‘The Beekeeper’ Review: Jason Statham Finds the Honey in This Ridiculously Wild Action Thriller

Director David Ayer goes for big thrills and a lot of fun in spite of clunky dialogue

"The Beekeeper"
"The Beekeeper" (CREDIT: Amazon/MGM)

There are lots of action stars in the world, but until we perfect our cloning technology, there’s only one Jason Statham. He’s a brick wall against whom everything either bounces or breaks and, in his best movies, that makes him a perfect foil. Preposterous plotting and dialogue is funny because Statham never acts like it’s funny. His grizzled stoicism might not always register in serious movies, but he may be the only actor in Hollywood who can pull off a feat of cinematic nonsense like “The Beekeeper.”

“The Beekeeper” is 100% pure Statham, and after many years where audiences had to settle for the diluted variety it’s a welcome return to form. David Ayer’s thriller is about a beekeeper who goes to war against capitalism and it evokes giddy memories of the first two “Transporter” movies, which solidified the actor’s ability to kick ass in wacky situations and look good while doing it. Jason Statham is back, baby, and this time — to quote Suzy Izzard — he’s covered in bees!

Statham stars as Adam Clay, a mild-mannered beekeeper who rents a barn from a kindly retired teacher, Eloise (Phylicia Rashad). One day, Eloise gets a pop up on her computer claiming she’s got a nasty virus, so she calls the number and quickly gets scammed out of her whole life savings plus $2 million from the charity she was responsible for.

Devastated, Eloise takes her own life and her daughter, FBI Agent Verona Parker (Emmy Raver-Lampman, “The Umbrella Academy”) vows to take down the con artists responsible. So does Clay, except he’s more efficient about it. While the FBI is still complaining that they don’t have any leads, he’s already found their headquarters, punched his way inside, and blown it to smithereens.

How can he do that, you ask? This must be your first Jason Statham movie. For you see, Adam Clay is no ordinary beekeeper. He’s a retired assassin whose codename was “The Beekeeper,” something he probably didn’t have to take literally when he retired. You don’t see Solid Snake leaving Foxhound and starting a new career in herpetology, now do you?

The Beekeeper stirs up a hornet’s nest, because it turns out that the call center was only one part of a massive illegal data-mining operation run by an insufferable tech bro named Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson), who fights back by enlisting goons who shoot Clay’s bees. If you thought the Beekeeper was mad before, now he’s breaking out in hives.

Danforth is the target, but he has the former head of the CIA on his payroll. That former head, implausibly named Wallace Westwyld, is played by Jeremy Irons, and it’s worth the price of admission alone just to hear the star of “Dead Ringers” and “Reversal of Fortune” say things like, “If a beekeeper says you’re gonna die, you’re gonna die.”

Kudos to screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (“Salt”) for his unapologetic commitment to writing lines of dialogue like “You’re a busy bee,” and “To bee or not to bee,” and “So bee it,” although that last one might have been unintentional. The script somehow manages to be absolute hogwash, intelligently structured, very goofy, and fist-pumpingly righteous. Jason Statham isn’t fighting vague international cabals or generic mafia goons, he’s fighting every scam artist who called your cell phone today and tried to swipe your personal info. He’s doing this for us, people. Go get ‘em, Statham.

David Ayer can be a bitter, cynical storyteller, sometimes to great effect (“Fury”) and sometimes not (“Harsh Times”). Even his films that can safely be called crowdpleasers are also vicious and unpleasant (“Sabotage”). But he’s found the right tone with “The Beekeeper,” reserving his ire for the villains and his amusement for the over-the-top hero who kills them. He’s not trying to fix this silly material, he’s just selling it.

“The Beekeeper” also does an interesting job of staying politically neutral. By the time the government gets involved, the iconography Ayer uses to depict them is so muddled, borrowing from both liberals and conservatives, that it’s hard to tell whether the film is trying to cater to one side or another. That is, until you realize that politics is a red herring and it’s a film about capitalism and corruption in such a general way that it doesn’t even matter where you stand on the issues. You’re probably angry about something and “The Beekeeper” probably agrees.

“The Beekeeper” isn’t as wild as “Crank” and it isn’t as fight- or stunt- heavy (or gloriously queer-coded) as the first two “Transporter” movies. But somewhere between those intoxicating extremes you’ll find Jason Statham chucking jars of honey at the head of a neon assassin firing a mini-gun mounted on the back of a van and that’ll get you buzzed too.

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