Review of The Beekeeper: Jason Statham breaks fingers while keeping bees

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I’m not familiar with just what inspired action thriller The Beekeeper, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a film that actually delivered on its title. An action thriller, with Jason Statham as a man who keeps bees?

Surely nobody would offer up a gift like that.

Well, chums, not only have they done so, but they’ve also delivered one of the best pure Jason Statham action films in some time.

It opens with some serious-looking academic stuff about bees playing under the opening credits, so I got the sense it might commit to its moniker. Then, early on, The Statham sincerely delivers the line “I just want to thank you for putting up with me… and all of my bees”.

At that moment, I knew I was in safe, wisely gloved hands.

Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise. No only does The Stath produce here, but the people behind The Beekeeper are no slouches.

Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer may have had his ups and downs, but on his day – Equilibrium – he comfortably knows his way around this old school stuff. Director David Ayer – a man who’s made superb films such as Fury and End Of Watch – meanwhile takes a break from answering people’s questions about his 2016 movie Suicide Squad to deliver a production he appears to have a lot more control over.

Perhaps that’s why the action here feels so direct: because all concerned agreed what they were doing.

On his way up, the action in Jason Statham films was quite something: take a look at movies like Safe, Blitz. The Transporter trilogy, Crank and The One. You may not love them all, but a very physical shift is put in, and in-camera action is not in short supply.

Last year’s trio of Statham features were an odd mix. Meg 2: The Trench? A big, but very digital movie. Fast X? A big, but very digital movie.

Expend4bles? Well, let’s just gloss over that.

The Beekeeper comfortably – comfortably! – eclipses the lot of them. The setup sees The Statham as Adam Clay, a man studiously, carefully making honey while protecting his non-metaphorical hive. He’s given a bit of space in the back room of Phylicia Rashad’s home to do what a man does in a secluded shed, and at first it looks like this might be quite a short film.

But then, cyberscammers attack.

You know those tosspots who ring up the elderly and try and get them to hand over control of their computers? Then they raid their bank accounts and leave them distraught? Well, The Beekeeper initially finds the holy grail: movie villains everybody can hate. I’m amazed they’ve not been tapped before for an action movie, and The Beekeeper does not miss its discovery.

Said cyberscammers duly defraud The Statham’s neighbour, and The Stath puts his honey pots down when he finds out. It’d also be fair to say – and lord, am I going spoiler-light here – that things escalate quite a lot in terms of who’s ultimately behind things. But we get some delights on the way to the film going ever so slightly mad.

Josh Hutcherson, for instance, is clearly having fun being an oily, hateable, movie villain. Then there’s the call centre of said cyberscammers that The Stath decides to visit. Quite a place, too. Thoughtfully, whilst everyone has high-tech headsets and such like, they keep a few corded phones on site so Statham can, well, ‘use them’.

Their working environment is a bit The Wolf Of Wall Street, just with a constant, massive screensaver thing on the wall behind them. It’s helpful, as it usefully reminds them that they’re in a high-tech place. There’s not a single person working there you wouldn’t want to punch in the face too, and thankfully, Jason obliges.

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Still: a third into the movie, the plot obstacles for Adam Clay are low, but shit certainly gets real when – not making this up – his new enemies shoot his bees. If I write a more enjoyable sentence all year, then 2024 will have been an all-timer.

What follows is a carnival of body parts being chopped off, a burning corpse, one satisfying creative kill involving a vehicle, a delightful dot matrix printer, earnest conversations about bees, and bonus Jeremy Irons wondering if he can get another Die Hard With A Vengeance-sized cheque. No sign of PG-13/12A nonsense either: people very much get hurt, in a 90s action movie kind of way. Heck, I was waiting for the sequel even as The Beekeeper was playing out before my eyes. This is the most fun I’ve had with a Jason Statham film in years.

If you’re wondering why I’ve not even bothered with copious bee puns in this review, incidentally, it’s because I don’t need to. The film got there first. It knows what it is, and delights in it.

There are problems. To say the plot goes to some implausible, amazingly security-lax places would be like saying the price of popcorn at the cinema might be a bit on the uneconomic side. When Wimmer’s script takes us away from smaller stakes stuff to, well, the place he takes us, reality snaps like half the limbs of the baddies in this particular movie. Still, compensation is rife when characters mull stuff such as “if anyone can knock this guy’s dick in the dirt, it’s them”.

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Oh, and I might have mis-remembered, but the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon Captain Caveman gets a namecheck at one point. Couldn’t find a good place to pop that in, so will just throw it here and move on.

Back to the review. What a lovely surprise too to have a double bill of FBI agents not shy of a bit of scene-stealing: whichever casting director threw Emmy Raver-Lampman and Bobby Naderi together deserves an extra packet of biscuits. If there’s a spin-off in The Beekeeping Cinematic Universe, these two deserve due consideration.

At the heart of The Beekeeper though is Jason Statham firmly, delightfully on home ground, and occasionally carrying a bag of bees around with him. There’s a small moment near the start where he appears to be doing an accent, but don’t let it distract you. “I keep bees”, he sneers, and then proceeds to hit some more people. He is a key attraction here, and David Ayer knows it.

It’s odd that this kind of film, once upon a time the bread and honey of movie studios, feels like such an unfashionable project now, though. Either nobody told Ayer, Statham and Wimmer this, or the trio simply didn’t care.

No need to ask them, though: they’ve got a sequel to make. The rest of us? Well, you get proper action and honey-making tips here. More please.

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