If there’s one thing we can rely on Jason Statham for, it’s B-movie cheap thrills that epitomise the term “guilty pleasure”. Escapism in its purest, bloodiest form, The Beekeeper (Statham took the B-movie memo a little too literally, it would seem) is a ridiculous actioner from proven genre director David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury, Suicide Squad) that has an awful lot of fun throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the cement mixer that is Kurt Wimmer‘s script; political corruption, secret societies and punchable tech-bros all on hand here, with an armed and dangerous Statham at the ready.
It all starts off quite calmly for Statham’s Adam Clay, a literal beekeeper who keeps to himself, harvesting honey from his expansive colony in the rented farmhouse of sweet-natured retiree Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad) in upstate Massachusetts. One evening, whilst pottering about online, she’s informed that her computer has been infected, and a number on screen prompts her to call about assistance. Unfortunately, the smarmy, aforementioned tech-bro with the punchable face is on the other end (played to punchable perfection by David Witts), and he cons the trusting Eloise out of her lifesavings, and the $2 million charity fund she’s head of, driving her to commit suicide.
It’s a considerably sad start for a film that announces its on-the-nose mentality with its title and peppers one-liners throughout that play on every bee-related pun you can think of; at one point, an exaggerated, South African assassin (Taylor James), about to strike Clay down, audibly asks “To bee or not to bee.” Yeah, it’s that kind of movie Oh yeah, there’s assassins afoot, because, you see, Clay isn’t just a beekeeper in the literal sense, there’s a whole collective of trained killers known as “Beekeepers”, and Clay, having been kicked, is looking to take out the naughty bees that have disrupted the hive’s dedication to the queen and her (supposedly) good work.
Honestly, you just have to go along with it as Clay hunts down those responsible for siphoning Eloise’s money, which leads him to brutally off many a disposable goon in a variety of manners that brings to mind recent action examples as the John Wick series, but, with the film’s committed lunacy, has more in common with the 80s and 90s action vehicles that were so often fronted by the likes of Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The ease in which Clay inserts himself into a variety of situations that are supposedly manned by competent law enforcers – all his shenanigans lead him to be tailed by a determined FBI agent (Emmy Raver-Lampman, leaning very heavily into the tough cop routine), who also happens to be the daughter of the departed Eloise – means the film, as a whole, has little stakes, and Josh Hutcherson‘s coked-up, man-baby villain never feels as if he’s going to stand a remote chance, but, again, The Beekeeper never comes across as a designed genre piece to buck expected stereotypes. It’s big, dumb fun, with a shockingly strong cast (Jeremy Irons and Minnie Driver even earn credits here), and if you expect elevation or intelligence, then you’ve grabbed from the wrong honeypot.
With previous Statham creations The Transporter and The Mechanic managing sequels off their simplistic premises, The Beekeeper would make for a fine addition to the actor’s seemingly unofficial trilogy of deceptively skilled professionals. We know how intricate and exciting the action genre can be, and even though The Beekeeper pushes against such a grain with standard dialogue and a nonsensical temperament, Statham’s truly the bee’s knees in this lane, and, sometimes, all you need to get the job done is a superficially sweet treat.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Beekeeper is now screening in Australian theatres.