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Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

BEVERLY HILLS COP: AXEL F is a perfectly entertaining, perfectly obvious long-awaited nostalgia sequel, perfect for streaming once and forgetting. Eddie Murphy (DOLEMITE IS MY NAME) returns to play Detroit police detective Axel Foley 40 years after the original and 30 years after the disappointment of BEVERLY HILLS COP III. He still has the same job, same basic outfit, the soundtrack repeats “The Heat Is On,” “Neutron Dance” and part II’s “Shakedown,” and the score by Lorne Balfe (TERMINATOR GENISYS, BAD BOYS FOR LIFE, TOP GUN: MAVERICK) reworks Harold Faltermeyer’s beloved “Axel F Theme” and mimics some of his 1984 synth sounds.

So this is not a “He’s having to face age and change!” sequel like ROCKY BALBOA or a “He’s passing the torch” one like CREED. Instead it’s a “He’s still here, not much has changed!” His boss in Detroit was killed in part III, but his old partner Jeffrey Friedman (Paul Reiser, WHIPLASH) is the chief now. Jeffrey tries to convince Axel to visit Beverly Hills not for a case, but to reconnect with his grown up, estranged daughter Jane (Taylour Paige, ZOLA). He moved her to Beverly Hills when she was young and then divorced her mother, they have not spoken in years but somehow she’s family to his 90210 cop friends Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold, GREMLINS) and Taggart (John Ashton, HIDDEN ASSASSIN). Billy was pushed off the force and became a private detective (but still loves Rambo), Taggart is the chief now.

Jane works as a defense lawyer and is terrorized by masked men for defending an alleged cop killer Billy told her was set up. Everyone keeps saying she’s exactly like her father, which is important to put in the character’s mouths since they sure as fuck didn’t put it into her characterization. You’d think if she was exactly like her father she would get to smile or make a joke more often.

Axel gets arrested, he calls his daughter, she hangs up on him twice and only helps very reluctantly when he tells her her dear beloved father figure Billy called him about the case. I suppose it’s kind of clever to have the uptight partner hate him not for being too unpredictable, but for being her deadbeat dad. They tenuously, unpleasantly team up to follow the trail of clues Billy left behind, starting to work through some of their issues along the way.

I say “left behind” because Axel can’t find or get ahold of Billy, and finds some scary thugs ransacking his office. He ends up missing for several days, but it never seems to occur to them that he might be dead, so I felt assured he’d turn up safe at the end. I have a very strong feeling they originally had him dying at the beginning but either did reshoots or weren’t very thorough about rewriting it when they realized that would be too much of a bummer. Research confirms that at least the 2008 draft by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas (2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, 3:10 TO YUMA, WANTED) was about Axel returning to Beverly Hills to investigate the murder of Billy.

I had some questions about the continuity of the Axel-verse. At the police station Detective Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER) digs out Axel’s file and it’s all about the incidents in 1984, 1987 and 1994. But all the new cop characters know his name and all about him and they say Taggart always tells “Axel Foley stories.” Taggart wasn’t even in part III, he’s probly been around him, what, a week or two over 40 years? How many stories could he have?

(My wife says part II has photos indicating they’ve gone on fishing trips and stuff. I haven’t seen it in a while.)

The craziest part is when they call up Serge (Bronson Pinchot, RISKY BUSINESS) to help with something. I wanted Jane to ask “Who’s this guy again?” and for Axel to say “Oh, he’s this guy I met briefly at an art gallery 40 years ago and bought a gun from 30 years ago.” Instead Jane remembers him from childhood, so maybe he went on fishing trips too.

Here’s the other thing. Jane’s age tells us that Axel had a wife and daughter at home during part III. Never called them or mentioned them. Seemed to fall in love with Theresa Randle. But I get why they didn’t care about that here. Trying to find some character drama is more important than staying consistent with a sequel nobody liked. It makes sense that they only refer to part III to take a swipe at it, but I would respect them more if they gave Axel a faded Wonder World Axel Fox t-shirt.

