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The Heat Returns

The Heat Returns

Beverly Hills Cop became the most successful cinematic showcase for Eddie Murphy’s talents, but it wasn’t designed for him. Originally conceived as a straightforward Sylvester Stallone vehicle, the project changed course just weeks before filming when Stallone exited, and Murphy stepped in.

The shift ended up working better with Murphy than it ever could have with Stallone. Instead of yet another macho cop movie, Beverly Hills Cop evolved into Eddie Murphy in a Sylvester Stallone movie; aligning the film’s text and metatext perfectly. Murphy’s character, Detroit cop Axel Foley, became the quintessential fish out of water in Beverly Hills.

The brilliance of that setup also posed a problem for the sequels. The unique friction that defined the first film couldn’t be replicated. Once an outsider becomes an insider, the magic fades, as seen in the disastrous Beverly Hills Cop III. The core appeal of the original proved hard to reproduce.

Despite this, there’s something pleasurable about seeing Murphy as Axel Foley again causing chaos among Beverly Hills’ snobby elites. The long delay before a fourth installment—30 years since Beverly Hills Cop III—works in Murphy’s favor; he seems on unsteady ground again, fittingly returning to an R-rated action film after many years of family-friendly comedies. Three decades later, the heat is sort of back on.

Murphy, now 63, looks great and, more importantly, seems happy to be back as Axel, the fast-talking Detroit detective. Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F opens with Foley involved in a massive chase through Detroit’s streets using a snow plow. The level of chaos would overwhelm any ordinary cop, but not Axel.

He winds up back in Southern California after his old pal Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) contacts him about a case involving Axel’s estranged daughter, Jane (Taylour Paige), a defense lawyer. Axel reconnects with his old Beverly Hills cop buddy John Taggart (John Ashton), now supervising a new team of cops including the suave Captain Grant (Kevin Bacon) and no-nonsense Detective Abbott (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). There’s tension between Axel and Abbott, who has a history with Jane.

A surprising portion of Axel F’s 115-minute runtime involves Axel and Jane working through personal issues as they try to clear her client’s name. This subplot is surprisingly disappointing. The reasons for Axel and Jane’s estrangement are vague, and there’s zero comedic tension in their scenes. While Axel keeps up his humorous antics, Jane plays their interactions straight, making it hard to see her as Axel’s daughter. This subplot drags the film down.

Fortunately, the rest of Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F — the parts that truly feel like a Beverly Hills Cop movie — work. The chases and shootouts are solid, especially the chaotic snow plow scene, which sets the right tone. It’s great to see Reinhold and Ashton return as Rosewood and Taggart, and Paul Reiser shines as Axel’s perennial sidekick, Jeffrey Friedman. Murphy’s scenes with Gordon-Levitt are also strong, and Bronson Pinchot’s cameo as the quirky Serge is mercifully brief.

The film’s mystery plot is nonsensical, as with previous Beverly Hills Cop movies. But fans aren’t here for the plot; they come for Eddie as Axel, and on that front, the film overdelivers. Murphy is in top form, not phoning it in for a paycheck but truly embodying Axel Foley once again.

The film could have been even better with a stronger cop story and a more believable relationship between Axel and Jane, elevating it above other sequels. Despite flaws, a solid Beverly Hills Cop movie in 2024 is a pleasant surprise, worth celebrating perhaps with a Neutron Dance.

RATING: 6/10

Source: Netflix