A quiet man on a large farm in Massachusetts owes a debt to Eloise (Phylicia Rashad). He’s lived a particularly eventful life yet never met anyone who actually took care of him as this kind elderly woman has. Leasing a shed out back of her property, Adam Clay (Jason Statham) whittles away his days tending to his hives and killing wasps as a beekeeper.
Tragedy strikes suddenly, as the trusting Eloise is taken advantage of by a cyber-attack scam. The well-coordinated criminals take advantage of her trusting nature, stealing all she has and bankrupting a charity that she contributes to. Racked with the guilt of her mistake, Eloise takes her life leaving Adam in shock. As the dust settles, Eloise‘s FBI Agent daughter Verona (Emmy Raver-Lampman) can do nothing to track the group responsible. Adam Clay however, can. In his retirement he simply tends to honeybees, but years before becoming a beekeeper he was a CIA black ops asset and lethal killing machine.
The violence starts early as this beekeeper goes on the offensive. The scammers who targeted his elderly friend are merely the tip of a deep conspiracy. At the centre of which is tech industry CEO Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson), an arrogant brat who inherited an empire. His security consultant Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons), himself a retired CIA director, immediately recognises the work of a former “Beekeeper”. As the FBI investigates where Clay has been, Westwyld knows where he is going. The Beekeeper is going to rid the world of a wasp infection, the only way he knows how, by burning their entire nest to ash.
Written by Kurt Wimmer and directed by David Ayer, The Beekeeper has some big names in action cinema behind it. Despite his latest work being the terrible Expendables 4, Wimmer previously brought us the awesome “gun kata” in the memorably cheesy sci-fi Equilibrium. While Ayer, himself perhaps no stranger to duds, also directed the thrilling war epic, Fury. On top of that, as a huge Jason Statham fan, this is a film that I’ve been looking forward to for a while.
The Beekeeper is clearly inspired by similar action films such as the John Wick or The Equalizer franchises. These violent action classics are deceptively simple in concept. It’s not just the idea of a former man of “a particular set of skills” ‘Liam Neeson-ing’ a path of revenge through unsuspecting enemies. There’s an incredible style and slickness to their execution (no pun intended) making them stand out.
Jason Statham is in top form here doing what he does best. Unfortunately, The Beekeeper feels severely lacking in its ability to deliver an entertaining story and world to compliment the charismatic British action star. As Adam Clay, the monologues, stilted dialogue and bee related metaphors that Statham performs from Wimmer‘s script make The Beekeeper seem more like a parody of action films than an earnest attempt at one.
The cast list is surprisingly star studded for the type of film The Beekeeper is. Hutcherson and Irons give it their all for what it’s worth and make decent villains. There are hints of a cartoony brilliance in the ridiculousness of their schemes but the film is dragged down by a focus on the FBI’s Verona and her partner as they redundantly investigate Clay‘s acts of destruction. EVERY SINGLE ONE! It is simply frustrating watching these characters attempt to catch up with the audience in their understanding of what is going on.
With all that said, The Beekeeper still at times an incredibly entertaining action flick. The over the top nature of many of Clay‘s violent killings and Ayer‘s talent as a director offset the failings of the story. Fight choreography is compelling and contrary to the FBI characters, The Beekeeper deals out his righteous vengeance. As weak as the film may be at times, there’s always an intense action set piece on the horizon to give us exactly what we desire from mindless Statham popcorn entertainment.
The Beekeeper is a disappointing yet still fun action flick for Jason Statham fans. He brings the charm and physicality to the role which has made him one of modern Hollywood’s few reliable action movie stars. Through Statham, we are treated to explosive scenes which hold nothing back. However, The Beekeeper also has a tired, predictable story with meandering pacing from start to finish. These downsides doom the film to be compared unfavourably to similar genre defining films, rather than standing tall alongside them.