A star rating of 3 out of 5.

One of Netflix's most obsessive preoccupations in recent years has been its determination to create an original action-comedy franchise. The likes of Red Notice, The Grey Man and, more recently, Kevin Hart vehicle Lift, have all boasted hefty budgets and considerable star power, but despite posting decent numbers according to the streamer's own metrics, none of them has made so much as a small dent in the lasting cultural landscape. Nor, crucially, have any of them actually been any good.


So, perhaps it makes sense that for the streamer's latest major release, it's turning to the franchise that arguably originated the action-comedy as we know it: Beverly Hills Cop. The first film in the series, released in 1984, was a monumental hit, becoming the highest-grossing film of that year in the US and truly propelling Eddie Murphy – already a big name thanks to his stint on Saturday Night Live and films such as Trading Places – to international megastardom.

That success led to follow-ups in 1987 and then again in 1994, with both films sticking to the same formula but offering diminishing returns compared to that wildly entertaining original.

30 years have passed since then, making this latest entry, titled Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, a legacy sequel in the mould of Top Gun: Maverick or Creed. And while it's not at the same level as either of those efforts, the result is a fun film which for the most part brings both a pleasing nostalgia and a welcome freshness to the series – with Murphy clearly enjoying being back in his iconic role as maverick cop Axel Foley, especially compared to his rather phoned-in performance back in the third film.

Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley and Judge Reinhold as Billy Rosewood in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.
Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley and Judge Reinhold as Billy Rosewood in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. Netflix

The plot sticks relatively rigidly to the previous formula: after a chaotic operation in his hometown of Detroit goes awry and prompts the chagrin of his superiors, Axel travels to the titular LA neighbourhood to take on an assignment with a personal connection. This time around, he’s summoned by his old buddy Billy Rosewood (the returning Judge Reinhold) to investigate a case of police corruption that also concerns his estranged daughter Jane, a new character played by Taylour Paige.

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As he digs into the case with all his trademark live wire energy and undimmed powers of persuasion, he crosses paths with faces both old and new. Among them, Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins the cast as Bobby Abbott, a detective who initially gets off on the wrong foot with Axel in part due to his romantic history with Jane, while Kevin Bacon excels as somewhat shady police captain Cade Grant.

Throughout, the film leans heavily into nostalgia, with a multitude of knowing references and returning characters – including original scene-stealer Bronson Pinchot reprising his role as flamboyant former art gallery salesman Serge. But director Mark Molloy largely navigates these callbacks in a way that avoids feeling too cynical, creating a crowd-pleasing experience that will surely make most viewers question why Netflix opted for a streaming only release given this franchise's box office pedigree.

In terms of both the corruption storyline and the exploration of Axel's broken relationship with his daughter, the narrative itself is fairly bog-standard. And when the film drifts away from Axel's wise-cracking and elaborate hijinks into more earnest material it's never far from slipping into cliché – with some slightly ropey dialogue along the way.

But the combination of Murphy's electric charisma, solid performances from a game supporting cast, and a selection of well realised set pieces – including one standout sequence involving a disastrous helicopter ride – ensures that this film is leagues above most of Netflix's aforementioned action-comedy output.

And, of course, that iconic theme tune remains as hummable as ever.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is streaming on Netflix from Wednesday 3rd July 2024 sign up from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.


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