Review: ‘The Beekeeper’

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Directed by David Ayer, The Beekeeper (2024) sees Jason Statham doing what Jason Statham does best: spouting some admittedly corny one-liners, while he single-handedly dispatches a small militia in a plot that goes right to the heart of government.

The story begins as a rather cookie-cutter revenge narrative, but soon graduates to an operative flick which sees our protagonist, Adam Clay (an ex-member of the clandestine military group ‘The Beekeepers’) systematically executing his prey. The theme of corruption is not foreign to David Ayer as a director, and indeed he flexes these muscles throughout the runtime. Despite some sombre themes, The Beekeeper is a lot of fun and definitely not a movie to go into expecting one’s critical faculties to be piqued. Naturally the plot doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. The threat posed by Adam Clay could be quashed entirely and immediately if his adversary would attack all at once, for instance, rather than individual members attacking the enemy. And Statham’s ceaseless analogies to ‘protecting the hive’ (as he is the eponymous beekeeper) do become a little grating, since the heavy-handed metaphor never really ventures beyond its most basic nuance.

Making some of the complex action set-pieces more vomit than awe-inducing

In terms of action, this is undoubtedly a success. From close-quarter brawls to elaborate elevator-tripwires, this film has it all, and Statham’s mastery of his own particular brand of physicality only serves to quicken the pulse. Statham has an effective blend of near-invincibility – one never imagines he will actually die whilst pulling off these superhuman feats – and vulnerability in his stature, which makes it feel as though his character has to fight tooth and nail just to survive until the next encounter. However, at times the action sequences devolve into visual noise since it is impossible to follow every punch and every block, making some of the complex action set-pieces more vomit than awe-inducing.

For all intents and purposes, the ‘B-plot’ of the film follows FBI Agent Parker (Emmy Raver-Lampman), whose stake in this story is established from the outset, and her partner Agent Wiley (Bobby Naderi). They are trying to piece together the spindly connections linking all the strange occurrences of arson and murder together. Each body they find may as well have been tattooed with ‘Jason Statham was here’ since Adam Clay leaves behind a piece of beekeeping paraphernalia on each of his victims. I make tongue-in-cheek reference to this as the ‘B-plot’, not only for the amazing pun potential, but also because these characters are the most traditional ‘A-plot’ protagonists the film has to offer. The focus of the actual ‘A-plot’ – Clay – is at best morally ambiguous. It is difficult to root for him given the often demented and sadistic methods of torture he employs on his victims.

The lengths to which he goes to exact his revenge are totally unrelatable

The film does struggle under the weight of this at times. At the beginning of the second act, Clay mutters “now it’s personal”, but the lengths to which he goes to exact his revenge are totally unrelatable, and his esoteric goal amounts to ‘make the world (Hive) a better place’. I’m not entirely sure how cutting off one corrupt telemarketer’s fingers will help achieve that, but I’m not going to argue with the scary British man who could seemingly wrestle a nuclear bomb and win.

It’s a relief, then, that the more explicitly ‘good’ characters are entertaining. Particularly Agent Wiley, portrayed very well by Bobby Naderi, who offered some much-needed comedic flare to the proceedings. And the earnestness of Emmy Raver-Lampman’s Agent Parker, as an ambitious yet inexperienced FBI agent, was a refreshing respite from the otherwise rhythmic violence. Other standouts in the cast included Josh Hutcherson and Jeremy Irons, who’s shared screentime was always engaging; the juxtaposition between one character’s gravitas, and the other’s immature flippancy created a strangely fun dynamic. Although limited in his screentime, Taylor James’ Lazarus stole every scene he was in; his energetic performance got a laugh from the theatre every time he graced the screen.

This review is not going to convince anyone either way. Action fans will delight in The Beekeeper as ‘just another Jason Statham movie’, but the same description will surely ward off the more discerning cinephile. But I think that there is a time for everything, and that the time for this movie just happened to be 5pm on a Friday in January, when there was nothing else better for me to see. It would be disingenuous for me to say that I didn’t enjoy The Beekeeper, but for this movie in particular, it is important to keep one’s expectations in check.

Image: Leandro Fregoni via Unsplash

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