An exercise in nostalgia: Netflix’s ‘Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F’ has just enough humor and charm

To prepare for Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, I did nothing. I just jumped in and watched it. I thought it was OK.

Then I went back and watched all of the Cop movies. After watching Beverly Hills Cop III again, I can say Axel F is a masterpiece in comparison.

In the end, I enjoyed Axel F enough for a mild recommendation. Seeing Eddie Murphy in his Detroit Lions jacket again is a kick. It’s a little ridiculous that he seems to be driving the same blue Chevy Nova 40 years later, but we’ll let that slide.

This is an exercise in nostalgia—nothing less, and nothing more. All the big songs from the series are back, so all hail Glenn Frey, The Pointer Sisters and Bob Seger. As for the supporting cast, John Ashton, Bronson Pinchot, Paul Reiser and Judge Reinhold (looking more and more like Mickey Rourke these days) return. Everybody seems to be having a good-enough time.

New cast members include a very game Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Taylour Paige (as Axel’s estranged daughter) and a wickedly fun Kevin Bacon. The plot is your typical Beverly Hills Cop fare: Some crime that involves his old partner Rosewood (Reinhold) attracts Axel back to Beverly Hills, and Murphy winds up in a lot of shootouts. That’s pretty much the plot.

The estranged-daughter trope is played out, and we never really find out why they don’t speak to one another. Their teaming is entertaining, with Murphy and Paige having good familial chemistry.

If I were to rank the Cop movies: Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) gets the top spot, with the 1984 original narrowly edging out Axel F for second place. Beverly Hills Cop III (1994), set in an amusement park, remains the franchise low point. Rewatching that clunker reminded me how tired and uninterested Murphy was during that installment. He seemed completely disengaged.

This time out, some of that comedic charm has returned. Murphy seems to be having a better time, and consequently, we have a better time. (A sequence with him and Gordon-Levitt in a helicopter is a franchise highlight.) Yes, Axel F is a film that’s mostly going through the motions, but those motions are good enough for couple of hours of streaming on a Saturday night.

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

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