Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (2024)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Eddie Murphy star in Netflix’s “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.”

Wheels quickly come off the broken ‘Axel F’

The heat most assuredly is not on when it comes to the 30-years-on revival of the “Beverly Hills Cop” franchise and its 63-year-old star, Eddie Murphy. Subtitled “Axel F,” the Netflix offering proves a depressing, unimaginative iteration determined to recycle everything from Murphy’s worn-out fish-out-of-water schtick to the 1984 original’s A-plus soundtrack featuring classics by Glenn Frey, The Pointer Sisters and Harold Faltermeyer.

Like Joe Biden, Murphy is getting too old for a job this physically demanding, and he often comes across as tired as the cliched dialogue penned by a trio of writers seemingly averse to venturing beyond the template created 40 years ago by Oscar-nominee Daniel Petrie Jr. Thus, the scenario is almost identical to the installments issued in ’84, ’87 and ’94: rogue Detroit detective Axel Foley improbably rushes to the aid of a victimized pal in Beverly Hills and clashes with by-the-book local authorities whose personalities are as pallid as their skin.

The trip down Memory Lane also requires dusting the cobwebs off Axel’s old allies in blue, Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and John Taggart (John Ashton), although they serve little purpose other than to reinforce the cruel nature of father time. Novice director Mark Molloy smartly jettisons them in favor of sleeker sidekicks in Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Axel’s requisite straight man, Det. Bobby Abbott, and Taylour Paige as the Motor City copper’s estranged daughter, Jane.

The plot, a drug cartel working with a band of dirty police championed by Kevin Bacon’s smarmy Capt. Cade Grant, is merely a playground for Murphy’s familiar antics. These include assuming multiple identities, fast-talking his way into and out of trouble, pissing off the brass, exchanging lame barbs with the cartoonish bad guys, and when time allows, squabbling with his not-so-loving daughter, an L.A. defense attorney who despises Dear Ol’ Dad.

Granted, Murphy and Paige are quite good together, but their father-daughter warfare is shallow and – surprise! – destined for an inevitable resolution in Act III. Same for Murphy’s scenes with Gordon-Levitt, who to his credit, nobly attempts to inject vitality into a colorless character. It’s ultimately a losing battle, drowned out by – in true Jerry Bruckheimer fashion – umpteen car crashes, automatic weapon fire and explosions.

The result is an exercise that is neither good nor bad, just lifeless. Murphy retains a certain appeal as he goes through the motions, but it’s of service to a movie you can watch while folding laundry. Even the luxurious Beverly Hills locations have become a bore.

Disappointingly overlooked are numerous opportunities to skewer the pompous La La Land lifestyle and all the excess and superficiality inherent in it. As close as it comes is a borderline offensive cameo by Bronson Pinchot’s series veteran, Serge, now a stereotypical gay realtor with an indiscernible foreign accent. I cringed through every moment of his brief appearance. As for Paul Reiser as Axel’s old pal, (now) Deputy Chief Jeffrey Friedman, the nostalgic drop-in is a bit more palatable, albeit equally non-essential.

The same can be said for the entire film. And to now learn that yet another sequel is in the works is mind-boggling. It’s time for Murphy to hang up the holster and refrain from revisiting his past in junk like this and “Coming to America 2.” It may be an easy paycheck, but these soulless endeavors only denigrate his legacy. He’s so much better than this and needs to start showing it.

Movie review

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

Rated: R for brief drug use, violence and language throughout

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Taylour Paige, Gordon Joseph-Levitt, Kevin Bacon, Judge Reinhold and John Ashton

Director: Mark Molloy

Writer: Will Beall, Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten

Runtime: 115 minutes

Where: Streaming on Netflix beginning July 3

Grade: C

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