Director: Mark Molloy Screenwriter: Will Beall, Tom Gormican, Kevin Etten Cast: Eddie Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Taylour Paige, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Paul Reiser, Bronson Pinchot, Kevin Bacon Distributor: Netflix Running Time: 118 min. MPAA: R

In the same way that Will Smith and Martin Lawrence seemed to slip so easily back into their cop roles for Bad Boys, so too does Eddie Murphy with his role of Axel Foley from the Beverly Hills Cop movies. After 30 years out of action, Murphy jumps back into the action as though he’s been waiting his whole live to get back into car chases and shootouts. His cavorting and cackling holds up, even if the franchise finds little more to explore than the greatest hits.

Despite being older, Axel is still doing what he does best on the streets of Detroit. He tracks down criminals and engages with them in a way that makes his former-partner-turned chief Jeffrey (Paul Reiser) fume with frustrations. With Jeffrey bowing out, Axel takes off for Beverly Hills to reconnect with his daughter, Jane (Taylour Paige), now a lawyer being targeted by some bad men. When Axel’s retired partner, Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), is captured by these conspiring forces, Axel plans to bust the doors open on this conspiracy of corrupt cops. It’s the perfect case for a cop who doesn’t play by the rules.

There’s a mildly refreshing return to form for Murphy in this legacy sequel, considering it still carries the R rating and embraces that freedom of comedy with profanity and action with vicious violence. Murphy’s banter still has some crackle for how effortlessly he can slip back into his smart-ass cop routine, making that trademark grin one that doesn’t have to be forced. While I don’t recall any specific one-liners that Murphy nails with gusto, his energy is consistent and charming throughout, where everything from his comments on hockey to his quick-thinking citation of the film Jupiter Ascending (which he hasn’t seen) is amusing. All that giddiness is grounded enough that Axel’s attempt at connecting with his estranged daughter doesn’t feel like an obligatory highlight of the actor being old.

It helps that a film like this never has to point out the age of the many returning actors, where their characters are either retired or on the verge of retirement. It makes such reprisals of John Ashton as Chief John Taggart feel like comfortable continuations, considering Ashton already looked old in the originals films when he was still in his thirties. It also helps that the interactions with the new generation don’t draw strict battle lines, as with Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivering a solid performance as the more straightforward detective. Add in Kevin Bacon as a corrupt police captain, and this is a strong ensemble of actors who get plenty of chances to play in this returning franchise.

Where the film falters is when it has to remind the audience of which franchise they’re watching. Nowhere is this more present than in the soundtrack which constantly busts out the familiar theme in that 1980s electronic synth. It’s as if the key thing executives took away from research on these movies was that the theme song is the most memorable, thus leading to it being exhausted throughout the picture. It’s a bit of a shame considering that most of the film works in tone, character, and humor for reminding the audience of what made these films so fun.

Axel F is a decent revival of Beverly Hills Cop, even if all it offers is more of the same, well-aged as it may be. It’s a film that doesn’t reinvent the wheel by refusing to go for a hard-nosed reboot or curmudgeonly mean-spirited retreading. Director Mark Molloy, in his directorial debut no less, knew the assignment well. He was hired to direct a Beverly Hills Cop movie and that’s exactly what it felt like, letting Eddie Murphy’s comfort with Axel Foley be the driving force. The film ends on an apt note of Axel being in the hospital, but darting out as soon as he’s able to order a tasty meal he probably shouldn’t be eating. It’s a stubbornness that is approached with glee, making Axel F a more enduring sequel than a dusty reprisal.

You may also like