‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’ begins as all of the previous action comedy installments have in the past  — with Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) getting into some trouble going above and beyond to stop crime in Detroit. This time, he’s staking out a gang operation during a Detroit Red Wings game with a fellow detective who is brimming with adulation that THE Axel Foley wants to hang out. In a classic mode of Murphy humor, he hilariously speaks to his partner’s surprise about a Black man wanting to go to a hockey game. After that, director Mark Molloy’s fourth entry into the franchise goes as expected. Axel makes a grandiose scene with his illustrious reputation proceeding him, a costly high-speed chase to track down the bad guys occurs, and the Detroit police department braces for a hefty bill when the cleanup happens. 

‘Axel F’ does play into the nostalgia factor concerning the returning cast of characters and even the simple construction of the plot. There’s a concerted effort to write the previous wrongs of the third film and almost entirely recon it from our minds. (A slight dig at the 1994 film happens while Foley’s extensive file is combed through). But the writing team of Will Beall, Tom Gormican, and Kevin Etten had to have the present mind that this film couldn’t just be Axel gets in trouble, goes to Beverly Hills, solves a crime, and everybody goes their merry way. Murphy’s comedic timing and acting chops are always present in Axel F, but the character needs to adjust their motivation. 

The film acknowledges that it’s a time capsule, and Foley’s extravagant, wild-west policing style is no longer the norm. But he craves it; it’s an integral part of his routine. It was not until Foley’s former partner turned retiring Detroit Police Chief Jeffrey Friedman (Paul Reiser) speaks to him about enjoying days with family and not crime fighting as the central lynchpin. Could Axel Foley even do that? If you find something that serves a good, why not keep doing it? Before any of that self-reflection occurs, Foley receives a call from an old friend and now private detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), who is on the heels of uncovering bad police business in Beverly Hills. If the stakes weren’t any higher, there’s a possibility Foley’s estranged daughter Jane (Taylour Paige), a bright criminal defense attorney, is also at the center of this potential scandal. It helps that emotional stakes exist while the regular hijinks trademark to this series balance each other out. 

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. (L to R) Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley, John Ashton as Chief John Taggart, and Kevin Bacon as Captain Grant, in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024.

The old and new come together in the forms of a painting of colors we are used to seeing and some that fit well into an already-formed picture—seeing John Ashton return as now Chief John Taggart and Bronson Pinchot as Serge is a welcome site — especially when you get the payoff of Foley, Taggart, and Rosewood back together again. While they are familiar with Axel’s flair and rule-breaking,  Detective Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is not. When given the chance, Gordon-Levitt plays the straight man to Murphy’s Foley, who seeks to hold him by the book. There’s an extra layer of an ex-relationship between Bobby and Jane, which also becomes a sub-plot. The feel-good format of seeing everybody together is interrupted by the nature of the case — Rosewood goes missing, Jane is threatened numerous times, and Captain Cade Grant (Kevin Bacon) is at the center of it. As Foley points out, Cade dresses way too nicely for something not to be going on. 

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. (L to R) Taylour Paige as Jane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Detective Bobby Abbott, and Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. Cr. Melinda Sue Gordon / Netflix © 2024

The crux of the emotional center of this film is where Murphy and Paige come in. Molloy does this in the way that there are scenes where they get to talk it out and in the way that Jane inserts herself into the ways Axel hilariously goes undercover. Both characters are very similar; they are dedicated to their jobs, stubborn, and genuinely care about the greater good. The only difference is that Axel has possibly relied on his job too heavily to escape things outside of it. 

‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’ knows what it’s trying to do – it’s invoking the spirit of the Martin Brest-helmed original with the acknowledgment that these classic characters are operating in a time where things have changed, prices for hotels are higher, and Axel’s old Chevrolet Nova might be like driving a Delorean around. It might be true that you can’t capture the original essence of a beginning, but you can do just enough to bring it back for another spin.