Sunday, June 23, 2024

Movie Review: ‘The Beekeeper’ is a Thrill Ride of Revenge

Director: David Ayer
Writer: Kurt Wimmer
Stars: Jason Statham, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Bobby Naderi

Synopsis: One man’s brutal campaign for vengeance takes on national stakes after he is revealed to be a former operative of a powerful and clandestine organization known as “Beekeepers”.

Jason Statham is an action genre legend. Not only is that evident by his ever-expanding suite of movies including The Expendables series, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, The Transporter series, The Fast And The Furious series, and more, but he has somehow continuously improved his box office numbers year over year. Excluding sequel movies, The Beekeeper has an estimated $16.8 million opening weekend beating opening numbers from 2023’s Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre ($3.1 million) and 2021’s Wrath Of Man ($8.1 million). With all that being said, The Beekeeper stands on its own with a delightfully fun revenge tale that has surprisingly deep cuts toward socio-political issues plaguing the world. 

The Beekeeper starts with a brief but profound interaction between Adam Clay (Statham) and Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad). Clay has been renting a barn from Parker and living quietly as a beekeeper. The audience gets the sense that he views her as a mother figure as he remarks that “nobody has ever taken care of me before” after she invites him to her house for dinner. Immediately after, we see Parker fall victim to a phishing scam in a sequence that sets off the movie’s events. Not being tech-savvy, Parker hands her passwords to a data mining group that wipes her accounts, totaling over $2 million. Clay later explains that Parker was an educator who was a signatory for a children’s charity’s community bank account, and the guilt over being scammed leads her to end her life. Phylicia Rashad is captivating in this scene as she unwittingly talks to who she believes to be a good-natured IT specialist on the phone. She hesitates before completing the wire transfer that gives her password away, but her empathy for who she’s talking to, possibly losing their job because of their “errors” propels her to complete the transaction. Rashad is a living legend with almost as long of a career as Jason Statham has been alive. The entire interaction feels realistic as the scammers party while the phone is muted and exude empathy and kindness as they play their victim. 

As Clay comes into Parker’s house to have dinner with her, he discovers her body with a gun nearby. Almost simultaneously, he meets her daughter Verona (Emmy Raver-Lampman), an FBI agent hellbent on avenging her mother. She doesn’t realize, though, that her life has intersected with a Beekeeper. Yes, that is capitalized purposely as Clay is not just a beekeeper, but he’s a Beekeeper who happens also to be a beekeeper. We find out later that the Beekeepers are a classified program that operates outside of the law to maintain the hive of justice that the judicial system fumbles occasionally. This movie has some messaging to get across—stealing from the elderly is worse than stealing from children because they often keep their victimization to themselves or have nobody to care for them. Clay, however, cared about Eloise Parker and will avenge her death to the very top of the hive if he must.

The scenes that follow are various acts of violence that unfold in increasingly hilarious ways including burning the call center that called Parker down to the ground, the manager who spoke to Parker being embarrassed and killed alongside his murder-for-hire squad in Clay’s barn after they try to avenge their call center, and Clay not only killing a fellow Beekeeper after they’re commissioned to terminate him by the CIA, but also incapacitating an FBI SWAT team and taking out a militia of former Seal Team 6 and associated veterans called in by Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons). Westwyld is an interesting character in this movie as he represents someone who tries to separate themselves from the direct action by hiding behind droves of cannon fodder. He mentions that he has enough money, but he also scoffs when asked whether money or power are more enticing to him. We never get his answer, but this reminds me of the mindset of some corporate executives and politicians who exhibit Machiavellianism. Speaking of, while Westwyld is the hand behind various waves of forces going against, Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson) is the CEO who funds and propagates the web of deception throughout his company Danforth Enterprises, and its subsidiaries that Clay has his sights on. I should take a moment to acknowledge that this movie has a fair amount of humor including a healthy amount of bee puns that somehow even made the only confirmed dad in the movie Agent Wiley (Bobby Naderi) roll his eyes. I, however, love dad jokes and loved the humor in this movie! This movie not only gives us Statham in a full beekeeping suit, provides an overabundance of bee puns and facts, and boasts evil frat bro Josh Hutcherson, but the audience is also rewarded with a twist I won’t spoil here. That twist, however, was so fun, and pretty much paid for my ticket to watch the movie a second time on its own. Without getting too much into the end of the movie and spoiling any specifics about the pain Clay inflicts on his targets, take these snapshots—one pickup truck minigun, four amputated fingers, and many, many bodies hitting the floor. 

The Beekeeper is a fun original action film that will make the audience writhe in their seats, but still want more. The action is delicious and the socio-political messaging is almost too real. Watching this movie, I found myself rooting for Jason Statham’s character a bit more than I typically do, as within the past couple of years, my grandmother was the victim of a similar scam. She had a strong support system and most of the damage was able to be reversed, but not everyone has that outcome—this is why we root for movie vigilantes who target the corrupt and defend the helpless. Not only does Statham do a great job throwing punches and keeping bees during this movie’s very action-packed runtime, but if you’re a fan of standard action films, this is a solid entry that will make it into my comfort action movie rotation once released. Of course, I can’t let that statement go by without a last-minute reminder to support physical media as it’s never a bad thing to have a beautiful movie collection sitting on a shelf.

Grade: A-

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