Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F review – Eddie Murphy's star power can't save cheap-looking retread

 (Courtesy of Netflix © 2024)
(Courtesy of Netflix © 2024)

It has been 30 years since Eddie Murphy last took a trip to Beverly Hills and while Netflix’s $150m sequel Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is a lot better than what was served up in the previous installment in 1994, it still fails to hold a candle to that lightning-in-a-bottle 1984 original.

Murphy was just 22 years old when the first Beverly Hills Cop movie lit up the international box office. The comedian had made his name on Saturday Night Live and showed off his acting chops in Trading Places and 48 Hours, before Beverly Hills Cop shot him to the stratosphere.

His wisecracking Detroit-born Axel Foley was the perfect fish-out-of-water for police hijinks in the setting of the majority white, affluent Beverly Hills.

Now Foley is back and heading to Beverly Hills again for Axel F (perhaps the numbered title has been avoided in the hope people forget the execrable third installment).

This time it's his estranged daughter Jane Saunders (Taylour Paige) who is at risk as she tries to exonerate a suspected cop killer and soon finds herself in over her head.

Also along for the ride are Beverly Hills alumni Judge Reinhold as Lieutenant William "Billy" Rosewood and John Ashton as the begrudgeon curmudgeon John Taggart, the latter with added health issues for comedic effect.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Kevin Bacon round out the cast, the latter chewing the scenery so thoroughly as a villainous police officer that one fears for his digestive system.

But one doesn't take a trip to Beverly Hills for the subtlety; it's for the blend of action and comedy (and Murphy).

Axel F wastes no time on the action stakes, with Foley commandeering three different four-wheeled vehicles in the opening 15 minutes alone, causing wanton destruction through Detroit, where even his local hero reputation can’t save him from a good chewing out.

Soon an urgent phone call from Billy means he has to fly to Beverly Hills and help with an investigation... so far, so Beverly Hills Cop.

In fact, but for the addition of the father-daughter dynamic between Foley and his daughter, this could almost pass as a remake of Foley's first trip out west.

But Murphy’s scenes with Paige are among the best in the film and offer Murphy a chance to use his natural charisma and give the film a bit of heart rather than simply rely on nostalgia. Paige is a highlight, showing off her comedic chops as the daughter whose icy façade slowly melts away.

Unlike the action, the humour takes a while to get going, most of the jokes in the opening 30 minutes falling flat and it’s only once we’re in Beverly Hills that Aussie director Mark Molloy dials up the laughs.

But the script still relies on a series of in-jokes with Shrek and Happy Gilmore references (both funnier movies than this) along with an extended gag about Jupiter Ascending.

There is a question over whether an actor with clangers such as The Adventures of Pluto Nash, should really be talking down about other films but Murphy just about carries it off.

The biggest shame of the film however is that so much of the action looks cheap. For such a big budget surely the CGI should be better (a helicopter set piece is particularly ropey) and Molloy, who made his name with adverts and music videos, lacks a real cinematic edge to his camera work.

But there’s still enough here to please the die-hards who just want to see Axel Foley again, it’s just a shame there’s so little new to it.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F lands on Netflix on July 3

115 minutes