Monday, January 15, 2024

The Beekeeper (2024): A Review



I admire, even respect, films that know what they are. Such is the case with The Beekeeper. An action movie that tells its story quickly, hits its familiar beats and has a cast fully aware of itself, The Beekeeper is good entertainment.

Adam Clay (Jason Statham) is living a quiet life far off the grid raising bees. His only human contact is his landlord, Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad), a retiree with a respectable bank account who manages a charity. Unfortunately, scammers get Eloise to fall for a phishing scam, bilking her and her charity of millions. Despondent, she kills herself.

Initially thought of as a suspect by FBI Agent and Eloise's daughter Verona Parker (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Clay is quickly cleared. He, however, is now determined to find the scammers and bring justice to them. He reaches out to his former paramilitary group, known as The Beekeepers, for help. They get him the address and name of United Data Group.

Clay soon makes quick destruction of UDG, sending its head Mickey Garnett (David Witts) fleeing from the inferno. As Parker investigates the phishing crime, neither she nor Clay initially realize that this is part of a major crime headed up by Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson). Derek is a rich, vulgar ne'er do well who does not shrink from sending thugs to keep his empire growing. Despite the efforts to protect Derek by former CIA head Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons), Clay is coming.

How high does Derek go to? What is his connection to a mysterious but powerful figure, his mother Jessica (Jemma Redgrave)? As the unrelenting Clay marches onwards, destroying anyone who gets in his way, Eloise and her partner Wiley (Bobby Naderi) follow behind, discovering the Beekeepers and Derek's connection to the highest power. 

Again, in its hour-forty-odd minute running time, The Beekeeper gives the audience what it wants: violent action, a stoic character, and an almost outlandish villain. The strong thing about The Beekeeper is that no one in front of or behind the camera ever tries to be smarter than Kurt Wimmer's screenplay. It is a simple, straightforward story and never suggests that there has to be more. This mysterious figure, with a shadowy past, is taking down a criminal enterprise.

I think one major plus in The Beekeeper's favor is the relatability of the crime. Clay is not taking down spies or a massive government conspiracy. Instead, it is internet scammers who take advantage of vulnerable people. People either know people who have been scammed or have been scammed themselves. As such, there is a vicarious thrill in seeing these people taken down in sometimes particularly vicious ways. 

The Beekeeper is also blessed with actors and performers who know what this film is and play it as such. No one will ever say that Jason Statham is an actor in the "Statham IS King Lear" mold. He is an action star, asked to do nothing more but take down criminals and show little emotion. As he approaches 60, Statham shows no signs of slowing down. Stoic in his delivery, his understated manner works well with some of his costars. Hutchinson as the vaguely Hunter Biden-like Derek is loving every minute, going all-in on the crazy and entitled nepo baby. 

The big surprise is Irons as Derek's minder. This is clearly a paycheck role, where he knows that he is almost unnecessary to the film and does not try to give his all. It is not a bad performance, and in fact he seems to be joining in the fun of things. 

Others, though, do not fare as well. Jemma Redgrave did her best to mask her British accent, but it still slipped through. Raver-Lampman was not the most convincing as either a grieving daughter or committed FBI agent, but it was serviceable. Naderi as her somewhat comic relief partner was better. 

The action scenes were at times a bit too violent for my tastes, but I think they worked well and will please action fans. Efforts to try to make the Beekeepers some kind of mythic figures, down to sending a Beekeeper who gets dispatched quickly (and violently) do not work as well as director David Ayers intended. Moreover, another assassin hired by Westwyld came across as almost parody.

On the whole, though, The Beekeeper knows what it is and lives up to its goals. Enjoyable and entertaining, I hope The Beekeeper does not inspire a franchise but stays a single event. 


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