The Movie Waffler New to Sky Cinema - THE BEEKEEPER | The Movie Waffler

New to Sky Cinema - THE BEEKEEPER

New to Sky Cinema - THE BEEKEEPER
A former special agent seeks revenge when his employer is defrauded.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: David Ayer

Starring: Jason Statham, Jeremy Irons, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Josh Hutcherson, Bobby Naderi, Minnie Driver, Phylicia Rashad

The Beekeeper poster

The revenge thriller is a broad tent. Some revenge thrillers feature an everyday woman battling a handful of pudgy rednecks while others see former special forces agents fighting against small armies. I've always found the former more enjoyable in the same way that I find Alien more effective than Aliens – a regular woman fighting a single monster is a lot more involving than a bunch of gun-toting jarheads battling dozens of creatures. I guess it's a relatability issue, much like how seeing a character step on a piece of LEGO will cause you to wince more than if they were decapitated; I'm far more likely to find myself in trouble with a bunch of rednecks than a private army.

Director David Ayer began his career with a series of relatively grounded action thrillers (Harsh Times; Sabotage) but in recent years has moved into overblown superhero and sci-fi movies (Suicide Squad; Bright). His latest, The Beekeeper, begins in relatively low key revenge movie territory but it becomes increasingly over the top as the narrative progresses. As a result, it becomes a lot less engaging, though there is fun to be had in its trashiness.

The Beekeeper review

Jason Statham is Adam Clay. He's a beekeeper. That has a double meaning. He's literally a beekeeper, as in he keeps bees. But he's also a former member of a secret special forces group known as The Beekeepers. He's put all that behind him though. Now he just wants to keep his bees.

Like Patrick Swayze in Road House, Adam rents a barn from a kindly elderly neighbour, Eloise (Phylicia Rashad), whose apiary he manages. When Eloise has her accounts emptied after falling for a phishing scam, she commits suicide. As Eloise was the only person who ever treated him with kindness, Adam vows revenge and deploys his special set of skills to do so.

It's a genius move to make online scammers the villains of a revenge movie. It's that relatability thing again. Who among us hasn't been bugged by scam calls? I sometimes receive as many as five in a single day, but I'm savvy enough to know to hang up immediately. We've all heard the real life horror stories of elderly people being preyed upon by these vultures.

The Beekeeper review

It's immensely satisfying then to watch Adam wreak havoc in a boiler room call centre. The trouble is this scene comes at the end of the first act rather than at the end of the movie as the phishing scam is simply part of a wider conspiracy that extends to the corridors of power. It's at this point that any relatability goes out the window as Ayer's film morphs from the sort of movie Roger Corman might have produced in the '70s into a John Wick knock-off complete with a subterranean world of cartoonish contract killers.

There is fun to be had however with how ridiculous things get from this point. Josh Hutcherson is a delight as Derek Danforth, a billionaire tech-bro who flies around his offices on a skateboard, which automatically makes any sane viewer wish for him to die a grisly death. Hutcherson seems to be channelling the great character actor David Patrick Kelly, who specialised in playing snivelling little shits in '80s action classics like Commando and 48 Hrs. Jeremy Irons hams it up as Derek's head of security. Taylor James chews the scenery like it was beef jerky as a South African mercenary with an artificial leg (yes, this is a movie that literally treats us to the sight of a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest).

The Beekeeper review

The script by Kurt Wimmer (responsible for such atrocities as the Total Recall and Point Break remakes) is inept in terms of storytelling. At one point a character's job is revealed through having one character explain to another a detail that every single person on the planet would be familiar with. There are some lines that are so cringey you have to begrudgingly applaud them, like when one character reworks a famous Shakespeare quote into an apiary pun (yes, that one).

What's most disappointing is the treatment of Statham's character. The action star has rarely been more monosyllabic, and his character is devoid of personality. His job as beekeeper sadly never figures into the plot. If you're expecting the action equivalent of Tony Todd's Candyman, with Statham unleashing bees against his foes, you'll be stung by the movie's failure to deliver on this potential. More b-action than bee action then.

The Beekeeper is in cinemas from January 12th.

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