Beverly Hills Cop 4 fails to recapture the magic of the first movie

At one point in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, Axel Foley goes to fool his way into a lavish hotel for the night, before he decides that he just can't be bothered with the ruse. It's a playful throwback to the first movie, one of many, but also an indicator of the movie as a whole.

It's taken 30 years for a fourth Beverly Hills Cop movie to actually happen, but there's a real 'Will this do?' energy to proceedings. This hotel gag is one of the few Easter eggs for fans that actually do something surprising, with the majority just repeating the bit.

For some fans, that might be enough and it is fun to see Eddie Murphy back in one of his most iconic roles. But while Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F picks up considerably in its final act, you'll be better off rewatching the first movie instead.

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After an opening sequence retreading the first movie's Detroit chase set piece, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F sees Axel called back to Beverly Hills by his old pal Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), who warns him that Axel's daughter Jane (Taylour Paige) is in danger.

She's stumbled onto a conspiracy and her life is now at risk, so Axel reluctantly teams up with a new partner, Detective Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), as well as Rosewood and John Taggart (John Ashton), to solve the case.

It's a setup that allows the movie to address the 30-year gap since the dreadful Beverly Hills Cop 3. Through his connections to Taggart and to Jane, the movie aims to explore how Axel's old-school ways just don't cut it in the modern world and that he's grown up (or not, as the case may be) and has been a terrible father.

The problem is that the script doesn't seem that interested in exploring those themes in detail, so it's all very surface-level and uninspired. It just gives nothing for Murphy, as well as Paige and Gordon-Levitt, to really work with, meaning the attempted emotional journey falls flat.

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What's worse is that a first-act plot development leaves Axel with mostly the new characters to interact with. If you're a fan waiting for that Axel, Rosewood and Taggart car scene from the trailers, you'll be waiting a while as the beloved trio are largely kept apart until the final act.

It's telling that this is when Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F starts to find its spark. Its two strongest set pieces are the final ones as, first, Axel and Abbott cause havoc in a helicopter and then the duo team up with Rosewood and Taggart to lay waste to a mansion. There's an energy to the dynamics here that is sorely missing elsewhere.

Perhaps if the central case was more involving, you wouldn't miss it so much. However, it's fairly obvious – even from the cast list – who the main baddie is and the movie doesn't really shy away from it either.

The Beverly Hills Cop movies are never really about the whodunnit and more about how Axel saves the day, so this isn't the issue. It's more that, unlike the first movie, Axel feels like he's going through the motions until the final act, lumbered with subplots that never go anywhere.

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There's nothing here to suggest just why this iteration of Beverly Hills Cop 4 was the one that deserved to get over the line. It has plenty of fan service and, at best, will be a diverting Netflix watch for fans if you just want to see Axel do his thing again. If nothing else, it's also not as bad as the third movie.

But for the most part, all Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F does with its numerous callbacks is remind you that you could be watching the far superior first movie instead.

2 stars
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Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F will be released on Netflix at 8am (UK time) on July 3.

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