Jane in investigating this case. And you just know that Bobby is going to help too. Bronson Pinchot, who played scene-stealing Serge in the first “Beverly Hills Cop” movie, makes a brief but amusing appearance in “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F,” as a real-estate agent who helps Axel, Jane and Bobby get access to a certain mansion they want to investigate. Luis Guzmán has a small but hilarious role in the movie as Chalino Valdemoro, a drug dealer who likes to sing karaoke.

“Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” lays it on very thick with the nostalgia by re-using the same best-known soundtrack songs from the “Beverly Hills Cop” movies: Harold Faltermeyer’s instrumental “Axel F” theme song. Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On,” the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” and Bob Seger’s “Shakedown,” a hit that was on the “Beverly Hills Cop II” soundtrack. As for re-using “Beverly Hills Cop” characters, the return of Serge is unfortunately too short (less than 10 minutes), while Billy is no longer a wide-eyed rookie but is now a disgruntled former cop.

Axel’s jokes and impersonations are hit and miss. Murphy still has good comedic timing and can bring charisma to some dialogue that would otherwise fall very flat. “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” has the most emotional authenticity in the scenes where Axel tries to mend his broken relationship with his daughter.

As Jane, Paige gives the best and most difficult performance in the movie because she’s the cast member who has to do the most to balance the comedy and the drama. Her delivery looks natural, not forced or phony. Gordon-Levitt capably handles his role as dependable but somewhat bland Bobby.

Even if it’s very obvious who the chief villain is, “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” can keep viewer interest because the cast members have believable chemistry with each other. Some of the action sequences are very unrealistic but people don’t see “Beverly Hills Cop” movies for complete realism. It’s got a heavy dose of 20th century ideas updated in a 21st century setting but using a very tried-and-true familiar formula.

Netflix premiered “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” on July 3, 2024.

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