de facto film reviews 2 stars

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley is the fourth film in the franchise. At times, it certainly feels like a fourth entry, but mostly it avoids the complete mess most extended and “too late” problems from which most sequels of this variety suffer. At the heart of the story is that of the estrangement between Axel and his daughter, Jane. At times the estrangement is show in ways which are predictable and make one cringe, but, mostly, the film decides to take a surprisingly mature and nuanced approach to the issues that arise between two people who obviously love each other but have deep seated troubles. And that tension sums up the film, as well.

Many of the remaining favorites are back. Judge Reinhold, Jack Ashton, and Paul Reiser. For some reason, Bronson Pinchot was included. Each give fitting turns, in roles about as deep as a paper cut from a sweetener packet. These characters serve as flavor to what is really going on, which is Axel and Jane coming back around to one another. There is nostalgia, yes, and there is a lot of dumb-because hey, this is a Beverly Hills Cop movie, and why would there not be? -but let us not kid ourselves. These films were never high art. They were highly entertaining, and this one is, as well. It is in no way, shape or form, as wretched as other late-in-series sequels, like those found in the Die Hard and Aliens franchises.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F' Trailer: Eddie Murphy Returns to Uncover an L.A.  Conspiracy with Taylour Paige - IMDb Courtesy Netflix

What else is the film about, though, one might wonder, and it is easy to be confused, or to remember, as it barely matters. There is a plotline about crooked cops and drugs, about murders and shipments. Kevin Bacon chews a lot of scenery, as does Luis Guzman. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets to share the screen with Murphy, as the new “LA Cop” with whom Axel ends up running around. This is a formula, and the film knows what it is doing. There are times where it will try your patience, such as a ridiculous helicopter chase that makes no sense and goes on for at least five times longer than it ought to have gone on. Indeed, the film’s action sequences are unremarkable. Instead, the character moments are where the film shines. For an action comedy, that is both a blessing and a curse.

There is nothing new here, but what is refreshing is the approach it takes between Jane and Axel, at least once things get going. During those moments, you might ask yourself why the rest of the script could not be as sharp or, frankly, beautifully written? It helps that Murphy and Taylour Paige, who plays Jane, really nail their characters in these moments. Indeed, Murphy, who is a wonderful and talented performer, has been in his share of duds. This is not one of those times.  You can tell when Murphy is not engaged, because his distemper reaches through the screen and demonstrates clearly how little fun he is having. Murphy is having too much fun here. It is a shame we do not get more scenes with Murphy/Ashton/Reinhold.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel

Courtesy Netflix

This is not going to win the Academy Award for best picture. It will not win a Golden Globe for comedy, either. But it may entertain one for a couple hours, and it will do so with a combination of the right sort of nostalgia and callbacks, and a certain with and attitude which is both a welcome throwback and refreshing. At the same time, these positives are sometimes relied on in lieu of a real plot, with Kevin Bacon being left without much more of a character than “drooling obvious bad guy” to play around with. If you enjoyed the earlier films, particularly the original, than this is a film you might enjoy, but go in knowing that this is not trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it is a romp with old friends, who have grown up-just a little-but are recognizable and ready to play some more.

 BEVERLY HILLS COP: AXEL F streams on Netflix Wednesday, July 3rd