Movie review: Jason Statham is unstoppable in thrilling ‘Beekeeper’

Movie review: Jason Statham is unstoppable in thrilling ‘Beekeeper’

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 10 (UPI) — The Beekeeper, in theaters Friday, follows a storied tradition of one-man army action heroes. Jason Statham is unstoppable as he dispatches deserving foes in a genre movie that stands out with distinct flair.

The despicable villains are a ring of cyber con artists who swindle Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad) out of $2 million from a charity she manages. Eloise dies by suicide over the guilt.

Adam Clay (Statham) has been renting a shed from Eloise where he keeps a beehive. Clay calls an old contact, finds the call center and makes quick work of their security detail before burning the whole place down.

A survivor calls his boss, the frosted-tipped tech hustler Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson). Derek sends more men who are no match for Clay.

The nonchalance of the violence plays as an added layer of macabre comedy. Clay knocks out teeth and severs fingers, but the film never stops the scene to focus on them.

It leaves the audience to wonder, “Wait, did that just happen?” Yes, it did.

Clay’s punishments are excessively elaborate, but not sadistic. These are just the most efficient ways to dispatch people who refuse to learn they’ve messed with the wrong guy. Director David Ayer stages and edits the action tightly but maintains clarity.

Derek speaks like an out of touch luddite might think savvy kids talk, dropping lingo like “crypto,” “hit me up on Insta” and “his brand.” That could be intentional because it’s also the way posers try to sound like they fit in.

When Derek can’t take care of Clay, his mother (Jemma Redgrave) assigns Wallace (Jeremy Irons) to bail him out. Wallace realizes that Clay wasn’t just a hobbyist of bees, but also a member of an elite black ops division called Beekeepers.

No further detail about Beekeepers is ever given, except that it is better than every single special division of law enforcement that actually exists. Wallace speaks of the Beekeeper with proper gravitas to convey the magnitude of his power without ever defining what a Beekeeper actually is or does.

Wallace hires more professional tough guys, but he was right the first time. No one is tougher than the Beekeeper, but it provides for increasingly more colorful opponents.

Derek is a caricature of the sort of unearned authority that exploits others, but needs someone else to bail himself out. It never gets old watching the Beekeeper throttle sniveling cowards like Derek and his underlings.

The only real obstacle Clay faces is he doesn’t know who the ringleader is or where they’re operating. So he works his way up the company.

The closer he gets, even after Clay has taken out several divisions of Danforth Enterprises, the bad guys never stop being smug and believing they are invincible. So Clay continually hoists them by their own petards.

Clay doesn’t want to kill innocent law enforcement drawn into this mess, so he neutralizes entire FBI squads like The Terminator when he shot security guards in the leg so they’d survive.

One of the FBI agents is Eloise’s daughter, Verona. She and her partner, Wiley (Bobby Naderi), merely follow the trail of destruction Clay leaves behind.

The film pays respectable attention to the very real toll this kind of cyber crime takes on real-life victims. When Clay pontificates on the social ill of preying upon the elderly, it may be a little more than a simple action movie can bear, but he gets right down to business after that.

The script by Kurt Wimmer exhausts every metaphorical expression related to bees like “kicking the hive” and struggles to invent some new ones. Verona even reads a bee manual she finds at a crime scene to spout more bee facts as they close in on Clay.

The film suggests that society is the hive and Clay is working his way up to the corrupt queen bee. That’s not too pretentious for a beat ’em up actioner. Rather, it’s why movies like The Beekeeper are great.

The Beekeeper has an ambitious take on the extreme level of corruption it reveals above Derek. What makes formulaic action movies fun is how the characters go with their ideas.

Movies like this are great wish fulfillment because we all wish we had an Equalizer or Beekeeper to help us. The Beekeeper fully invests in the concept that there could be an all powerful hero who can defend the vulnerable.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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