Paige and especially Gordon-Levitt do a good job of being the new cast members interacting with the old ones. Gordon-Levitt actually kinda looks like Judge Reinhold, and I’m surprised they didn’t make him his son, but I respect this one very minor case of not going the most obvious route. Okay, the “young partner who doesn’t have the same values” is also very obvious, but they get some humor out of it. It actually is pretty modern that Bobby laughs off Axel’s attempts to insult his manhood and really doesn’t care.

There are a few very slight feints at trying to make a BEVERLY HILLS COP movie for the era where people have noticed that cops are not your friend. When Axel surrenders to the police he references Black men needing to take extra caution in order to not get shot by police. And Jeffrey makes some claim that things are different and cops can’t get away with as much anymore. I’m sure was meant as a modern detail, but they made the same claim in DIRTY HARRY, a movie that came out before I was born. I leave it to you to judge whether police reforms have been more significant in real life.

They also do a MAGNUM FORCE, because the bad guys are corrupt cops, which I would mark as a spoiler but I think you and I both knew it the moment Kevin Bacon (THEY/THEM) introduced himself to Axel. He’s a good villain though, a strong point of the movie, and I also think they did a good job of casting his burly cop goons. I recognized one of them (Mark Pellegrino) as one of Jackie Treehorn’s thugs in THE BIG LEBOWSKI. He’s beefed up since then.

One thing I noticed: Taggart is close to the bad guy, mentored him, excitedly introduces Axel to him, is offended and doesn’t believe it when Axel later tells him he’s dirty. Hector Elizondo did all the same stuff in part III as the character they turned Taggart into when Ashton turned it down.

AXEL F is constructed around investigating this mystery, and also finding a series of unusual vehicles to drive around recklessly in. We get a snowplow, a meter maid truck, a helicopter, a moving truck full of statues – anti-climactic, but maybe they’re saving the hovercraft, the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile and the truck towing the giant promotional Eddie Murphy head from MEET DAVE for part 5. By the way, the second unit director/stunt coordinator is Mike Gunther (SABOTAGE, TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS, STAR TREK BEYOND, TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT, BUMBLEBEE, director of BEATDOWN, the MMA movie starring Rudy Youngblood).

Within this procedural/chase structure it’s Murphy’s job to riff and be charming and occasionally let other people say some funny stuff. And at this important job the movie is fairly successful. I had a bunch of laughs. I was glad they found ways for him to do his Bugs Bunny shit without straight up repeating “is this the illegal chop shop?” like in part III. To be honest I’m very surprised they didn’t try to do some reference to the banana in the tail pipe.

In the tradition of Donnie Yen, Murphy seems to be playing Axel as somewhat ageless. He has an adult daughter but otherwise hasn’t grown up. He’s also well preserved and jokes about Jeffrey looking ten years older than him. His BHPD friends do look ancient though, and on one hand I know the main appeal of this movie existing was a sort of “getting the band together” legacy sequel deal. But on the other hand it sort of underlines the emptiness of the whole thing because it seems ridiculous and/or sad that these poor old men would still be doing this job. And since this is not a theatrical release anyway and doesn’t need to be broadly appealing wouldn’t it be cool if they took the risk of making a new movie that takes a few cues from the old one but does new shit and is interesting and has something to say about where they would be in life? And, you know, you’d still have your Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride scenes, and a Pointer Sisters song?

Well, no, of course they didn’t do that, this is a sequel that has been talked about and developed since the ‘90s, with many false starts. The perfectly-tuned-to-do-exactly-what-everyone-expects sequel was probly the best case scenario. It’s been in the works so long there were two separate times when Brett Ratner was attached to direct. Also the duo who did the last two BAD BOYSes, who left to do BATGIRL (R.I.P.). The guy who ended up doing it is a rookie feature director named Mark Malloy. He’s Australian and has done commercials for Johnnie Walker, Nissan and Apple. His Wikipedia pages says he worked with Matt Reeves, but it was on a series for Quibi. Whatever his vision as a director, he does have the skills to make it look more like a real movie than some of the streaming originals, and I’m happy to observe that all the stills I found online have the appearance of film grain.

The screenplay is credited to Will Beall (GANGSTER SQUAD, AQUAMAN, ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE, BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE) and Tom Gormican & Kevin Etten (THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT). Many came before them, with a break in the middle where they tried to instead do a TV show about Axel’s son, with Murphy only making special appearances, like Christopher Lambert in Highlander: The Series. In one version, Axel had moved to Beverly Hills and gotten used to it and would have to return to Detroit during the coldest winter on record. Can you believe that? They tried to do one that had a new spin. What were they thinking!?

