Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (2024) Review: An Entertaining Nostalgia-Heavy Sequel That Brings Back Eddie Murphy To His Former Glory

I’ve been waiting for ages for Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F a.k.a. Beverly Hills Cop 4, the long-gestating fourth movie in the once-lucrative franchise that has been in limbo since the mid-1990s. Blame it on the critical and financial failure of Beverly Hills Cop III — the 1994 weirdly toned-down disaster that failed to recapture the tone and style of the first two movies. The project has since undergone a stop-start process throughout the decades. Different directors including Brett Ratner (Rush Hour trilogy) and Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (before they went on to make Bad Boys 3 & 4) took a stab at the fourth movie but none of them made it past the pre-production stages.

Then came Mark Molloy, whose prior credits included directing television commercials and short films. The now-titled Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (an obvious nod to the other Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Top Gun: Maverick) marks his feature-length debut. It was a bold move hiring an unknown to spearhead a reportedly US$150 million project, easily the most expensive Beverly Hills Cop movie so far.

But first, the story: Detroit cop Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) returns to Beverly Hills following a threat against his criminal defence attorney daughter, Jane (Taylour Paige) for representing her client, Sam Enriquez (Damien Diaz) for the murder he didn’t commit. Axel teams up with her to investigate the case, leading them to a conspiracy that has to do with Captain Grant (Kevin Bacon).

A lot of things have changed since the much-maligned Beverly Hills Cop III thirty years ago. Jeffrey Friedman (Paul Reiser) is now Axel’s superior officer and Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) has already quit Beverly Hills PD and runs Rosewood Investigations as a PI. Then, there’s John Taggart (John Ashton), supposedly a retired cop the last time his name was mentioned in the previous movie. But he’s back in Beverly Hills PD as chief. Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F also introduces Detective Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a Beverly Hills PD detective who used to date Jane.

The movie gets off to a promising start with the late Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On” playing during the opening credits. That strong nostalgia factor simply hits the spot the moment I hear the iconic song and it was the same feeling I got listening to Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” in Top Gun: Maverick‘s opening scene.

I was initially worried about Molloy being a rookie feature director handling a big-budget tentpole. But he proves to be an ace showcasing his directorial flair right from the earlier scene: A nighttime snowplough chase through the streets of Detroit as Axel and his junior partner Mike Woody (Kyle S. More) try to nab a gang of robbers at the ice hockey stadium, which effectively combines action and comedy.

Speaking of comedy, it’s nice to see Murphy reprising Axel Foley — his signature role that got him into Hollywood superstardom in the first place. Of course, this isn’t the first time he revisits his old character in recent years. He previously returned to his Prince Akeem role in the much-anticipated but shockingly unfunny sequel of Coming 2 America. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.

You’re not 22 anymore“.

This is at one point Jeffrey reminds Axel after dropping him at the airport. It’s the kind of inevitable dialogue often associated with a fan-favourite character growing old and things aren’t what they used to be. He may be older but still retains most of his foul-mouthed comic energy and of course, his old-fashioned way of doing his police work. Rules, after all, don’t apply to Axel as usual.

Nostalgia may play a big role in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F but Molloy, working from a screenplay written by Will Beall, Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten, doesn’t forget to address Axel of today. The fourth movie sees him as already a father and has an estranged daughter who doesn’t like him. Their strained relationship marks the first time in the franchise a Beverly Hills Cop movie incorporated a dramatic arc. Taylour Paige, who plays Jane, holds her own starring opposite Eddie Murphy. Molloy doesn’t let the family drama get in the way too much but just enough without interfering with the predominantly action-comedy tone.

As for the rest of the recurring and new characters, Judge Reinhold may get lesser screen time but at least he made the best out of it reprising his role as Billy Rosewood. John Ashton, Paul Reiser and Bronson Pichot, where the latter returns as Serge all deliver strong support. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a good job playing the determined Detective Bobby Abbott while Kevin Bacon is right in his wheelhouse as a sneaky Captain Grant.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is currently streaming on Netflix.