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Eddie Murphy And OGs Are Back

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It is hard to believe it has been 40 years since Eddie Murphy first exploded onto the screen as one of his signature characters, Axel Foley, in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. But even if that 22 year old is now 63, he is still on the beat and doesn’t miss a beat all these years later in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, almost seeming to have stopped time with this character who is just as funny, sharp and entertaining as ever.

The original was the top-grossing movie of its year and led to two sequels, one in 1987 and another in 1994. That’s right, we haven’t had an Axel fix for 30 years, though not for lack of trying; there were several scripts along the way, but none felt right to its star until finally bringing in producer Jerry Bruckheimer who (with late partner Don Simpson) made the first couple of films. Bruckheimer knew just what the franchise would require: let Eddie be Eddie and let Axel be Axel. It’s as simple as that, and it really works with a first-time feature director and a key screenwriter who was once a cop himself creatively in charge.

Australian Mark Molloy, best known for his commercial work including for Apple, got the call to make his feature-film debut on this script by ex-cop Will Beall and Tom Gormican & Kevin Etten. Beall certainly knows something about reviving star-vehicle cop adventures as he is also partially responsible for the current hit number four in the Bad Boys series, also from Bruckheimer, who has a real eye for matching the right talent to the right project at the perfect time (witness his Top Gun: Maverick 36 years after the original).

Right from the opening scenes we are back in the mood, reintroduced to Axel as he drives through his beloved Detroit, waving at passersby, checking out the neighborhoods, all to the sounds of “The Heat Is On.” The first major action set piece takes place at a hockey game, where Foley has managed to get an unwitting partner to accompany him but soon reveals the real reason for his manipulation: there is about to be a major robbery there and the partner is gonna be front and center. It is just a reminder how clever this cop is whether in his hometown or in Beverly Hills, which is, of course, where all roads lead in these sequels.

His old Detroit partner Jeffrey Friedman (Paul Reiser) is ready to retire from the force, resisting all of Foley’s efforts to change his mind, even though he is about to embark on a new mission leading him back to the hills of Beverly where a major conspiracy is ripe to be uncovered. One of the keys though happens to be Foley’s estranged daughter Jane Saunders (Taylour Paige), who is aiming to get her wronged client off on his conviction, something that leads to more dire circumstances for her as she is left hanging in her car off the upper floors of a parking garage by masked bad guys determined to get what they need from her. Enter Axel aka Dad, a person she wants nothing to do with but who knows this is his chance to help his daughter out. The plot device that gives this whole caper a nice emotional hook and some skin in the game for Foley, who doesn’t take long before he finds himself arrested by some other Beverly Hills cops.

Now back in the BH Police Department, a place he knows well, he finds himself introduced to Detective Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who also happens to be Jane’s ex-boyfriend but also a prime candidate to partner up with Foley in his new quest, which will also involve teaming up with old friends including Detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold, the only actor other than Murphy to appear in all four films), who has uncovered some dangerous goings on and will need help. He also enlists Billy’s old partner Detective John Taggart (John Ashton) and even the inimitable Serge, the flamboyant art-gallery aficionado and weapons dealer played still to the hilt by Bronson Pinchot. Standing in the way of all of them is slick and shady police captain Cade Grant (Kevin Bacon), a smooth operator who Foley quickly suspects to be as crooked as they come.

Of course, in uncovering all this crime there is lots of mayhem taking place and some sensational action set pieces, lots of chases, and most notably a wild helicopter sequence with Abbott at the controls informing Axel — when it is too late — that he doesn’t really know how to fly. The prime Los Angeles locations and Beverly Hills itself are used well by Molloy and his cameras; he expertly stages all the stunts and explosions like he was Michael Bay.

All of this, thanks to Murphy and the cast reunion, is great fun and moves like a rocket. Murphy slips back into his role effortlessly, clearly knowing exactly what makes Axel Foley tick. Paige is a great addition, appealing and believable as the daughter who wants him out of her life — until she doesn’t. Gordon-Levitt is another fine new cast member, nicely balancing Murphy’s antics. Bacon adds some slick gravitas to his role, which could have been one-note in lesser hands. And smartly for a movie that is as much nostalgia as it is action, it is great to have the whole band back together including welcome turns from Reinhold, Ashton, Reiser and Pinchot.

It should have been in theaters where it could have thrived, but Netflix subscribers will love it.

Producers are Bruckheimer, Murphy and Chad Oman.

Title: Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F
Distributor: Netflix
Release date: July 3, 2024 (streaming)
Director: Mark Molloy
Screenwriter: Will Beall and Tom Gormican & Kevin Etten
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Taylour Paige, Kevin Bacon, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Paul Reiser, Bronson Pinchot
Rating: R
Running time: 1 hr and 55 min



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