The Beekeeper Movie Review: Moderately satisfying one-man army actioner

The Beekeeper Movie Review: Moderately satisfying one-man army actioner

Jason Statham is delightedly high impact, but in a world of John Wicks, The Beekeeper comes up short
Rating:(3 / 5)

When the first poster of David Ayer's The Beekeeper came out, I assumed Jason Statham was playing a bee farmer and that Ayer had finally moved away from stories about law enforcement or military officers gone rogue or strange superhero groups. Turns out I was wrong. Statham indeed plays a bee farmer, but that element makes up only one per cent of Ayer's new film, which eventually reveals -- and the trailers have already let this out -- that he was part of a secret intelligence outfit named The Beekeepers. It's interesting how the significance of bees and their world share commonalities with the human world, especially with regard to the iconography and architecture of major power structures. (Have you ever thought of how the hexagonal cells of honeycombs immediately evoke the structure of America's Pentagon? Well, this film makes you think.)

Director: David Ayer

Cast: Jason Statham, Emmy Raver-Lampan, Josh Hutcherson, Jeremy Irons

Anyway, The Beekeeper, penned by Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium, The Recruit) is essentially a one-man army action movie in the same vein as Commando, Eraser, the Rambo movies, or any of the John Wick movies. The fight sequences deliver the cathartic high that one expects from this category, with the unapologetic approach to violence that we expect from Ayer and his ilk. It's not as excessively gore-filled as Ayer's Sabotage, but it has a slightly unhinged quality that is much welcome. (It's suitably R-rated.) One of its recurring motifs is the 'analog vs digital' conflict, represented through its characters and the production design. Interestingly, the tech in the super secret beekeepers' offices has analog designs.  

As the former 'beekeeper' Adam Clay, Statham is a delightfully high-impact juggernaut, slicing, dicing, kicking, punching, and shooting his way through hordes of opponents. Oddly enough, this quality of his and his overall appearance got me wondering why he was not considered for an adaptation of any of the Hitman games. The Beekeeper is a movie that functions very much like them, with its hero armed with the audacity to walk into buildings -- the shady ones, of course -- with, in one instance, two cans of gasoline and explosives to cause maximum damage. He even dares to infiltrate a -- well, I won't spoil this little twist for you. Let me just say that Adam Clay and Rocky Bhai (from the KGF films) would get along well.

But here's the problem: As fun as the whole one-man army act is -- because it makes you nostalgic for that time when the 90s kids grew up on a steady diet of Arnold, Stallone, and Van Damme movies -- The Beekeeper suffers from a serious villain problem. No matter how high the stakes appear, we never feel that the 'hero' is vulnerable. Yes, there is an almost equally formidable adversary that he encounters at one point -- undoubtedly the best, John Wick-level fight sequence in the entire film -- but every bad guy, most of them fraudulent tech bros out to steal other people's money, behaves like they belong in a B-movie from the 70s or 80s. Nearly all the dialogues lack polish and subtlety. 

And it's not just the bad guys trying desperately to sound unaffected but also some of the supporting characters, like Emmy Raver-Lampan's FBI agent Verona Parker, who seems to be dealing with grief in an unusually admirable way. The only guy who sounds sophisticated is Jeremy Irons, playing a seasoned intelligence official now engaged in babysitting duties for one of the spoilt man-child baddies out of some twisted sense of commitment to the latter's mother. 

The Beekeeper is a moderately satisfying actioner, and there's no doubt about it not being a complete waste of time, but in a world where the John Wick movies exist and raised the bar for action movies while doing so, this movie comes up short. 

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