When the hive is threatened, you need to unleash the sting.
In The Beekeeper, Jason Statham plays Adam Clay, a retired special ops who spends his days as a beekeeper on the estate of an elderly woman (Phylicia Rashad). However, when the woman is taken advantage of by an internet scam, bringing tragedy into her home, Clay is incensed. Burning with an eye for justice, Clay turns to plan bee by tracking down those responsible, leaving a firestorm of destruction in his wake.
Directed by David Ayer, The Beekeeper is goofy and fairly predictable but, strangely, that’s also part of its charm. Since the rise of Taken and John Wick (among others), the ‘middle-aged man out for revenge’ film has become a cinematic staple. In this vein, Beekeeper offers very little that’s new, buzzing closely around the formula. With a furious fist, Ayer keeps the emphasis on the action, offering up severed limbs, endless gunfire and plenty of martial arts mayhem.
But, unlike some of these other entries, Beekeeper never takes its tongue out of its (bloody) cheek. In many ways, the film feels like a throwback Bond film to the era where the character had a sarcastic quip to every sadistic kill. While the writing is hardly sharp, there’s a certain sense of glee about the film’s silliness and everyone seems to understand the assignment. As the entitled young villain, Josh Hutcherson is positively spinning onscreen while Jeremy Irons feels like he should be twirling a mustache. In fact, Ayer leans so hard into the blend of violence and absurdity that one can’t help but find an affection for this film. After all, in keeping with its title, this is a film that’s riddled with almost as many bee puns as bullet holes.
And, this retired ex-military means bees-ness.
As the retired special ops (and actual beekeeper), Statham brings a sting and a snarl to his character. With turns in the Fast and Furious franchise and The Meg, Statham has never had an issue with campy material and, in Beekeeper, he seems to be flittering about with furious fun. He doesn’t have a lot of dialogue and, when he does, it’s often simple and predictable. Even so, there’s a bit of teeth to his performance as he’s invited to lean more heavily on the martial arts prowess that made him a star. Very little is known about his character’s backstory but this also allows him to become a force of nature. Clay is a man who must become a busy little bee in order to finish his work. For him, what matters most is ‘protecting the hive’.
And he’s willing to do so it all costs.
But this Beekeeper is absolutely fun. While it doesn’t quite have the sheer force of Wick, it keeps the pace moving and the action coming. I would like to say that there’s a deeper heart to the film but, other than its cautionary tale of taking advantage of the elderly, Beekeeper really isn’t here for its social commentary. (Although, admittedly, it is interesting that the film draws a line between justice and the law. For this Beekeeper, to do what’s right is to fix things with bullets and brass knuckles.)
Nevertheless, despite its brief conversation around violence as justice, Beekeeper is not a film that wants to make any grand political statement. Instead, it’s meant to be escapist fun that gives everyone the chance to play.
The Beekeeper is available in theatres on Friday, January 12th, 2024.