Review: ‘The Beekeeper’

Jason Statham Rules The Hive In David Ayer's Awesome, Crowd-Pleasing Action Flick

Move over, John Wick! The Beekeeper is here!

Nobody does occupational violence quite like Jason Statham. The Transporter, The Mechanic, and now The Beekeeper! This movie is goddamned insane, by far the craziest thing Statham has ever done. And I’ve seen both Crank movies where he was sticking jumper cables to his tongue. But that’s nothing compared to what he and director David Ayer, who has been at the helm of some wild shit himself (Suicide Squad, Bright), have cooked up. This is B-movie, gory wish fulfillment at its finest, and you are guaranteed to leave satisfied.

When I was trying to convince a friend of mine to go see The Beekeeper with me, she surmised the plot to be that “Statham is a guy who is a beekeeper but is really a kick-ass killer or something.” Well, she’s pretty much right on the nose. But she misses SO MANY of the details that make this movie awesome. Statham plays Adam Clay, a name that already sounds like it belongs to someone with some shit to hide, and he tends bees on isolated land owned by Eloise, played by the great Claire Huxtable…er, Phylicia Rashad. She takes care of him, and invites Clay to dinner, but y’know, he’s a man of mystery so he doesn’t say much.  Have a nice laugh as we watch Statham tend to his hive of bees, canning dozens of jars of honey…for what, exactly? Does he use them to blackmail Winnie the Pooh? Whatever, before he can arrive at the dinner table, Eloise does the thing we all dread our grandparents doing. She falls for a phishing scam. With every excruciating moment that passes, we cringe as she presses the keys and answers the shady telemarketer’s questions that will doom her. All of Eloise’s accounts are drained, including a $2M charity she was overseeing. Her life’s saving and life’s work taken from her in moments, Eloise commits suicide.

Adam Clay ain’t having that shit.

When I say this movie is like “wish fulfillment”, I mean it. The only thing we hate more than phishing scams and telemarketers are white, rich, entitled pricks who cash in by taking advantage of older people. Well, they get their vicious comeuppance when Clay, who was once part of an elite black ops agency known as The Beekeepers, finds the address of the people who scammed Eloise. It seems the Beekeepers exist to protect society from corruption and to destroy those who are untouchable from our laws.  In Clay’s idea of justice, he waltzes right past the security guards and into the call center, carrying two large gas cans. He then proceeds to humiliate and brutally attack the douchebag ringmaster of this operation, and burn the whole damn place down.

The Beekeeper is utterly ridiculous and excessive in just about every way, and that’s why it’s so damn good. We learn next to nothing about this secretive organization that Clay was a part of, but they are apparently so top-level that ex-CIA boss Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons, looking kinda befuddled to be there) barely knows of their existence. But he knows enough to tell his dickhead tech-billionaire employer Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson), who happens to be the entitled kid of the President of the United States, that he’s as good as dead for ripping off all of those geezers and pissing off a Beekeeper. What are the Beekeepers exactly? The film suggests a long mythology where the title is passed down from agent to agent, with an almost Highlander-esque “there can be only one” code.

Later, we see Adam square off in an insane showdown with the current Beekeeper, Anisette, played by Megan Lee with crazy hair, high heels, and a pink trench. Oh, and a massive gatling gun on the back of her vehicle, which she proceeds to unload AT A GAS STATION ignoring all of the innocents and, y’know, the potential for massive explosive destruction. Are the Beekeepers so out-of-reach that they essentially undermine their own principles? These questions aren’t answered at all, and frankly, I didn’t really want them to be. Ayer and screenwriter Kurt Wimmer maximize the fun and not the details.

The Beekeeper is another movie that exists in response to John Wick. While the over-caffeinated guy sitting behind me kept shouting “He’s the next John Wick!!!”, this movie is nothing like what Keanu is doing over there. How could it be? Statham doesn’t do what Keanu does. The action isn’t slick or poetic at all, but it can be hilariously clever, like when Clay hogties a scammer to a truck then sends the vehicle hurtling into the water; the poor guy dragged behind like a parachute. Waves of goons, including Lazarus (Taylor James), an oversized South African who claims to have killed a Beekeeper (barely, hence his metal leg), show up for Clay to murderize with ease. Statham is one of those actors who, despite his gritty street-level looks and attitude, is fiercely protective of his on-screen reputation. Clay doesn’t take a lot of damage and is basically a superhero mowing down a bunch of normals. That’s fine, too, when you’re talking about a movie where the bad guys are so universally loathsome and you just want to see them get what they deserve.

Other characters orbit the Beekeeper but they don’t hold a ton of interest except for the high quality of actors playing them. Emmy Raver-Lampman plays Eloise’s daughter, an FBI agent who in any other movie would go on the bloodthirsty rampage of vengeance that Clay embarks on. Instead, she sorta waffles between wanting to see Clay dish out punishment, and to see these guys actually face justice. Instead, she becomes the typical one-step-behind cop who does nothing. Minnie Driver as the current FBI honcho talks a lot on the phone but doesn’t do a lot. She gets the menial task of ordering up more losers for Clay to beat up.

One of the best, and silliest, components of The Beekeeper is its fascination with actual bee culture. Clay sees himself as a protector of the hive, but that doesn’t apply to the Queen, who in this case would be the current President. Instead, Clay regards himself as a “queenslayer”, which is a bee that will kill the queen if she has defective offspring. Let’s see…a mother who lets her son exploit this country’s most vulnerable citizens? Of all the ways for the first female President to see her administration ruined, being the target of a beekeeper with a bug fetish couldn’t have been on anyone’s list. But that’s part of why this movie is so damned amazing. It doesn’t always make sense, but by the time you’ve watched Jason Statham kick over the hornet’s nest, you’ll leave the theater buzzing to see him do it again.

The Beekeeper opens in theaters on January 12th.

The Beekeeper
Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-the-beekeeperMove over, John Wick! The Beekeeper is here! Nobody does occupational violence quite like Jason Statham. The Transporter, The Mechanic, and now The Beekeeper! This movie is goddamned insane, by far the craziest thing Statham has ever done. And I've seen both Crank movies where...