Reportedly, a fifth film is in development. Since the average gap between these is about 13 years, Axel will be 76 years old, but look about the same as now. Maybe now that they got this one out of their system they can do something unexpected. The LAST JEDI of the BEVERLY HILLS COP series.

It’s fine. You should watch it if you’re interested. At least it’s better than any of us expected.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 10th, 2024 at 10:13 am and is filed under Reviews, Action, Comedy/Laffs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Responses to “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F”

  1. I had about the same reaction to this. In the Dr. Strange multiverse, I can certainly imagine at least theoretically plausible (if improbable) pathways that led to a much better film than this, but I also can imagine many more, higher-probability paths that lead to a much worse film. For every TOP GUN: MAVERICK, you’re going to have plenty of later-period TERMINATOR sequels. So, I can’t be too mad at this one. Eddie is game, everyone else is pretty on point, there’s nothing grossly incompetent or eye-rolling, production values are solid if unremarkable. Yup, it’s fine. Does it raise or diminish my enthusiasm for PART 5? It diminishes it. Make of that what you will. The soundtrack repeats coming early and furious were the initial tip off that we were taking the “competent but unimaginative/play-it-safe, boilerplate fan service” lane. Could’ve been worse!

  2. Yeah, that is a perfectly competent sequel, which is kinda fitting, considering the first three movies were also to varying degrees nothing more than perfectly competent. That they don’t rely on hollow nostalgia references as much as other movies would do, almost makes it a minor miracle in this day and age! Don’t get me wrong, when the movie started with THE HEAT IS ON, I groaned and expected just a nostalgia wankfest, but most of their throwbacks actually gave it more of a LETHAL WEAPON feel, than “Hey, remember that one character and the thing he said?”

    So yeah, well done.

  3. I have one question and it will determine whether or not I ever blow the dust off my Roku and watch this thing: Does Eddie do the laugh? Because I read an interview with him that explained everything about how and why he lost his spark lo these 30 years ago. Turns out, he got sick of people imitating his trademark laugh, so he stopped doing it. Think about that. Eddie’s whole deal was that he laughed at his own jokes, and it was infectious. He was having so much fun that you couldn’t help but have fun with him. So if he’s not making himself laugh anymore, how’s he know what’s funny? He doesn’t. That’s how we get MEET DAVE and four SHREK movies. He’s been self-conscious about expressing his own joy for three decades now. This is the saddest thing I have ever heard. No wonder he’s felt so lifeless onscreen and only seems to come alive under 80 pounds of Rick Baker makeup. So unless somebody assures me that Eddie laughs his true, authentic laugh in this, I will not be subjecting myself to it. It’s too tragic.

  4. I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. Murphy seems more engaged, willing to be funny and even act a little, than he did in Part III. I got some laughs out of it. He’s older now, so the movie mostly has him sitting in vehicles during the action sequences, but they manage to fit some variety in there. Taylour Paige had a meatier role than I anticipated. But it’s also fun to see the old gang again, even if they are pretty decrepit. I am certainly happy the movie implies that these characters kept in touch and are still pals, versus them not having a life between films. And the whole thing looks like a real movie, with a lot of seemingly practical effects. And I can’t tell you how happy I am that it was not loaded with references to the previous movies, and just got on with the business of being a new sequel. Even if I personally would’ve crammed an Axel Fox reference in there somehow.

    As for the daughter being 32 and therefore born before Part III, I have to assume they were originally going to pretend Part III didn’t exist, given the one reference to it is definitely ADR. But we can just pretend the movie takes place in 2026 or something instead.

  5. Eddie is absolutely alive in this one, but no trademark Eddie Murphy laugh.

    And is it really such a big deal that he apparently had a daughter in part 3? I mean, the movie explains that he put his job first and “Sorry kiddo, I have to catch the killers of my boss, because I promised him before he kicked the bucket and honestly, it was a bit my fault that he died, see you in a few weeks” is totally on brand for him. And they never said when he and his mother broke up, so there might have already been two years of seeing her only on weekends.

