Jason Statham’s buzzy revenge comedy, The Beekeeper, revels in its own ridiculousness

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For the second time in six months, a middle-aged man with world-class stubble signals their retreat into the bliss of early retirement by pouring honey from their own beehive. The first was David Beckham, introduced in his fawning Netflix documentary stoically fussing over bees in his vast back garden. Now it’s Jason Statham, a hero with a sting in his tail in the bone-crunchingly ridiculous action-thriller The Beekeeper.

Statham was never subtle, but his recent movies have jumped the shark. Or punched one in the case of last summer’s Meg 2, in which he duked it out with Jaws’s primordial ancestor. The only animals harmed in The Beekeeper, by contrast, are the hornets who threaten his beehive early in this enjoyably idiotic caper. Their reward is a stern ticking off and death by electric shock.

He’s soon picking on enemies his own size in a film that hits the guilty pleasure zone in the style of an old straight-to-video action flick. Thirty years ago, The Beekeeper would have starred Jean-Claude Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren while the villain’s boots would have been filled by Rutger Hauer or Dennis Hopper if he had to pay for another divorce.

Now the hero is Statham’s Adam Clay – a retired “Beekeeper” black ops agent whose mission is to “protect the hive”. The baddie, meanwhile, is a glum Jeremy Irons playing a former CIA director working for a murky mega-corporation with a lucrative line in internet phishing scams.

The phishers reel in the wrong target when they defraud the sweet retired old lady renting her barn to Clay and his bees (The Cosby Show’s Phylicia Rashad). Her life savings gone, she shoots herself. This thoroughly kills Clay’s buzz and the ‘Beekeeper’ is soon hunting for revenge against the scammers. It is a body-slamming quest involving burning down office blocks, slicing the fingers off henchmen and glowering balefully into space.

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None of this is within yelling distance of nuanced and Statham shows all the range of a block of concrete. Irons, for his part, tries not to look in physical pain as he ploughs through dialogue that lands like something from a video game cut scene. Elsewhere, Emmy Raver-Lampman does her best as an FBI agent on Clay’s tail, while Minnie Driver pops up briefly and disinterestedly as a senior Washington spook. There is also a strange cameo by Jemma Redgrave as a US businesswoman-turned-politician who is equal parts Mary Berry and Donald Trump.

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Yet for all the stodginess, the action is dynamic – often shockingly gory – and enthusiastically marshalled by David Ayer. As director of the critically reviled Suicide Squad and Bright, he could obviously do with a hit. Or at least with a movie that isn’t a career-hobbling disaster.

The Beekeeper is nobody’s idea of clever. But it contains a scene in which an evil mercenary puts a gun to Statham’s head and says, “To bee or not to bee?” – and how can you hate a film that leans so cheerfully into its own ludicrousness?

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