The Beekeeper Review | A Solid Bee-Plus

by Andrew Parker

A satisfying blast of action movie bombast and silliness that should nicely shake the post-holiday winter doldrums, The Beekeeper promises and delivers a ludicrously good time. No one will ever mistake action superstar Jason Statham’s latest appearance as a highly skilled ass kicking machine on a mission for fine art, but it’s made with a lot of care and playfulness, designed to entertain those willing to give into its unsubtle, implausible, and laughably reckless charms. The Beekeeper doesn’t care if you chuckle at its more convenient or over-the-top moments, just so long as you’re enjoying yourself and you’re never bored.

Adam Clay (Statham) is the titular beekeeper, a quiet loner that tends to a bunch of hives in the backyard of a sweet old lady (Phylicia Rashad) who lets him use her land in western Massachusetts. One day, the elderly woman is targeted by a highly sophisticated network of scammers who hack into her computer and rob her of her entire nest egg and portfolio. Distraught, the woman takes her own life, which sets Clay off on a mission of revenge. Clay – who just so happens to be recently retired from a secret, elite network of government funded killers – traces the scammers back to a laid back, arrogant tech bro in Boston (Josh Hutcherson), who’s being aided by the former head of the CIA (Jeremy Irons). Determined to follow the money all the way to the top of the organization and hold everyone responsible for his friend’s death accountable, Clay puts the sting on anyone and everyone that stands in his way.

The Beekeeper fits rather obviously into the action sub-genre of revenge flicks that have cropped up in the wake of John Wick’s success, but this is certainly one of the better and more accomplished efforts. The Beekeeper isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it’s certainly thinking a lot about the components that go into producing a wheel. Director David Ayer (Suicide Squad, Fury, Bright) and writer Kurt Wimmer (Law Abiding Citizen, Salt, Equilibrium) know this sort of territory very well, but unlike a lot of their previous action efforts, there’s a pleasing, charming, and unpretentious back-to-basics feeling to The Beekeeper. The characters are all classic archetypes, but they’re well sketched out on their collision course with each other. The plot is wild to think about, but its dynamics aren’t overstuffed, fussy, or drowning in more mythology than absolutely necessary. The action is slick, inventive, brutal, and dazzling to behold. The twists keep going further and further over-the-top, but it’s already pitched at such a high level of B-movie fun that the audience is never lost in the sauce. Everything people want on a basic level from an action movie can be found in abundance here.

Behind the camera, Ayer must be having a blast because The Beekeeper ends up becoming his most energetic and effortlessly entertaining movie to date. Watching someone who values style this much breaking away from a recent string of dark and heavy movies and getting a chance to cut loose is giddy fun, and Wimmer’s material (which is also among the writer’s best) provides a perfect gateway for Ayer. The extra effort from Ayer and nifty visuals from veteran cinematographer Gabriel Beristain are rich icing on the bloody cake. The movie already has a bonafide action superstar in the lead and a bunch of creative new ways to ruin the lives of some evil baddies, but it’s always additional fun to watch such material in the hands of someone who genuinely cares about the overall audience enjoyment and in trying to create a memorable experience.

And the cast of The Beekeeper knows precisely the kind of movie they signed up for, hitting the perfect spot between playing things seriously and winking directly to the knowing viewer in the audience. Statham is both imposing and likeable as Clay, the sort of Equalizer type dude that the downtrodden wished they had in their corner at all times. Hutcherson, who’s in the midst of a genuine and welcome career high point, is a hoot as the ultra-douchy high society hipster villain, and Irons has great chemistry with his co-star as the wealthy, elite lackey that has to keep reigning in his tempestuous young counterpart. There are also great roles for Emmy Raver-Lampman, who makes a major impression as the dead woman’s FBI agent daughter, and Bobby Naderi, as her partner, both of whom keep the story moving with a nice blend of well delivered exposition and self-aware snark.

When The Beekeeper arrives at its biggest reveal, it’s one that’s equal parts predictable and outlandish, and whether you see it coming or not, it’s hard not to be taken in by the way it’s delivered. And that speaks to the greater joys of Ayer’s film in general. The viewer almost undoubtedly knows what’s coming, but it’s so well done that there’s no sense in getting upset or overthinking things. You bought the ticket, you’re taking the ride, and things are going better than you could’ve hoped (unless you hate bee puns, in which case, you’re in for a long sit). It’s the ideal of what an action movie being released at the very start of a year should be.

The Beekeeper opens in theatres everywhere on Friday, January 12, 2024.

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