The Beekeeper (2024, dir. David Ayer)

by | Jan 14, 2024

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 105 mins

UK Distributor: Sky Cinema

UK Release Date: 12 January 2024

WHO’S IN THE BEEKEEPER?

Jason Statham, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Josh Hutcherson, Bobby Naderi, Minnie Driver, Phylicia Rashad, Jeremy Irons, Jemma Redgrave, Enzo Cilenti, Don Gilet, David Witts

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

David Ayer (director), Kurt Wimmer (writer, producer), Bill Block, Chris Long and Jason Statham (producers), Jared Michael Fry and David Sardy (composers), Gabriel Beristain (cinematographer), Geoffrey O’Brien (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A former operative (Statham) gets revenge on a phishing company…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON THE BEEKEEPER?

Last year, Jason Statham fought a giant shark (again) in Meg 2: The Trench, and he also fought franchise fatigue in the awful sequel Expend4bles, but in director David Ayer’s action-thriller The Beekeeper, he’s fighting his biggest enemy yet: a script by Kurt Wimmer – also a co-writer on Expend4bles – that has a very weird, and borderline hilarious, obsession with bees.

Seriously, I’m pretty sure half the dialogue in this movie is either some kind of bee pun, or a convoluted analogy revolving around bees, whether it’s about “protecting the hive” or going after the queen bee or some other wild metaphoric speech. All of it, by the way, delivered with the straightest of faces by Statham himself, even though it’s perhaps the most unintentionally funny use of bees in a movie since Nicolas Cage got tortured by them in The Wicker Man, to where you might be laughing more at it than with it in this utterly ridiculous and bone-headed ride.

Statham plays Adam Clay, a lowly beekeeper who apparently has a meaningful friendship with his neighbour Eloise (Phylicia Rashad), even though they spend a total of one scene together in the entire film. Nonetheless, it’s enough for him to have a meaningful reaction when Eloise suddenly commits suicide after she falls victim to a phishing scam that wipes out her entire life savings. As it turns out, Clay was once a top operative for a secretive government organisation known as “Beekeepers”, so he quickly manages to track down and destroy the phishers’ office using brute force, only for a chain reaction of violence to kick off that ultimately leads to a much larger conspiracy being uncovered along the way.

I’m not going to mince words: The Beekeeper is utter insanity – and I’m not entirely sure if it’s the good kind, either. Beyond the excessive bee puns and analogies (example line: “You’ve been a busy bee”), this is a film where logic and subtlety may as well be a pair of foreign languages, because Wimmer’s script constantly whacks itself over the head with one dumb plot beat after another until it emerges with a concussion or, worst case scenario, slight brain damage. Some of the stuff that goes on in this movie is like a bizarre mix of Commando-style machismo bollocks within the neon aesthetic of a John Wick movie, with certain reveals being accompanied by loud musical beats that might as well be the stock “dun-dun-duuuuuun” motif, and action that gets shockingly brutal, even for this kind of film, to where after a while you’re no longer sure if you’re meant to be rooting for Statham’s absolutely lethal “hero”.

In parts, you can kind of tell that this script is more or less aware of its own silliness – I mean, it would have to be if at one point Statham tortures someone with a stapler, and at another point he drops a big action one-liners that is, and I’m not kidding here, a bee-centric take on a famous Shakespeare quote – but under David Ayer’s po-faced direction, it’s not an absolute guarantee that it’s meant to be silly. Ayer has certainly made his fair share of bombastic and highly unsubtle action movies in the past, but to an extent most of them have been aware of how over-the-top and ridiculous they are, even Suicide Squad which, though probably his worst film (largely thanks to those infamous studio edits), had a clearer understanding of itself. However, in the case of The Beekeeper, either Ayer isn’t in on the joke, or he doesn’t share the same sense of humour as Wimmer, because the director is treating this material like it’s a legitimate thriller, in which he has supporting actors like Jeremy Irons and Emmy Raver-Lampman deliver back-to-back speeches about bees that are treated like Shakespearian monologues – which, given that literal Shakespearian one-liner, I guess doesn’t surprise me that much.

Does any of it, ultimately, make The Beekeeper a good movie? Honestly, I don’t think so, because while I certainly see the appeal for a hard-edged and at times quite nasty action movie where people get completely butchered by Statham in rather horrible fashion, its own lack of self-awareness is quite alarming. Take last year’s overblown Statham-led action movie, Meg 2: The Trench: that movie, and its director Ben Wheatley, knew inside and out that it was dumb and not to be taken seriously, with it being the kind of over-the-top movie where you can get drunk and enjoy its stupidity with your equally inebriated pals. This movie, and by extension Ayer, thinks it’s a lot smarter than it actually is, and thus cannot seem to let itself loose and enjoy its own depravity, which sucks out most of the fun that is clearly intended by Wimmer’s script, and turns its laughs into unintentional ones just from how seriously this director is treating this brain-dead material (to reiterate, this movie features torture by stapler).

As much as it clearly wants to be a mindless blast, The Beekeeper – to use one of the few puns that it surprisingly doesn’t use – has an unpleasant sting to it.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Beekeeper is a ridiculous and overblown action movie that could have been mindless fun, as intended by Kurt Wimmer’s endlessly silly script, but David Ayer’s po-faced direction, which thinks the material is smarter than it is, turns it into more of an unpleasant and unintentionally funny experience.

Two out of five stars

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