Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F Takes Away Eddie Murphy's Most Powerful Weapon (And It Works) - SlashFilm (2024)

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Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F Takes Away Eddie Murphy's Most Powerful Weapon (And It Works) - SlashFilm (1)

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ByJeremy Smith/

This article contains spoilers for "Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F."

Actors almost never become movie stars overnight. Even the born-to-dazzle likes of Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, and Paul Newman needed a bit of runway to soar to that rarified Hollywood air. Eddie Murphy, however, needed just one moment in his first movie to become a generational showbiz phenomenon.

That moment arrived 38 minutes into Walter Hill's 1982 action-comedy hit "48 Hrs.," when Murphy's furloughed criminal Reggie Hammond convinces Nick Nolte's Detective Jack Cates to let him shakedown a redneck bar's racist patrons for information on the whereabouts of a cop killer. Reggie, tired of Cates insistence that it takes "bullls*** and experience" to successfully interrogate suspects, invites the officer to "Come on in and experience some of my bulls***." Armed with nothing but Cates' shield and his mouth, Reggie bullies cows a saloon full of hostile white folks into terrified silence.

As packed theaters across the country roared with laughter, Eddie Murphy's co*cksure star persona was established. In an era of musclebound action heroes, Murphy's '80s protagonists got in and out of trouble with their fast-talking streetsmarts –- and Axel Foley in "Beverly Hills Cop" represented the perfect embodiment of the star's gleefully profane charm.

The troublemaking Detroit detective won our hearts by playing wealthy people (and those who cater to them) for fools. He used their snobbishness and feigned politeness against them. And Murphy was so reliably uproarious that every seemingly tight situation carried the giddy charge of the unknown. That Eddie/Axel would talk his way out of trouble was a given; how he'd do it was a tantalizing mystery.

Four decades later, that fiery wunderkind is now a 63-year-old Hollywood veteran. But while the element of surprise should be long gone, we still expect quicksilver magic when Murphy enters the frame –- especially when he signs on to play Foley for the first time in 30 years. Does he still have it? He does, but in "Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F," he acts his age and lets Foley stumble. The thrill here is watching Axel pitch his way out of trouble when his fastball fails him.

Where does Axel Foley fit in a far savvier world?

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F Takes Away Eddie Murphy's Most Powerful Weapon (And It Works) - SlashFilm (2)

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Some might say the biggest surprise here is the notion that anyone was clamoring for a fourth "Beverly Hills Cop" movie. This was clearly a concern for producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who, after wisely bailing on John Landis's uninspired "Beverly Hills Cop III" (which was no party for Murphy), cycled through numerous scripts and one failed television pilot before settling on a screenplay credited to Will Beall, Tom Gormican, and Kevin Etten. In hiring director Mark Molloy (an advertising pro making his feature filmmaking debut here), Bruckheimer signaled a return to the high-style mayhem of Tony Scott's "Beverly Hills Cop II," a safe choice that, if nothing else, neatly complements the series' glitzy locale.

As for how Axel Foley fits in our post-social media world where a teenage influencer from Duluth can seem as savvy as a spoiled Beverly Hills brat, the fish-out-of-water hook is no longer novel nor, frankly, applicable. Foley's challenge now is bulls****ing his way through a world where bull**** is the coin of the realm and experience is nice, but hardly essential.

Molloy kicks off the film by having Foley, as is the franchise's custom, cause a ruckus in his hometown of Detroit. Foley is still Foley, only this time his trail of Motor City destruction is a headache for the now promoted Chief Jeffrey Friedman (Paul Reiser, taking over for the late Gil Hill's Inspector Todd). Initially, it appears that nothing has changed in Foley's life. But we quickly learn that while he hasn't grown out of his loose-cannon shenanigans, he has lived a life between sequels. And when he's forced to confront this, he finds himself frighteningly, uncharacteristically at a loss for words.

Axel's dream partner or worst parental nightmare?

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F Takes Away Eddie Murphy's Most Powerful Weapon (And It Works) - SlashFilm (3)

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Foley's return trip to Beverly Hills comes with heavy, unresolved baggage. His estranged adult daughter, Jane (Taylour Paige), is a criminal defense attorney whose efforts to get a wrongly accused cop killer off the hook have placed her in the crosshairs of a vicious drug cartel. Axel, who's trying to clear the name of his ex-cop-turned-private-investigator buddy Billy Rosewood, spies an opportunity to work alongside and reconcile with Jane. Jane, however, is immune to his charms and disapproving of his shoot-from-the-hip investigative methods. You can't bull*** the discarded child of a bull****er.

And yet Axel manages to insinuate himself back into Jane's life because he's the only person willing to risk his to protect hers. This means they've no choice but to partner up, but that doesn't mean Jane has to sit by and watch her father take on a series of false identities on the off chance he might crack the case –- which is being intentionally stymied by the corrupt Captain Cade Grant (Kevin Bacon). When Axel realizes he can't even count on his other BHPD friend John Taggert (John Ashton), the heat is on the wily Detroit cop like never before to deliver.

And the Beverly Hills of 2024 is ready for him.

