Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

Beverly Hills Cop is more than a blockbuster movie. For many of us who saw it back in 1984, it’s a landmark film that established Eddie Murphy as a mega-star, helped usher in the era of pop song-laden soundtracks, and has become the kind of comfort cinema we compulsively revisit every few years. The sequels were very mixed. Beverly Hills Cop II emphasized action over comedy, and Beverly Hills Cop III is widely recognized as a mess. Thankfully, the franchise is redeemed with Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, the sequel that’s closest in tone to the original. If you’re a BHC fan, there is good reason to be excited.

Eddie Murphy returns as streetwise Detroit cop Axel Foley. He receives a call from old friend Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) informing him that his estranged daughter Jane (Taylour Paige) just had her life threatened. She’s an L.A. defense attorney trying to prove an alleged cop-killer was framed. To make sure she’s okay, Foley heads back to Beverly Hills, where he reunites with John Taggart (the salty-as-ever John Ashton), who is now the police chief. One of Taggart’s men, Bobby Aaron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), believes a dirty cop named Grant (Kevin Bacon) may know something about the attack on Jane (who, incidentally, is his former girlfriend). Foley teams with him to solve the case while simultaneously attempting to repair the damage to his relationship with his daughter.

The original BHC worked because it was, in essence, a character study. Clashes between the rule-bending Foley and the by-the-book Beverly Hills PD were the root of both the story’s comedy and its drama. Director Martin Brest gave Murphy room to bring his improvisational style to the film, a choice that turned Axel Foley into a beloved cinematic hero. In his feature debut, new director Mark Molloy demonstrates a strong understanding of the winning formula. There can’t be too much comedy or else viewers won’t take the plot seriously, but if things are too serious, then Murphy’s talent is wasted. Axel F makes sure to maintain the balance, giving the star plenty of opportunities to work his magic both during and in between shootouts and chases.

Eddie Murphy seems completely energized by the material this time around. He once again gives Foley a delightful rebellious streak. He also revives the character’s ability to smart talk his way into or out of any situation. His riffs are often hilarious, especially during scenes with former co-stars Ashton and Reinhold. That chemistry is still there, and the actor knows precisely how to adapt it for modern times.

A new side of Axel Foley is introduced in the film, adding a fresh layer to him. Murphy’s scenes with Taylour Paige are quite good. Their subplot allows us to see an older, wiser Axel – one who has paid a personal price for his professional single-mindedness. He’s a richer, deeper figure this time around, having had a hole punched in his extreme confidence. The fact that Paige makes Jane a chip off the old block brings a touch of humor to the poignancy.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F has the same sort of high-energy action sequences as the ’84 movie did. Listening to Foley toss out wisecracks while smashing a commandeered snowplow into other vehicles is a kick. So is seeing him freak out during a wild helicopter chase. The movie uses remixed versions of songs from the past soundtrack albums – including the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” and Bob Seger’s “Shakedown” – to propel these moments. Music has always been essential to the franchise. Hearing old favorites while enjoying Foley's new adventures creates the right sort of nostalgic vibe.

It goes without saying that nothing could ever approach the original. That sense of discovery – of Axel Foley and of Eddie Murphy himself – can’t be replicated. That said, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F reproduces the fun as much as possible. It brings back familiar characters we love and introduces us to appealing new ones. It combines comedy, action, and music in an entertaining manner. It showcases Murphy at his finest. This sequel isn’t a banana in your tailpipe, it’s the real deal.


out of four

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is rated R for language throughout, violence, and brief drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.

Universal

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan