Eddie Murphy has now appeared in two of the more prominent reboots of 1980s material released by streaming services. Amazon’s Coming 2 America has now been followed by Netflix’s Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, and if you are expecting major surprises in how the material is handled, you should lower your expectations. However, just because you have lower expectations doesn’t mean you can’t derive enjoyment from Aussie Mark Molloy’s film – in fact, more than you derived from Murphy’s revival of his gentle Prince Hakeem.


Hakeem was a less demonstrative character than Axel Foley to begin with, and Murphy played him stiffly in the aforementioned 2021 film. No such problem here, as the comic icon injects plenty of life into what might have been the corpse of the Detroit police officer who created havoc on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills Cop movies in 1984, 1987 and 1994. (Dates which get cheekily acknowledged in a joke in the film.) Since he played the character three times, it may not be such a surprise that Murphy can still bring the loquacious verbal stylings of the talkative Foley, which is a credit also to the trio of writers who have penned his dialogue. If only he’d still be willing to give us that delightful laugh, the one that sort of resembled a strangled swan, that first ingratiated us to him and to the character 40 years ago.

There’s never more than a flimsy pretence necessary to get Axel Foley back to Los Angeles, but here it incorporates the character’s backstory since we last saw him 30 years ago. In a style familiar to career-driven fathers in the movies, Axel had a daughter whom he didn’t try hard enough to stay in touch with once he and her mother split up. That daughter has grown into Jane Saunders (Taylour Paige), who works for the Los Angeles public defenders’ officer and is currently trying to get off a young Latinx man who has been framed for the murder of a cop. Thugs have tried to get her off the case by dangling her car from a parking garage by a tow hook.

The man behind those thugs is corrupt cop Cade Grant (Kevin Bacon), who feels so invincible that he flashes expensive watches and cars, sneering at Axel’s attempts to confront him. But evidence on a camera implanted in the car where the killing took place shows who really killed the officer, and it leads back to Grant and his cronies, who are deep into other illegal enterprises. They also appear to have kidnapped Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), now a private investigator after a disagreement with his former partner and current police chief, John Taggart (John Ashton), led him to tender his badge.

Yes, we get all the old Beverly Hills Cop familiar faces here, including Paul Reiser as Axel’s connection to the Detroit PD, and even Bronson Pinchot resuscitated to banter with Axel in exchanges that involve Axel telling him to get the eff out of here, and Pinchot’s sing-songy response. There isn’t any attempt to hide the fan service, and there’s something remarkably forthright about it.


Knowing our comfort zones, Axel F leans into them heavily. Even set amongst inevitably modern technology, the movie doesn’t seek any mileage from confronting Axel with newfangled concepts like social media, instead preferring to play out according to the beats of a 1980s action comedy. Two of the series’ previous theme songs, Glenn Frey’s “The Heat is On” and Bob Seger’s “Shakedown,” are even revived for the occasion. Axel is still trying to talk circles around befuddled service industry professionals to gain access to places he shouldn’t be, and it’s still funny.

The movie does acknowledge, though, that there is something unavoidably musty about this whole trend of long-delayed sequels. There’s a moment when Axel gets the idea to use a funny accent to talk his way into a hotel room, and then quits after about five seconds, saying “To be honest, I’m just too tired.” He ends up getting the hotel room in the guise of his own persona.


If you’re looking for signs of actual fatigue with Murphy, you won’t find them. He’s game. Axel Foley was always the most energetic of his characters, arguably the best use of Murphy we’ve ever seen on screen, and even at age 63, Murphy is equal to that energy. Some of the others might not quite be there. There’s a reason, other than the requirements of the plot, that Reinhold is sidelined for long periods of this film, though Ashton, who already seemed old in the first film, brings a surprising amount of gusto for a 76-year-old.

New additions worth mentioning are Paige as Axel’s daughter and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who fulfils some of the Billy Rosewood role as a baby-faced younger cop who tries to do things by the book. He’s also, as luck would have it, Jane’s former paramour, and is effective in the obligatory buddy role. Paige goes back and forth between moments of greater and lesser charisma, as her role – the stubborn daughter we know will ultimately forgive Axel and call him “Dad” in the final act – is fairly pro forma.


If Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F seems on track for a lesser recommendation than I’m going to give it, the explanation is that it’s just a good time. The set pieces are fun, the exchanges are funny, and Eddie Murphy reminds us he always has been, and still is, a movie star. Sometimes, that’s enough.


Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is currently streaming on Netflix.

7 / 10