Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F Review: The Heat Is Lukewarm in Netflix’s 30-Years-Later Sequel

Axel Foley is tired, man.

The veteran lawman literally says so not an hour into in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, when rather than slip into yet another colorful persona/accent to finagle himself a room at (yes, the) Beverly Palms Hotel, he stops himself mid-bit, lets out an exhausted sigh, and instead just opens his wallet.

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Has the film franchise as a whole — heretofore dormant for three decades (save for a busted CBS TV series pilot) — similarly run out of gas?

Ever since this made-for-Netflix sequel (releasing Wednesday) was announced, few have been as excited for it as I, a Gen Xer whose Beverly Hills Cop VHS tape was in steady rotation at college. Alas, the nagging feeling that I got once Axel F‘s full trailer came out — “Wait, did they mistake the franchise for being action-heavy, and not jokes-forward?!” — proved spot-on.

Running not quite two hours and curiously not titled Beverly Hills Cop 4 (have numbered sequels become scary to people?), Axel F finds Eddie Murphy’s titular Detroit police detective making a beeline for Los Angeles when the life of his daughter Jane is threatened. A public defender, Jane is under fire for representing an accused cop killer, though her client — and a lead being diligently chased by LAPD vet Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), now a P.I. — suggest that all is not as it seems.

In addition to Murphy and Reinhold, franchise vets John Ashton, Paul Reiser and Bronson Pinchot all put in appearances, as Taggart (now an LAPD police chief), Jeffrey (now, improbably, Axel’s boss at the Detroit PD) and that lemon tweeest-loving Serge.

New to the mix are Taylour Paige (The Baxters, Hit the Floor) as the aforementioned Jane Saunders, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as LAPD Detective Bobby Abbott (a foil for Axel and former love interest of Jane’s), and Kevin Bacon as the head of a narcotics task force.

Does Axel use fake names/job titles to talk his way past obstacles in his investigation? Of course he does. Does Billy get to regard big guns with glee, and does Taggart fetch a shotgun from his trunk? Yes, and yes. Do “The Heat Is On,” “Shakedown,” “Neutron Dance” and Harold Faltermeyer’s “Axel F.” all get encores? You betcha.

But as much as I anticipated that warm hug of a trip down memory lane, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is… just not that funny. And as much as it fancies itself an action movie, the 10-minute cold open — a riff on Cop 2‘s cement truck chase scene, but swapping in a similarly unwieldy snowplow — will have you checking your watch as of often as you’re not chuckling at quips about Black people disliking ice hockey.

Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley and Taylour Paige as Jane Saunders
Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley and Taylour Paige as Jane Saunders

Murphy, now 63 (versus 23 when the franchise launched in 1984), is understandably not as physically elastic as he used to be, when launching into a silly voice or persona. And there’s no more of that devilish gleam in his eyes, such as when the Axel conjured the idea of sweatily shlepping “plutonium nitrate multi-explosive projectiles” into the Beverly Hills Gun Club.

Instead, Murphy likely saw an opportunity to explore Axel’s paternal side vis-à-vis Jane’s life-and-death dilemma, and he does give his all to the fraught father/estranged daughter moments. (Alas, Paige as a result doesn’t get to have much fun as Janey until about two-thirds of the way in; but once she does, she shines.) Murphy develops a fun rapport with Gordon-Levitt’s character, especially during a helicopter chase gone awry.

I won’t get into spoilers here, but one of the returning characters is given a story arc that simply does not track. And the villain of the piece does not measure up to the likes of Steven Berkoff’s Victor Maitland, Jürgen Prochnow’s Maxwell Dent or even Brigitte Nielsen’s Karla Fry. It is amusing, though, to spy Mark Pellegrino (Lost) quietly filling the Jonathan Banks role, as the Big Bad’s hired muscle. And SNL vet Nasim Pedrad absolutely steals a scene as a sing-songy real estate agent who not-so-silently loathes the property she is showing to a pair of “newlyweds.”

If you loved the original Beverly Hills Cop, liked the first sequel and… well, let’s just say that Axel F offers a wonderfully meta dig at the amusement park-set third film… you, as I did, will make it through this new entry just fine. You’ll grin now and again, laugh at a couple of Murphy’s line deliveries, and smile warmly during the Axel/Taggart/Billy scene glimpsed in the photo above. Even seeing the facade of the Beverly Palms Hotel again might give you a charge.

Eddie Murphy is out there saying he’s open to a fifth go-round, but Axel F, I fear, could prove to be the banana in the franchise’s tailpipe.

Unless it racks up a kajillion minutes viewed on Netflix. Which it very well might.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is heavy on non-spectacular action, light on the improvisational Eddie Murphy humor of old.

Once you have seen Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, grade it below!

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