The Beekeeper (2024)
Director: David Ayer
Screenwriters: Kurt Wimmer
Starring: Jason Statham, Jeremy Irons, Josh Hutcherson, Jemma Redgrave, Emma Raver-Lampman, Bobby Naderi
Ten years ago, three films changed the action genre in the West. Between John Wick, The Equalizer, and Kingsman: The Secret Service, the benchmarks were set, and since then, dozens of action films, from Bullet Train to Atomic Blonde, The Villainess, and plenty of others, have tried to play with the big boys. Whilst the first two films entrenched the hitman-out-of-retirement trope found in older films such as The Unforgiven, the last of the three brought a dynamic new style of shooting fun action sequences, and updated the secret service action hero trope. Now, a new pretender to the throne has stepped forward, and its lead is action superstar Jason Statham.
Statham is The Beekeeper, a simple man minding his bees, making honey to give to his close friends, including an elderly lady he rents a barn off to make and store it all. She’s an educator, a donator to charities, an all-round keeper of the peace and kind-hearted soul. When she gets scammed out of millions of dollars through her connected accounts, the lonely soul of Statham becomes enraged. It’s time for him to put things to rights. Find the scammers. Get the money back. Protect the hive.
There’s a lot of talk about hives and bees in this film, and annoyingly that’s all Statham ends up mumbling about. He delivers the same monologue about protecting the hive (as a retired Beekeeper, a name given to an elite secret service member, a bit like a double-O number in James Bond, only there’s only one of them) three or four times with slight variation upon a theme, and every other time he speaks it’s with all the care and subtlety of the message being written on a newspaper, rolled up, and forcefully rammed down our throats Alien style. One could argue that John Wick also had a protagonist that didn’t say much or have too much emotion except from a few calculated moments, also coming out of retirement to take revenge, but John Wick actually did more than become a cypher for ‘justice’. Somehow they made Wick an interesting concept, rather than a bland rehashing of already dumbed-down ideas of vigilante fighting, and the film did it without the entire thing becoming dull.
There are some small points to be given for having a character be out for revenge for someone not specifically from their family, which often provides the clichéd motivation for this little subgenre of action film. For Statham’s Adam Clay, it is in the interest of right and wrong that he goes all out. But so did Denzel Washington in The Equalizer, and he managed to be intimidating as a character. Other films get us to root for their heroes by giving us characters; as much as it’s not much of an improvement, Chris Hemsworth’s character in the Extraction films is better. Clay is just someone beating people up and we’re meant to root for him because that’s what the film tells us in big, neon letters, that we should do. We never feel he might fail at any point. It’s all far too easy. He’s a superhero with no sign of weakness. Even Keanu Reeves gets hit by a car or two, shot, and has to be bandaged up from time to time.
The ‘Beekeeper’ secret service concept is also far too quick and nasty to be of any interest and is used only as a device to make the film verbally different from all the others out there. Kingsman had its line that a gentleman spy is the modern day knight, and then got on with the gadgets and espionage. It didn’t need to re-tell us about chivalry every three seconds (or not to the extent that The Beekeeper does for its equivalent extended metaphor). The script rams dozens of comparisons of the workings of government and society to a beehive in such a way that it makes you want to gag after the second instance, depriving it of any interesting value due to its delivery method.
Added to all of that, the last few action sequences of this film are so atrociously shot, so slap-dash in their editing, that one wonders if the directing for it was simply a note that read ‘point cameras at them and go’. The lack of tension, of individuality, and of clear focus in the final half an hour, is egregious and bordering on unforgiveable.
There goes the final domino. We see now that the film fails to keep pace with any of the kings of the modern action thriller. Are there any decent points left to find? Any straggling bees in the hive that might deliver even a tiny drop of golden honey for us?
Maybe. Jemma Redgrave isn’t awful in the film, and Jeremy Irons tries his best. That’s about it.
Our saving grace is that when the credits do roll, it’s in the most atrociously cut smash to credits of recent times that it rivals even Halloween Kills for mistiming. You’ll watch half of them roll before you realise the film is over and can acknowledge that you’ve been forced to watch 100 minutes of badly shot action sequences with ham-fisted dialogue delivered in a film with forgettable, derivative characters (including a phoned-in performance by Josh Hutcherson) that got made because someone said ‘Jason Statham hitting people is fun and cool!’