Axel's first attempt to bluff his way into obtaining crucial evidence places him opposite a heard-it-all impound lot employee whose exploitable weakness is that, like so many L.A. nine-to-fivers, he's an aspiring actor. Axel seizes on this by claiming they're scouting locations for a new Liam Neeson action movie, and breaks down the kid's defenses by lying about having remembered him from a bit part in the Wachowskis' notorious sci-fi flop "Jupiter Ascending." That's when Jane unexpectedly tags in.

A flat-footed Foley? Say it ain't so, Axel!

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F Takes Away Eddie Murphy's Most Powerful Weapon (And It Works) - SlashFilm (4)

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What seems like easy game for Foley turns into an unexpected challenge when Jane, as keen to trip up her father as she is to save her own hide, asks him to explain the plot of a narratively complex movie he's never seen. Suddenly, this adept counterpuncher is throwing wild jabs. Fortunately, his opponent has already given up his chin, and Axel clumsily talks his way out of trouble. But it's an unexpected pleasure to watch Eddie flail as Foley. The old tricks aren't going to cut it this time, which becomes wincingly obvious during his next feat of fibbing.

When Axel discovers a tracer on Jane's car, he turns the tables on her pursuers and trails them to their next destination: a private rooftop club in downtown Los Angeles. Here, we figure, we'll get to see the Foley of old come alive and talk his way past a snooty doorman. In "Beverly Hills Cop," he grossed out a maître d' by posing as the prime suspect's former sexual partner who's just been diagnosed with "Herpes Simplex 10." In this situation, he casually flashes his badge and claims to be the fire marshall. The doorman doesn't buy it and is about to call the chief of the LAFD (who recently inspected the premises himself) when Jane steps in and cooly rescues her father from embarrassment. Go ahead and call the chief, she says. You'll find out he was recently fired for drinking on the job. Let them up to get a quick head count, and they'll be on their way.

Suddenly, we realize Axel can't do this on his own anymore. He needs backup, and the perfect partner is the one person he's lied to more than anyone else on the planet.

Even Axel's tired of his own jibber-jabber

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F Takes Away Eddie Murphy's Most Powerful Weapon (And It Works) - SlashFilm (5)

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The "Beverly Hills Cop" movies are rigidly formulaic films. As with many Eddie Murphy star vehicles, we went to watch Eddie flaunt his improvisatory genius. But that was a young man's game, and, perhaps for the first time in his career (at least in a straight-up comedy), Murphy acknowledges he might not have it quite like that anymore (though he was pretty damn sharp when he hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 2019). And even if Murphy does, wouldn't it be more interesting to see his most popular character realize he's in decline?

It would be, and it actually proves to be funnier, too. The biggest laugh in "Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F" comes when a Foley strolls into the lobby of the Beverly Palms Hotel (it's not identified as such, but it is the lobby of the Biltmore, which doubled for the fictional establishment in "Beverly Hills Cop") to procure a room he knows he cannot possibly afford. Will he once again be "Rolling Stone's Axel Foley" in town to interview, say, Taylor Swift? Nope.

After, in an eye-rolling maneuver, claiming to be "Nigel Applebaum with Bon Appétit," Axel abruptly drops the ruse. "You know, to hell with this. I'm too tired." He simply asks if they have any vacancies (he's in luck, they have a Resort View room at $940 a night), and sighs, "I love Beverly Hills." For the rest of the film, Murphy plays Foley as a humbler man who, rather than actively try to outsmart everyone in the room, leans on his younger colleagues (particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Detective Bobby Abbott, who has, of course, been romantically involved with Jane) and an old friend (an extraneous cameo from Bronson Pinchot's Serge) to help his old ass catch the bad guys.

Is this a preview of Eddie Murphy movies to come?

For Axel (and Eddie), family matters more than the job

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F Takes Away Eddie Murphy's Most Powerful Weapon (And It Works) - SlashFilm (6)

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Eddie Murphy isn't just one of the most prodigiously gifted comedic talents in the history of the moving image; he's also a brilliant actor whose dramatic range has yet to be fully tested. Perhaps he would've been more inclined to work the serious side of the street had the Academy not robbed him of a richly deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in Bill Condon's "Dreamgirls" (or simply nominated him at all for his stellar portrayal of Rudy Ray Moore in "Dolemite Is My Name").

Then again, it shouldn't be incumbent on Murphy to play King Lear to earn the admiration of his peers in trophy form, and who the heck knows if he's seeking such validation? Cary Grant was 62 when he retired (because he didn't want to grow old on screen), and, judging from interviews, Murphy's true passion is his family (unlike Axel, he's got 10 kids and seems pretty involved in their lives). So, is Murphy telling us something in the final scene of "Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F" when Foley is left mulling the possibility of moving to Beverly Hills and, presumably, retiring?

I don't think there's much more comedic mileage to be found in Murphy playing against his still considerable strengths, but I'm glad he did it this one time, if only for the sake of giving a beloved character a surprisingly bittersweet sendoff. For most of his career, critics and (jealous) peers have dinged Murphy for being arrogant and, particularly when he segued to family films in the 1990s, hacky. There have definitely been some low lows, but when he's engaged there's still not a more magnetic movie star currently working. Many of today's most talented and established filmmakers grew up worshiping Eddie. If he wants to keep throwing curveballs, he's got no shortage of willing catchers.

"Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F" is now streaming on Netflix.

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Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F Takes Away Eddie Murphy's Most Powerful Weapon (And It Works) - SlashFilm (2024)
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