With ‘The Beekeeper,’ Jason Statham attracts flies for all the wrong reasons

With ‘The Beekeeper,’ Jason Statham attracts flies for all the wrong reasons

 

Jason Statham stars as Clay in director David Ayer's THE BEEKEEPER.

While the prospect of a Jason Statham action vehicle seemingly designed for those who find “John Wick” too intellectually demanding has possibilities, “The Beekeeper’s” revenge plot gets stuck in convoluted detours. The star’s latest film should attract flies, all right, not with honey, but rather the stale aroma of its inane premise.

What could have been a simple setup starts a bit stiffly, but well enough: Statham’s Adam Clay is a quiet honey farmer renting some space from an elderly woman (Phylicia Rashad) who experiences tragedy after being fleeced out of her money by an elaborate online scam operation.

At first suspected by the woman’s daughter (“The Umbrella Academy’s” Emmy Raver-Lampman) – who is an FBI agent, in the first of many stupid coincidences – it turns out Clay is a retired member of a super-secret group known as Beekeepers, dedicated to protecting the societal hive by rooting out evil, wherever it might be found.

OK, that’s enough reason to turn Statham loose, following a trail that leads toward the wealthy and connected heir to a family fortune, Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson, going through a strange phase between this and “Five Nights at Freddy’s”). A lot of dead bodies inevitably follow, in fight scenes that feel crisply efficient and brutal.

If only director David Ayer (“Suicide Squad”) and writer Kurt Wimmer (of the Statham-centric “Expend4bles”) had just rolled with the cathartic appeal of vigilante justice. But no, the odd wrinkles keep piling up, from the former CIA boss (Jeremy Irons, slumming) who heads security for Danforth, dragging the wheels of government into the shenanigans, and even laboring (badly) to say something about corruption that proves weirdly pretentious and at the very least belongs in a much better movie.

Although obviously known for his tough-guy credentials, Statham (who also produced the film) is also known to dabble in droll wit in venues like his “Fast & Furious” appearances and even “The Meg” as he dances with giant sharks. None of that is on display here, in a movie where, thanks to the dialogue, the occasional chuckles are usually unintentional, other than the line in which Statham’s character encapsulates the whole film: “You have laws for these things until they fail. Then you have me.”

Granted, January movie releases tend to be of the counter-programming variety, offering alternatives (often in action or horror) as an escape from the prestige films playing out their runs into awards season.

No one would confuse “The Beekeeper” with the latter, but even tapping into the most basic impulses of the action genre’s hive mind, it fails as an example of the former, too.

“The Beekeeper” premieres January 12 in US theaters. It’s rated R.

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