To bee or not to bee? That is an actual question someone asks in this movie. I was not expecting much from The Beekeeper, a new action movie starring Jason Statham. This is Statham’s fifth movie in the past year, and his last two were Meg 2: The Trench and Expend4bles, which were both unimpressive to me. The film is written by Kurt Wimmer, whose most recent writing credit was Statham’s Expend4bles. It’s directed by David Ayer, whose last few films were Suicide Squad, Bright, and The Tax Collector. Throw in the January release date, and you can see how this movie didn’t have much going for it.
But what a surprise! This is actually a very fun, exciting movie that reminds you why you love action movies. It has a modern-day twist with its crypto-loving villains and the inciting event, where a woman commits suicide after falling for a phishing scam. Before her untimely death, she became friends with Mr. Clay (Statham), a beekeeper with a particular set of skills. Upon finding out what the phishing company did to his friend, Clay gets vengeance on the people responsible in a brutal, gorgeously violent fashion. Take it from me: this is a movie you’ll have to see to believe.
In terms of story, The Beekeeper doesn’t give anything you haven’t seen before. The idea of an aging badass who comes out of retirement one last time after the war returns to them (and this time, it’s personal) has been done to death. We’ve had Taken, John Wick, The Equalizer, Rambo: Last Blood, and the list goes on. It’s a cliché story, sure, but there are a few aspects that allow the film to be more watchable than your average VOD action schlock. Firstly, there’s a world being built here with a secret government organization riddled with bee puns. Watch as Clay “protects the hive” in this gloriously awesome action flick.
The movie spends a great amount of time showing how slimy these villains are, scamming people out of millions of dollars. This way, once Clay starts kicking their asses, you love every second of it. That leads me to the selling point of this film: Jason Statham. Everyone knows this guy. We’ve seen him play many roles, from tough guy to tough guy to tough guy. Even though he often plays the same character in all his movies, he can thrive with the right material. Statham is in full force doing the schtick we know and, in this case, love. Five movies in the past 12 months, and I want more of him. His filmography can be hit or miss, but the man is a movie star.
When a director knows how to use him, that’s when the magic happens. It’s a return to form for Ayer, who capitalizes on Statham’s persona and doubles down on it. The Beekeeper features Statham going on full rampages with gunshots, fistfights, and explosions. Everything you want from a Statham vehicle is here. Sometimes, action heroes are interesting to watch because they’re vulnerable. But you don’t watch a Statham movie to see him be vulnerable. The guy likes being a killing machine, and this movie makes him a human Terminator. He’s interesting to watch because of how damn skilled he is at kicking ass. It doesn’t work in every movie; it works here.
But it isn’t just Statham in this movie, although sometimes, I wish it was. The film has many villains but is led by Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson). Hutcherson isn’t known for playing villains, so seeing him play against type was a nice surprise. He captures the spirit of a privileged man-child in over his head. Like most movies in the action thriller genre, there’s a police investigation subplot. This one is led by Agent Verona Parker (Emmy Raver-Lampman), daughter of the departed, and Agent Matt Wiley (Bobby Naderi). This subplot is one of the weaker elements of the film. You can see how Wimmer’s screenplay tries to make these scenes pop with some humorous, snappy dialogue.
However, the humor in The Beekeeper never lands. It tries too hard to be funny too often, especially with Agent Wiley. It’s a mixture of Wimmer’s writing on the page, Ayer’s direction that doesn’t allow for the comedy to breathe, and Naderi’s dull performance. It’s not the type of comedy that tries so hard you cringe at it. However, it’s the type of comedy that you notice and simply ignore. Furthermore, we have subplots surrounding Jeremy Irons and Minnie Driver’s characters. Those scenes sort of flesh out the world, but ultimately, both characters feel as if they could have been cut from the film, and it would have made no difference to the story.
The Beekeeper can also have you second-guessing your morals, as Clay kills many terrible people who deserve it (which is fun), but he also kills many bystanders and not-evil law enforcement officers in his bloodbaths (which is still fun, but why?). Ultimately, whenever the movie spends time away from Statham, you’re kind of waiting for it to go back to Statham. He’s charismatic and badass as this character. The action scenes are not filmed in large wides like John Wick, but they feel grittier, almost like a Paul Greengrass Bourne movie. Each cut has a purpose, allowing this to be a hard-hitting, action-packed thrill ride that features some of the most fun you can have at the movies.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.