The Beekeeper (dir. David Ayer)
By: Adam Freed
There has been no shortage of high voltage action films of late. Thanks to the transcendence of the John Wick and Mission Impossible franchises, maximum intensity and maximum artistry have once again become fast friends. These epitomizing artifacts have helped to preserve what prestige remains of a dissolving genre. Unlike more self reverential classifications of film, there will always be room for second tier action movies. The 1970’s and 80’s were graced by the emergence of peripheral action stars Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris. Their films served a loyal audience faithfully, dispatching faceless enemies on modest budgets. The 1990’s found two ancillary heroes in Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude VanDamme, memorable screen personas caught somewhere between being actors and martial artists. The tradition of the workmanlike enjoyability of a self aware shoot 'em up continues with The Beekeeper, a film so assured of its violent mission that it hardly stops to consider the queen sized plot holes it leaves in its wake.
Jason Statham, for all of his success and notoriety, has become the apt face of 21st century middling action franchises. The 56 year old British action legend has headlined The Transporter and The Meg franchises, in addition to leading Fast and Furious spinoff Hobbs & Shaw (2019) along with a bevy of other genre comparables. The secret in Statham’s sting is that he is really good at what he does. There is no diversity or distinction between roles, but that couldn’t seem of any less importance to his swarm of supporters. Director David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury) helms The Beekeeper, the story of Adam Clay, a former government operative known as a “beekeeper” who in retirement passes his time as an apiarist, literally tending to bees. If this choice feels oddly on the nose, The Beekeeper hasn’t the time to kill its momentum by registering this as a legitimate concern.
Despite a thin plot, The Beekeeper maximizes its effectiveness with some clever set pieces and by placing its faith in Statham’s hard to ignore screen dominance. The film is far from comedic, yet its star’s matter of fact delivery earns the occasional chuckle. The Beekeeper is delightfully buoyed by a swarm of supporting performances from familiar faces. Most notably is screen legend and Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, who furnishes the film with an instant credibility far exceeding the material. In addition to Irons, Phylicia Rashad (Creed), Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) add a warm familiarity to the proceedings. The Beekeeper should hold its own with loyal fans as there is a built in buzz surrounding watching a middle aged man unleash a cyclone of unbridled revenge on a hive of tech miscreants. Jason Statham, like many genre comparables before him, has mastered the art of circumnavigating plot holes and middling scripts to once again deliver a palatable action installation that leaves revenge feeling honey sweet.
Target Score: 5/10 Jason Statham is as reliable an action screen presence as exists today. Steadfast followers know exactly what they get from his work and he rarely underdelivers. This is certainly the case with The Beekeeper, a simplistic revenge story about a deadly weapon in search of peace. If this sounds familiar, it is because David Ayer’s film plays all the right notes of an enjoyable John Wick tribute band.