REVIEW: Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (2024) – ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (2024)

Runtime: 118 minutes
Rated: R
What To Expect: No woke shit, just fun action, foul-mouthed dialogue and Eddie Murphy being funny again

After thirty years of cancelled start dates, rewrites, scrapped scripts, development hell, changing directors, and a television show that never passed the pilot stage, Netflix has finally delivered a fourth Beverly Hills Cop picture unto movie-goers. Despite a rocky outlook, especially considering 2021’s enormously disappointing Coming 2 America and the generally mixed results for legacy sequels, 2024’s Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F exceeds all reasonable expectations – it’s far better than the atrocious third entry and is not far behind the first two films. With a new director in Australian filmmaker Mark Molloy (making his feature-film debut), this fourth Beverly Hills Cop flick is a respectful and reverent continuation, making for an enormously entertaining legacy sequel that does not disgrace the franchise or characters. With Eddie Murphy and the legendary Jerry Bruckheimer serving as producers, this follow-up does not feel like a cynical cash grab; instead, it’s a delightful new instalment that ensures the franchise receives a more dignified conclusion than the awful third movie. After all, Murphy made it clear he would only proceed with another Beverly Hills Cop with the right script.

Still working as a dedicated detective for the Detroit Police Department, Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) continues to cause havoc as he endeavours to protect the streets, much to the agitation and anxiety of Deputy Chief Jeffrey Friedman (Paul Reiser). In Beverly Hills, Axel’s old friend Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) is now a private investigator after quitting the police force, and he works alongside Axel’s estranged daughter, Jane (Taylour Paige), a defence attorney determined to free a man who was framed for murdering an undercover cop. After criminals threaten Jane’s life, Axel travels to Beverly Hills and soon catches the attention of local law enforcement, including Captain Cade Grant (Kevin Bacon) and Chief John Taggart (John Ashton). With Rosewood now missing, Foley teams up with Jane and Detective Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to unravel a conspiracy involving police corruption.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is the franchise’s longest instalment to date with a runtime approaching two hours, and Molloy treats the story with the sincerity it deserves, concentrating on investigative procedure while Foley deals with incredulous superiors. Stakes are still at play, and the humour does not feel forced; it is an action film, first and foremost, and the laughs emerge organically from the characters bantering and joking. However, the movie noticeably drags during the second act, with the story taking too many investigative detours to arrive at its destination. Additionally, applying the overused “absent father” trope to Foley is the biggest downfall of Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, as it represents another iconic action hero to receive this treatment (after John McClane, Mike Lowry and Indiana Jones). Although included to add heart to the film, every beat of their relationship is predictable and trite, from Jane’s refusal to speak to Foley in the first instance to the pair eventually bonding before they fall out and go through a heartwarming third-act resolution.

With each sequel, the concept of Foley returning to Beverly Hills to secretly investigate another case continues to stretch credulity, but Bad Boys: Ride or Die scribe Will Beall (along with credited co-writers Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten) cooks up a surprisingly logical and compelling reason to justify Foley’s antics. Furthermore, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F feels more like a natural, effortless continuation of the series than a desperate, soulless attempt to recapture the magic. The sequel’s reverence for the original movies is palpable from the first frame, resurrecting the classic title font and with Glenn Frey’s The Heat Is On playing over the opening credits. Further recognisable songs from the series also appear, including Shakedown and Neutron Dance, augmenting the sense of fun and nostalgia. Additionally, whereas the soundtrack for Beverly Hills Cop III was genuinely grating and butchered many of Harold Faltermeyer’s original motifs, Axel F composer Lorne Balfe devises a satisfying, synth-infused score that retains the spirit of its predecessors.

Reports place the movie’s budget at a staggering $150 million, more than double the third movie’s $70 million budget and more than ten times the original film’s $13 million price tag. Fortunately, the movie looks enormously theatrical and slick instead of drab or low-budget, with Molloy (replacing disgraced director Brett Ratner, who was attached to the project for years) putting the funds to good use. Molloy acquits himself admirably with the action sequences, staging fun vehicular pursuits (including an early chase through the streets of Detroit and a standout helicopter set piece) and more traditional shootouts. The gun battles are nothing spectacular from a visual standpoint, as there are no inventive flourishes or camera movements (this is more apparent after viewing the more inventive Bad Boys: Ride or Die), but they are perfectly entertaining thanks to the sturdy, old-school cinematography and competent staging, with the filmmaking approach appearing reminiscent of the earlier movies. The only problematic aesthetic change is the use of computer-generated muzzle flashes and blood, which looks all too obvious and harms the visceral impact of the action sequences. There is no getting around the fact that practical blood squibs, as glimpsed in the original films, look far superior to phoney digital blood sprays.

Murphy slips back into the role of Axel Foley with glee and enthusiasm, smoothly recapturing the character’s spirit from the first two instalments. (The character in Beverly Hills Cop III was Axel in name only.) Despite now being in his 60s, Murphy looks fantastic and proves he still has immense comedic chops, with his improvisational instincts remaining second to none. There is genuine snap to the back-and-forth between Foley and every other character; it’s a joy to watch Foley and Rosewood interacting once again, and it’s equally hysterical watching Foley deal with a tenacious meter maid. Foley continues to bullshit his way through various situations with hilarious results, and, luckily, Jane does not overshadow him. Axel F brings back several recognisable faces, including Bronson Pinchot as the iconic Serge, but none of the returns feel contrived or illogical; on the contrary, the inclusion of each legacy character feels organic to the story. Moreover, the characters all get their time to shine, with Molloy not leaving any key players on the sidelines. The new players also make a great impression, with newcomer Taylour Paige as Foley’s daughter, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes for a terrific straight-man foil for Murphy and comes across as a believable detective. Meanwhile, instead of a generic or forgettable bad guy, Kevin Bacon brings a recognisable face to the proceedings and fills the role with relish.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is both a better-than-expected legacy sequel and one of the most enjoyable action comedies of the year, delivering rock-solid set pieces and ample belly laughs with Murphy back at the top of his game. It easily surpasses the latter-day Die Hard sequels, it is more entertaining and rewatchable than last year’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and it is on par with the recent Bad Boys follow-ups. Despite its pacing lulls and script shortcomings, this fourth Beverly Hills Cop picture deserves your attention, especially for fans of Murphy and the franchise in general. The notion of another sequel is now legitimately exciting.