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Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F Review — A Funny Murphy Returns with Excellent Action Set Pieces

After the 1994 Beverly Hills Cop III, it seemed as if Eddie Murphy was done with the franchise. Within years, he trash-talked the ending. The franchise and character that helped make him a superstar needed him. Yet, with box office sensations and Oscar nominations on the horizon, Murphy entered a new era. Now, forty years after his first leading role, Murphy returns in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. However, could the comedy actor ever really come home again?

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F — The Synopsis

As another friend and colleague retires Axel Foley (Murphy) contemplates the end of his career. However, Billy (Judge Reinhold) calls Axel about a case involving Jane (Taylour Paige)- Axel’s daughter. By the time Axel gets to Beverly Hills, Billy has gone missing. Axel picks up Billy’s case, hoping to find his friend and help him complete the investigation that caused his disappearance. Foley looks to crack the case with Jane, old friend Captain Taggert (John Ashton), and newcomer Det. Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

The Critique

It’s difficult for anyone to return to a long-dormant franchise. We’ve seen too many examples that have gone awry in the last decade, from middling Die Hard movies to Anchorman 2‘s middling reception. This makes the return of Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F much more difficult. We must believe that Murphy can still handle the comedy and the action setpieces. Luckily, this becomes the strongest aspect of Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.

Murphy might have had the gaff on SNL40, but since then, he’s returned to the industry in a big way. His performance in Dolemite Is My Name should have been Oscar-nominated, and he finally brought home an Emmy for his SNL hosting. Murphy has not lost his charisma as a performer, and while he’s certainly older, he still holds the attention of the camera. He not only drives the comedy, as he had in the better films of the franchise, but plays well off Paige, Ashton, and Gordon-Levitt.

Paige steps up to the plate to play Foley’s daughter and does an admirable job. Axel F wisely goes out of the way to let us know they did not have much of a relationship, which allows her to take on the hard-nosed partner role that Ashton served in previous films. In limited scenes with Gordon-Levitt, she also makes his character more interesting. While she does not have the same power in action sequences as Murphy, she still gets her cheer-worthy moments.

Gordon-Levitt understands this is not his movie and Axel F is better for it. He plays with the ensemble well and elevates the material above what most movies would look like. He still gets several action showcases, specifically one with a helicopter that plays through the roof. It’s wise of Gordon-Levitt to play a “wet blanket” early, who gets won over by Foley by the end of the movie. In many ways, he combines Reinhold and Ashton’s dynamics into a single character, which feels refreshing.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

Perhaps the happiest actor to return, Reinhold steps back into Billy’s over-excited shoes. While his screentime does not approach the others, he undeniably leaves an impression. It’s also fun to see Ashton return as a somehow grumpier, wearier Taggart.

However, this also raises the nostalgia issue for Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. Given how many sequences and settings from the first movie get rolled back out, it’s clear the story plays on our nostalgia. Frankly, this is not a surprise in 2024, as every franchise relies on these tropes. Still, it hurts the final product on some level, especially when it returns to aspects that do not work. We know certain jokes are coming, and still, Murphy subverts some of the expected humor. However, it leaves us feeling slightly cold towards these moments and instead feels more pandering than it should.

Director Mark Molloy gets the most credit in the action sequences. There are at least three shootouts and large-scale setpieces that feel like instant classics in the franchise. Most appear practical, making their tactility stand out against the many CGI fight sequences that dominate blockbusters today. Unlike other moments that play to nostalgic setpieces, this kind of nostalgia is a welcomed reprieve from what we often sit through.

This also makes the choice to place Kevin Bacon in opposition to Murphy a brilliant one. From his first scene, you know he’s the bad guy. One of the great aspects of the franchise has always been a willingness to let their villains be villains throughout the runtime. This allows Bacon a chance to showcase a maniacal villain without trying to pull one over on the audience. If anything, it makes us more interested in how Axel will get this guy.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

In Conclusion

It’s fun to see Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F return the franchise to some of its former glory. It’s not better than the original, nor Tony Scott’s underrated action extravaganza. However, it towers over Beverly Hills Cop III and feels far more in line with the franchise as a whole. Murphy once again shines, and while it’s not a perfect performance, it’s a welcomed return. With enough visual gags and nods to the previous entries, Beverly Hills Cop fans will be thrilled, and newcomers will be eager to explore the rest of the franchise.

7/10

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