We’re barely into 2024 and so far, the new movie releases have twice returned to the guy-with-a-mundane-job-who-used-to-be-a-government-agent well. First came Renny Harlin’s The Bricklayer and now star Jason Statham and director David Ayer have thrown their hat into the ring with The Beekeeper. (The Custodian feels the obvious next step.) Bigger, badder, and wilder than the Harlin joint, this plays like deep EuropaCorp trash filtered through a lens of mean-spirited American animosity and excess. The result is relentlessly absurd, but also absurdly entertaining. It's utter nonsense, but fun nonsense that’s in on the joke (to an extent), and even funnier because everyone plays it straight faced.
Statham plays Adam Clay, who lives a simple country life obsessing over his bees and hanging out with his sweet, elderly neighbor, Eloise (Phylicia Rashad). When scammers prey on Eloise’s complete technological ineptitude (this movie has zero respect for older people), they clean out her life savings, plus some, and she takes her own life. This is where it turns out old Adam Clay may not be a mere beekeeper after all. Actually, he’s a literal keeper of bees and also a “Beekeeper,” which in the reality of this movie is a type of clandestine operative who acts with impunity to maintain order and “protect the hive.” And being a Beekeeper, this makes him the most badass of all badasses, and he uses his talents to exact bloody, brutal, explody retribution.
That sounds bonkers already, right? But don’t worry, The Beekeeper doesn’t stop there, not by a long shot. It turns out that all this corruption leads back to scumbag rich kid Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson with weird curly hair that is both greasy and has frosted tips). He’s untouchably wealthy for reasons that become clear over time and pays Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons cashing a paycheck), the FORMER HEAD OF THE CIA, to keep him safe. Eloise also has a gung-ho FBI agent daughter, Verona (Emmy Raver-Lampman), with an exacerbated, world-weary partner, Wiley (Bobby Naderi). Minnie Driver shows up for a handful of scenes as the current head of the CIA with nothing of note to do. We get multiple scenes of call centers, where the scammers do their scamming, that watch like The Wolf of Wall Street cut with ecstasy and EDM. And I haven’t even mentioned the inexplicable, late-in-the-game addition of a Eurotrash hit squad.
Whatever else you can say about The Beekeeper, and you can say quite a bit, it’s not afraid to throw caution to the wind just fucking go for it with a singular, unhinged tenacity. To their credit, Ayer and writer Kurt Wimmer (Law Abiding Citizen, the Point Break remake) let the lunatic plot spool out to its logical conclusion. Only in this instance, the logical conclusion is sheer insanity, and we wind up at the absolute pinnacle of power in the world. I won’t ruin it, but there’s a point where you pause and ask, “Is he going to…?” And the answer is yes. You must applaud the total lack of fucks anyone appears to give.
Obviously, this is an action movie, and the action is strong and plentiful. Those familiar with Jason Statham movies know what to expect and he delivers on that promise, battering his way through goons like a hot knife through butter. The Beekeeper finds him operating in a kind of middle ground, mixing a quiet, Charles Bronson style stoic vengeance with a maniac, no-one-can-touch-the-hero Steven Seagal type hysterics. (Even when he gets stabbed or otherwise wounded, it never for a second affects his forward killing momentum.) People have already thrown around Terminator comparisons, which are apt, and if you don’t buy that they’re intentional, to hammer the point home, there’s a Terminator skeleton hanging out in the background of one of the bro factories.
A lot of people are going to find this tedious, devoid of any substance, and exhausting. And they’re probably not wrong. Untethered from any sort of reality and relentlessly paced, this is deeply silly and may have been composed by a sentient pile of cocaine with access to AI software. Sure, The Beekeeper borders on asinine, but all I can say is you’re in for a ridiculous, over-the-top, honey-flavored treat.