‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’ Does the (Near) Impossible

Belated sequel reminds us why we loved this Detroit cop in the first place

Mark Molloy’s “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” is the long-rumored, decades-belated sequel to the film that put Eddie Murphy on top during the Reagan administration. It’s also the first one that’s really good.

Yes, you read that right. It took 40 years, but someone finally made a solid follow-up to “Beverly Hills Cop” (1984), and the reason this one sticks (and the hit-and-miss follow-ups that preceded it didn’t) is that it understands the character of Axel Foley and is willing to explore him.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F | Official Teaser Trailer | Netflix

Murphy is back as Foley, a police officer still living in Detroit, a local legend for the cases he cracked and the laws he broke along the way. Foley’s commanding officer, played by Paul Reiser, asks him if it’s time to retire, or if Foley needs the action on the streets more than it actually needs him.

It’s a valid question.

Meanwhile, Foley’s estranged daughter, Jane (Taylour Paige) is an attorney who works in Beverly Hills, as far away from her father as she can manage. A case involving family friend and cop Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) leads Jane into incredible danger and results in Billy disappearing with a vital piece of evidence at stake.

Axel returns to Beverly Hills, where another cop, Det. Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) eventually helps him, but not before he reminds Foley of his infamous past.

The plot is both overly complicated and predictable. Yet, the dynamics between old friends and the father trying to reconnect the broken bond with his daughter are as important here as the sleuthing going on. There’s also a lot of action, more than I expected, in fact- the said-to-be $150 million price tag is no joke, as it appears that, if this is the last time we’re seeing this character, then Murphy and mega producer Jerry Bruckheimer want to go out with a bang.


“Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F” survives an iffy opening sequence, which offers some auto smash-ups and the first of many nods to the franchise (both “The Heat is On” and “Shakedown” are featured early) but doesn’t seem to be above the laid-back silliness of “Beverly Hills Cop III” (1994).

Once this becomes an ensemble piece, we not only harken back to what made the first one so great, but the sharp casting choices sell it.

Murphy is in good form, funny and enthusiastic but willing to play into Foley’s flaws; he’s aided by Paige, the standout from “Zola” (2020) whose unsentimental, no-nonsense take on what could be the film’s most maudlin character is a nice surprise.

So is Levitt, terrific and playful in what could have been just another sidekick. Once we get a look at Kevin Bacon playing Captain Grant, we have an obvious idea who the villain is, but Bacon plays him in shades that suggest a complex, compromised social climber (Foley notes his shoes as a giveaway) and not a mustache-twirling heavy.

It’s fun to see Reinhold and Bronson Pinchot again (though it’s even more forced here than it was in “Beverly Hills Cop III” how Serge is plugged into the story) but the biggest pleasure is the dramatic heft John Ashton still gives as Taggart, filling in for his movie mentor Ronny Cox.

The cast makes this such a pleasure, I didn’t mind that, for all the wild action and good laughs, this is a dialogue-heavy character study as much as it is a legacy sequel (in fact, it’s more satisfying as the former than the latter).


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Molloy makes an impressive directorial debut after helming a slew of standout commercials. It’s interesting to look at the four “Beverly Hills Cop” films and note how, for the commercial and of-their-time qualities they have, each has a very different style and approach to how the character is presented.

The 1984 original wasn’t just a blockbuster but it’s still one of the best films of its year. Director Martin Brest, a few years away from following it up with “Midnight Run” (1988) and “Scent of a Woman” (1993), made the first installment tough and straight forward. Murphy’s electric performance was not just a series of bang-on funny bits but a rich contrast between Foley’s down-to-earth manner and the materialistic world he was suddenly immersed in.

Yes, the soundtrack is iconic, and the film is endlessly quotable but there isn’t a bad scene in it. On the other hand, the first sequel “Beverly Hills Cop II” (1987) was helmed by Tony Scott, looking and feeling like Scott and his mega-producers (Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson) had just stepped off the set of their “Top Gun” (1986) and placed Foley into that world.

“Beverly Hills Cop II” can be exciting, and Murphy has some choice moments but it’s a sour, cold film, as Scott’s mega-slick imagery and another knockout soundtrack can’t overcome a story that isn’t interesting and villains that are hard to care about.

Scott took Brest’s scrappy original and made it an MTV video, complete with Murphy as Foley no longer vulnerable but, like the man playing him, a bonafide superstar.

John Landis’ “Beverly Hills Cop III” arrived with both the star and director in need of a hit and, despite the foolproof premise (its “Die Hard” in Disneyland!), the film mostly misses. The third installment has an excellent opener, showing us Foley on a case in Detroit that goes south and results in the only father figure in his life being murdered.

Beverly Hills Cop III (1994) Official Trailer #1 - Eddie Murphy Movie HD

For a while, the movie defies its bad reputation, until the premise is forced (why must Foley always have to fly over to Beverly Hills, again?) and the amusement park sequences misfire. In addition to a song soundtrack and score that don’t always work, “Beverly Hills Cop III”, despite the R-rating and ample profanity, oddly feels like it’s aiming to be the more mainstream, watered-down alternative to the first two.

Landis and Murphy have made good movies before (their 1988 “Coming to America” deserves the ongoing adoration) but the third “Cop” is goofy and, bizarrely, feels like a Disney movie instead of a supposed send up of the Disney company.

I’m happy to report my fear that the fourth “Beverly Hills Cop” would be another comedy sequel debacle like “Anchorman 2” (2013), “Dumb and Dumber To” (2014) or “Zoolander 2” (2016) is unrealized. There are flaws, like how the screenplay by Will Beall, Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten is involving but has no real surprises.

Still, of the many legacy sequels popping up on how a fondly remembered character is now in the latter years of life and needs to consider their mortality, it’s stronger than expected.

Also, it is nothing like the debacle that was “Coming 2 America” (2021) or a close-but-not-quite disappointment like “Another 48 HRS.” (1990). I’m a lifelong Murphy fan (yes, I even like “Harlem Nights”) and am happy to report that he gives this fourth and hopefully last (might as well walk away on a strong note!) entry as Axel Foley the comic and dramatic heft it needed.

Paramount Pictures was once Murphy’s creative homebase but, if this and the great “Dolemite is My Name” (2019) are any indication, then Netflix is working out for Murphy as much as Beverly Hills has overall for Axel Foley.

Three stars


  1. I turned it off about 45 minutes in. The opening had me into it but the more it went on and spent more time on his daughter, I lost a lot of interest. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at Joseph Gordon’s scene when he first meets Foley and tells him they don’t let their fragile ego and insecurities get the best of them anymore.

    1. I thought the film threaded the needle on modern culture … a few asides, but no direct lectures. If you stuck with the film it showed how Axel had the right way to fight crime and the more ‘evolved’ character followed his lead. But I totally get why the scene rubbed you the wrong way! BTW, this review is from the great Barry Wurst but he and I felt pretty much the same way about Axel F.

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