Film Review: Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is a welcome return to form for Eddie Murphy’s iconic character

After tarnishing the one-two punch of 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop and it’s 1987 sequel with the 1994 threequel – one that even the film’s stars have turned against over the years – the Eddie Murphy-led franchise seemed permanently laid to rest.

Though there’s been considerable chatter in the three decades since its release, the third film’s rotten reception and Murphy’s wavering star power seemed to continually block his cop from solving another case.

God bless the streaming services then, I guess, as Netflix have resurrected Murphy’s wisecracking Detroit detective Axel Foley to cash in on the nostalgia craze that has seemingly benefitted so many other film series as of late (Scream, Ghostbusters, etc), with a fourth go around that hopes to both undo any of the negative taste left from its predecessor and remind us as to why Murphy is considered such a giant in the comedy field.

This irony of Netflix releasing this too is that Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F doesn’t feel like the usual studio content, with first-time feature director Mark Molloy injecting a much needed sense of physicality into proceedings; an action film in 2024 not utilising special effects? Who woulda thunk it?!  Cars are recklessly driven, helicopters are even more recklessly flown, and shoot-outs unfold with little exaggerated flare across Axel F‘s 117 minutes, bringing to mind a certain scrappiness that made the original Martin Brest-directed actioner and the Tony Scott-helmed sequel so endearing.

Whilst the HD sheen of Netflix means the film has a glossy look to it that sets it apart from the other franchise entries, the dirty spirit is there, with Murphy effortlessly embodying Foley once more, complete with sarcastic tone and the occasional profane remark.  And he has plenty to profanely remark on as he finds himself (unwanted) in the flashy streets of Beverly Hills once more, hoping to solve a case that involves the mysterious disappearance of his detective buddy Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), which in turn involves his estranged daughter, Jane (Taylour Paige), a criminal defense attorney who required Rosewood’s help in her latest case.

Though the ultimate big bad behind said case, which, naturally, involves crooked cops, isn’t the most surprising reveal, Molloy injects enough intrigue and excitement throughout, as well as expanding on Foley’s humanity through the strained relationship with Jane.  There’s an ease to the way Murphy and Paige play off each other, and it’s a benefit to the film that the Will Beale/Tom Gormican/Kevin Etten-penned script utilises their chemistry when the action takes a breath.

And whilst the injection of such talent as Kevin Bacon (as the police captain in the Beverly Hills Police Department) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as Jane’s ex boyfriend and fellow detective) infuse the film with further legitimacy, Axel F ultimately succeeds as a reunion episode for Murphy, Reinhold, John Ashton (returning as Rosewood’s former partner, Taggart) and Bronson Pinchot (as the flamboyant art gallery salesman turned weapons dealer Serge); the latter appearing in one of the film’s funniest sequences where the good sense is made to let him and Murphy riff off each other.

The magic and raw energy of the original film can never be recaptured, but Axel F does a commendable job of reminding us why we fell for Murphy’s character in the first place.  Whether or not audiences think it’s worth the wait will prove individual, but after the more neutered temperament of III it’s impossible not to look at this fourth instalment as a success.


Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is streaming on Netflix from July 3rd, 2024.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.