The Beekeeper (2024)

The Beekeeper Review

The Beekeeper (2024)

“Imagine if, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ one of the scammers from the boiler room bankrupted Jason Bourne’s mom. That’s kind of the idea behind ‘The Beekeeper,’ which stars Jason Statham as a vengeful ex-commando who takes out tech bros that use gadgets to rob people on the internet.

Adam Clay is played by Statham, and we don’t know much about him except that he lives in the country and keeps bees, selling their honey — and also that he’s played by Statham, so he isn’t just any old beekeeper. His best friend is an older woman named Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad), who lives in the farmhouse next to his and rents him space in her barn. She’s also, according to Adam, “the only one who ever took care of me.” Eloise makes a tragic error: After falling for a phishing email from a data mining company that empties her bank account — as well as the account of a nonprofit she helped start — she ends up dead. Adam trades his bee suit for army fatigues and disguises, working his way up the criminal ladder to do what the law won’t.

We never learn how Eloise came to take care of Adam; heck, we never even really get too concrete on what he means when he says she did. The movie deserves credit for leaving such things unexplained, just as it never gets around to explaining who Adam was before he was this guy or how exactly you become an extra-super-super-duper-extra-secret commando with no fingerprints and no government ties whatsoever who appears (from other characters’ descriptions) to operate sort of like society’s self-regulation agent.

The film is directed by David Ayer (“Suicide Squad,” “Fury”) from a script by veteran action/thriller screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (who wrote or co-wrote remakes of “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Point Break” and “Total Recall”). It knows what it has in its leading man, who seems to have earned every one of his muscles and does everything from talking to fighting to shooting as simply as possible.

Statham is the kind of movie star who makes you sit up straight in your chair, and he’s only gotten better with age. This performance builds on the great work he did in Guy Ritchie’s ‘Wrath of Man,’ which also asked him to carry a movie as a character who was more idea than person. Statham’s matter-of-factness in ‘The Beekeeper’ only heightens the poignancy when Adam bluntly tells us how much Eloise meant to him, or holds forth about civilization being like a beehive that requires constant upkeep. There aren’t many action heroes who could deliver a line like ‘I believe there’s good in the universe’ and make you think not just that the character believes it but that the movie does too.”

A note on the villains: It’s amazing how aptly they’re cast, considering the number of them. My favorites among them were David Witts as Garnett, the leader of a boiler-room operation who personally scams Eloise while bragging about it to a roomful of junior vultures like he’s a Tom Cruise character from an ’80s go-getter movie; Josh Hutcherson as Derek Danforth, the coked-out VP of a data-mining firm who also happens to be the spoiled, sleazy son of the President (Jemma Redgrave); Jeremy Irons as Derek’s boss, ex-CIA director Wallace Westwyld, who mostly seems annoyed and cynical and might have wandered in from “Veep”; and Taylor James as an incredibly loud-mouthed mercenary who brags about having killed someone like Adam before and can’t wait to do it again. They are all morally and/or physically disgusting. Derek looks like he’s been marinating in oat milk, and Hutcherson reads his lines with that prep-teenage-snot-voice thing that some trust-fund boys never lose even when they hit their fifties. When James’ character gets worked up while belittling Adam, he spits clouds of mist into the air. Irons is costumed and lit to amplify what I think of as his “royal rotter” quality — which served him well in ’90s black comedies, psychosexual thrillers and horror films.

It really is too bad “The Beekeeper” isn’t one of those righteous trash masterpieces that turn up every once in a while. There’s definitely a pop hit somewhere within this story maybe one that focuses entirely on Adam and all these horrible people he goes after. The film is scattered, though; sometimes it’s annoyingly glib. There’s a secondary plotline about Eloise’s daughter Verona Parker (Emmy Raver-Lampman), an FBI agent, and her partner Matt Wiley (Bobby Naderi), who also work for the Bureau, and want to catch Adam and put him in jail even though Verona’s initial theory about his complicity is instantly proved wrong; it feels like she should recognize him as more of a Dr. Richard Kimble-type. The two actors have chemistry together as a buddy cop team, but the comedy riffing in their scenes undermines Verona’s character she should be every bit as furious about what happened to her mother as Adam is.

The movie chickens out politically, philosophically, at the end it wimps out in a way that many vigilante action flicks wimp out: by reassuring us that the problem isn’t systemic corruption baked into the national character or the human species, but a few bad apples doing bad stuff without their well-meaning boss’s knowledge or approval. But even socially critical Hollywood genre movies often lose their nerve at this point. They tell us that the problem is not systemic and purposeful corruption embedded in our institutions’ DNA, but anomalous people whose removal will restore things to their natural state of nobility.

There was a chance here for something really bold; the movie didn’t take it. If there’s any working actor who could literally “Burn It All Down” and bring audiences to their feet cheering right now I mean that metaphorically but also pretty much literally because we’ve been sitting indoors for nearly two years waiting for movies like this one to start appearing again it’s Statham.

However, when he is on fire, shooting and killing bad guys or causing massive explosions, “The Beekeeper” is at its peak as a movie kind of like “Billy Jack” or the original “Walking Tall.” It’s a fantasy about what it would feel like to hurt people who take advantage of others with no fear of consequences. As I watched this film, all I could think about were the countless numbers of senior citizens in my life that have been swindled by conmen, estate looters and other types financial predators; not to mention those dirty cops and court officials who never lifted their finger in aid towards getting them justice. How wonderful it would be for them if they got into their cars one day, glanced up into their rearview mirrors and saw Jason Statham sitting there behind them.

Watch The Beekeeper For Free On Gomovies.

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