Discounting a failed television pilot, it has been 30 years since Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley graced our screens. There have been multiple attempts since the release of Beverly Hills Cop 3 (1994) to get a fourth film into production, but none of these ultimately came to fruition.

The project did look promising at one point when it was announced that Brett Ratner was behind the film, but most of us know how his career ultimately developed. Thankfully the production managed to get back on track with the announcement that Bad Boys for Life (2020) directors Adil & Bilall would be behind the camera which based on their work on that film was a positive move forward. Ultimately they had stepped aside to focus on their Batgirl movie, which with hindsight wasn’t the best move.

After all this behind the scenes drama, the job of bringing Axel Foley back to the movies was finally left to director Mark Molloy, with Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F marking his feature length directorial debut. Considering Molloy’s background as a commercials director, he has curtailed the desire to make Axel F overly flashy, directing the film in a clean, no bullshit manner, very similar to the style of original helmer Martin Brest. Personally this was one of the film’s most pleasurable aspects, with Molloy allowing his cast and screenplay to do the heavy lifting. Sure, the film has the expected car chases, shootouts and fight scenes you would expect, but Molloy clearly recognizes that the franchise’s characters are what really keeps the audience engaged.

The film picks up 30 years after Axel Foley’s last cinematic outing, with him still working as a Detroit cop. Clearly age hasn’t mellowed Foley, with him quickly involved in a high speed chase with a group of thieves attempting to rob the Detroit Red Wings locker room. The ensuing chase results in thousands of dollars worth of damage. This leads to his friend and now boss Jeffrey (Paul Reiser) announcing his retirement due to the stress Foley continuously gives him.

Later that night Axel gets a phone call from old friend Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) who informs him that his estranged daughter Jane’s (Taylour Paige) life is in danger due to her representing a suspected cop killer. Axel quickly jumps on a plane to Beverly Hills to assist his daughter, but before he even arrives Billy goes missing. Trying to build bridges with Jane, while at the same time trying to find Billy, Axel hooks up with old pal and now Chief of Police Taggart (John Ashton) to investigate.

Accompanied by Paige’s old boyfriend Bobby (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), this unorthodox team causes quite a bit of devastation in their investigation, with drug runners, corrupt cops and an assortment of other colourful characters all being involved in a deadly conspiracy.

Axel F is really a film that should have been given a cinema release. Considering fans of the franchise have been clamouring for this film for the past 30 years, it is slightly disappointing to see it only afforded a streaming release. However, it is better than the alternative, having no sequel at all. Axel F may not reach the heights of the original, but it’s a fun sequel, one that clearly had fans of the original in mind, with countless callbacks to the original films. Molloy and his collaborators clearly weren’t interested in trying to change the wheel, with them instead giving the audience exactly what they’d want, with there being a fine balance between the action and comedy. It more than clears away the stench left by John Landis’ Beverly Hills Cop III (1994).

It is clear that screenwriters Will Beall, Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten knew the task at hand. There is a lot of fan service involved in the film, but not so much that it gets in the way of the story. In terms of plot, Axel F could be considered generic, with the film covering mostly every cliche under the sun. Honestly, if you can’t figure out who the villain is from the start, you haven’t been watching enough films. However, this is irrelevant as it is the sparkling dialogue between the characters that really sets Axel F apart from similar action fare.

When it comes to the action, it is certainly smaller scale than other Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer productions, but more action packed than Martin Brest’s original, I would put it somewhat on par with Tony Scott’s Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) in terms of action, with the various set pieces all generating the requisite level of excitement. The opening car chase works as a great intro, featuring the kind of vehicular mayhem you would expect from a Simpson/Bruckheimer production, although it never reaches the heights of something like The Rock (1996). This is followed up with an assortment of other car chases and shootouts that are finely peppered amongst the laughs and drama.

The film does lean into its R rating, although the violence doesn’t reach the levels of some more recent R rated actioners i.e. John Wick (2014). Mind you, there are a good amount of headshots during the action, courtesy of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Bobby’s sharpshooting skills.

As much as I enjoyed the action, obviously the main selling point of the film is Eddie Murphy himself. It’s great to see him back in a vehicle worthy of his talents after the debacle that was Coming 2 America (2021). Unlike that film, he isn’t restricted by a PG-13 rating, with Axel F giving him free rein to unleash as many F bombs as possible. Murphy is hilarious throughout, as well as being allowed to show off his dramatic side through his relationship with Taylour Paige’s Jane.

Paige does well in a role that teeters on the annoying side. I get that her and her father are estranged but there are parts of the film where I felt she acted like a petulant child rather than the high powered lawyer she is supposed to be. Still, the relationship between her and Murphy gives the film its emotional edge. There’s also some romantic tension between Paige and Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Bobby, with them previously being an item. However the film doesn’t dwell on this aspect, with most of the focus of the film being on Axel’s investigation. Levitt still does well in what he is given and is especially good during the action scenes. I was somewhat worried that franchise stalwarts Judge Reinhold and John Ashton would be shortchanged, and while it would have been good for them to have more screen time, the scenes they appear in are some of the film’s best. To be honest, I was half expecting them to have one scene cameos, so the fact they appeared throughout the entire film was enough for me.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the quality musical score provided by ace composer Lorne Balfe. A beautiful 80’s style throwback, bringing back the nostalgic feelings of the original. The incorporation of some of the franchises’ most recognisable tunes doesn’t hurt either, with the likes of Glenn Frey’s “The Heat is On” and The Pointers Sister’s “Neutron Dance” all factoring into the action which brought a massive smile across my face. In fact, I don’t think that smile left my face for the duration of the film.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F may not be for everyone, but for many like myself, this is the film we have been waiting for. It is a perfect example of how a legacy sequel should be done, and if it is the last time we get to see Axel Foley, it is a fine send off.

Plot: 3.5/5
Acting: 5/5
Action: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5


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