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Had the picture been made in the eighties Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. might have passed as serviceable entertainment, but now it’s just a bland paint-by-numbers nostalgia exercise.

In-jokingly paging through Axel Foley’s dossier, L.A. cop Bobby Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) remarks in one scene early on that the 1994 case was not the finest hour for Eddie Murphy’s character. Once the 2024 case that is this fourth entry in the Beverly Hills Cop series is added to the file, he might say something similar.

The movie starts pleasingly enough with a Detroit-set action scene that recalls why Beverly Hills Cop was such a hit in the eighties: fun set-pieces, a wise-cracking Murphy and an overall vibe of not taking things too seriously. Yet even in those first ten minutes, the heat (pardon the pun) is curiously off.

Is it that the sequence doesn’t keep pace with the wildly over the top action flicks of this day and age? Is it because the safe, lame puns Eddie Murphy spews are almost a parody of his much more real and relatable eighties persona? Or is it that by then you already know that there’s no real reason for Alex F. to exist beyond nostalgia and Netflix’s bottom line?

It’s a combination of all of the above and then some, because while everyone involved with the film seems to be having a blast, the picture meanders, bores and fails to engage in equal measures. Axel F. isn’t a movie that’s bad per se (except when an intolerably awful Kevin Bacon is chewing scenery) but it’s a film that never tries to be better than your average piece of streaming content.

So perhaps the wise lesson Netflix can learn from this is that we don’t crave the characters we’ve grown up with. We crave how they behaved: fresh, funny and exciting. Which are three words no one could claim Axel F. to be.

release: 2024

director: Mark Molloy

starring: Eddie Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Taylour Paige, Kevin Bacon


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