  6. It would be impossible for this one to be worse than the one made by that triple killer, whose son is a serial abuser… but it’s certainly the second one from the bottom, and that even includes that odd television series episode with the son or nephew – or whatever it was – of Foley.

    For a film which consists in 30% of fatuous, forced and pointless references to the first one, which pushes in the most annoying part of all the previous ones (that “Akwel” twit), and which constantly screams: “Look! It’s THAT THING! You remember THAT THING! And now here’s THIS THING!”, it seemed rather odd that the jacket which he was wearing was not the one from the first film, but a shoddy, mismatched, disparate imitation, which seemed to have come directly from one of those “LIGHTNING SALE, 3 ITEMS FOR 9 EURO!” offers on Aliexpress. Even its sleeves seemed gray, flat and dirty, while the original jacket’s sleeves looked white, clean and fluffy.

    It was somewhat symbolic, however – it’s not the original, it’s a cheap and obviously different copy, a badly made reference, which, like this film itself and unlike the first one, now carries the label: “Made in China”.

  7. It’s challenging to describe the version of Eddie we get in this film, because it doesn’t fit into the easy binaries. He is definitely engaged and seems to care, he is intermittently funny, but he has decidedly lost his youthful electricity. He doesn’t seem tired in a really “boy, he sure seems tired” kind of way, but he’s not particularly energetic or zany either. Charming, a little subdued, not phoning it in.

    Also, I was maybe too generous: Some of the fan-service was a little eye-rolling for me, but I forgive it.

    I agree on the laugh. There is no in-story reason for him not to have the laugh. It’s a signature, and I think it’s very jarring for him to not have it.

    If I’m nitpicking, the film is overstuffed with cast members, too fan-service-y, Kevin Bacon is fine but feels like they could have done more with him (his MAXXXINE performance provides timely evidence of this), not enough Judge Reinhold (a corollary of the overstuffedness), and the end did feel very soft reboot / Victor Maitland part deux.

    Having said that, this is far less depressing than 2 COMING 2 AMERICA.

  8. Just to keep up with continuity, has anyone seen that pilot for the “Beverly Hills Cop” show for CBS? It was probably going to be an hour-long procedural, but it was created by Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”, “The Unit”) and they got Eddie back to do it. Is it out there? Did it ever air or leak? I have NO IDEA why CBS would not pick up an Eddie Murphy procedural — maybe it was too expensive?

  9. I didn’t realize they shot it. But according to Eddie in interviews Axel had become the police chief in Detroit, the show was about his son in Beverly Hills, he would just be on the pilot and occasional special appearances. That doesn’t sound that exciting unless they somehow got someone amazing to play the son.

  10. Internet Archive to the rescue. https://archive.org/details/beverly-hills-cop-unaired-2013-pilot

    It’s not bad but I can see why CBS passed when they learned Eddie wouldn’t be there every week. Brandon T. Jackson plays his son. You’ve seen him in things.

  11. https://archive.org/details/beverly-hills-cop-unaired-2013-pilot

    It’s not bad. Stars Brandon T Jackson as his son. Without Eddie there every week I’m not shocked they passed.

  12. Yep, that’s Brandon T. Jackson, aka Alpa Chino from “Tropic Thunder”!
    Good find, Sternshein! That Internet Archive really is a special place.

  13. I quite enjoyed it for what it is… definitely an improvement on part 3, but also something that will be easily forgotten. It was nice to see Eddie Murphy back in that role though…
    One thing that distracted me a bit – did anyone else thought that Judge Reinhold looked a bit like Mickey Rourke? (I mean old weird looking Mikey Rourke…)

  14. Franchise Fred is also fine with it.

  15. Edgard, YES! I was holding back “Weird that they recast Rosewood with Mickey Rourke” jokes all week, because I kinda grew out of “Haha, people look different when they get older jokes”, buuuuuuuuut I did not expect Judge Reinhold to change like that.

  16. Surprised to see people down on this. To me, it’s a far stronger effort than the last few Indiana Joneses or Screams we’ve gotten (“OH MY GOD, THREE GHOSTFACES!!!”)… arguably better put together than the Charlize Theron Fast & Furiouses… and favorably comparable to Bad Boys: Ride Or Die or Live Free Or Die Hard (which also did the Estranged Adult Daughter subplot). I think if it came out in the 90s or Aughts, it wouldn’t raise any eyebrows, but I guess coming out in 2024 raises this expectation that it has to be something transcendent like Top Gun: Maverick.

    But honestly, what I like about it is that it’s just another Axel Foley adventure, not ‘the epic conclusion to the Beverly Hills Cop saga’ or anything like that. Axel’s not against a master villain who was secretly behind all the earlier villains, he’s not passing the torch to a new guy, he’s not even saving the President, he’s just working a new case. It feels a little like there were two or three sequels they weren’t able to make between III and this, so they’re just picking up where they would’ve been if the series had been active all this time.

    I get how that could be disappointing, that it’s just another sequel where they get the band back together and play the hits–my acid test is that if this were an original cop movie, with Martin Lawrence or someone in the lead, I’d be satisfied with it.

  17. One thing btw that I really liked was the Kevin Bacon factor. From the first time he appears on screen, he plays the role as the sleaziest mustache twirler without a mustache. Even the dumbest audience member knows that he is the bad guy as soon as he appears on screen. He could’ve as well been introduced by stepping out of a shadowy corner, with some dramatic villain theme music playing while he lets out and evil giggle and rubs his hands. BUT: the movie just rolls with it, because Axel immediately knows it too. It would be really frustrating if they had tried to keep the identity of the main villain a secret and Axel wouldn’t find out until the 3rd act, while we are all waaaaaaay ahead of him. But the way it plays out here? No complaints from me! That was a fun touch.

  18. Some of the action scenes in this are actually surprisingly good 9especially the helicopter scene), but I found myself insanely uninterested in them. The movie shines (if you want to go that for) when Eddie is just mucking it up and being Eddie. I would have been fine if the entire movie didn’t have a single car wreck in it. Which probably would have cut the budget by $80,000,000 too.

  19. Did Kevin Bacon shoot all his scenes in like 3 days? They’re talking all that smack about him being all fancy with the clothes and he has the same wardrobe on the entire time. This was no BAD BOYS 4 REAL but I was surprised that after all these decades I can still find a laugh or two on hearing Eddie Murphy say “Fuck”.

  20. Kaplan – I’m obviously unusual in that I enjoyed those two Indiana Jones movies. But to me, an “Axel is old now, and the world has changed, and this is how he’s different and how he deals with the changes” story would be much more interesting and worth doing. But also I strongly disagree with your last point – there is no way this would’ve been remotely satisfying for me if it didn’t have the Beverly Hills Cop trappings.

  21. Robert Anderson

    July 13th, 2024 at 7:45 pm

    Paramount didn’t want to make this because Murphy had sabotaged BHC 3 by refusing to be funny. Here, he wasn’t refusing he just wasn’t. Shame on Murphy and Bruckheimer for not flexing whatever power they have left to help make a movie that tried to be good. Forget nostalgia. Just make a good movie lol It’s not hard. Maybe for Eddie it is.

  22. Yeah, whenever a movie comes out and you don’t like a movie it’s because they decided not to try. To be fair they have a meeting about a week before production starts where they decide, so there is at least that much effort (although dress code at these meetings is smart casual which some of you may not approve of, and they aren’t always minuted), but if they decide they’re not going to try, well that’s all there is or will ever be to it.

  23. It’s shocking how many production teams forget to add “Just make a good movie” to their checklist before filming begins. As we all know, making a good movie is extremely not hard. It’s super easy, in fact. We all agree on what constitutes a good movie and know instinctively how to execute it. That’s why almost all movies are good and bad movies are rare, except in cases such as this one where they just didn’t do it for reasons of simple forgetfulness. I bet they were kicking themselves afterward. I hope somebody got fired for that blunder!

  24. Robert Anderson

    July 17th, 2024 at 7:52 pm

    * Pac -That’s your right to like a bad movie. I’m not going to beat you up because you still get a kick out of hearing The Heat Is On. Just remember that if you like a bad movie then chances are they’ll turn around and make an even worse one. Respect your free time better than that. * Mr Maj – Murphy could have easily said let’s punch up the script a little bit. What were they going to do, fire him for demanding creativity?

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