Jason Statham’s character in “The Beekeeper” takes his gig literally.
He’s a retired military asset who once worked for a secret group of spies dubbed the Beekeepers.
And, in his spare time, he’s a beekeeper.
If literal action movies are your bag, Statham’s latest is Manna from Heaven. Everyone else will wish the film’s poetic opening didn’t get fumigated so quickly.
Statham stars as Adam Clay, a hulking figure who tends to his bees with a delicate touch. He’s been taken in by an older woman named Eloise (Phylicia Rashad), whose kindness isn’t lost on Adam.
They don’t share much screen time, but the actors make those seconds count.
Eloise is quickly ensnared in a phishing scheme, and when she loses every penny of her life savings she takes her own life. That brings Eloise’s daughter (Emmy Raver-Lampman) to the scene. She’s a dedicated FBI agent who wants to know who robbed her poor mother and if they’re doing the same with other seniors.
Adam wants answers, too, except the culprits are so secretive it could take years to follow their trail. Adam’s old military-style contacts suss the scammers out in minutes.
Yeah, it’s that kind of a movie.
Turns out Adam is a former “beekeeper,” an assassin of sorts tasked with keeping the “hive” AKA the U.S. government in order.
“The Beekeeper” opens with such tenderness you think Statham had finally ditched his inner “Meg.” Too often the British star glowers through his films, making us forget he can carry a scene without a “Crocodile Dundee”-sized knife in hand.
We’re reminded in short order.
The rest is a mess, from plot threads that go nowhere (sorry, Minnie Driver) to great actors forced to say the silliest lines possible (et tu, Jeremy Irons?)
Josh Hutcherson gives the film a jolt as Derek, an entitled brat who oversees several scam outfits. Derek has connections, the kind that would protect almost anyone from harm.
Tell that to … The Beekeeper!
If Derek reminds you of someone it may not be coincidental. Derek snorts coke in the White House, drops serious cash on prostitutes and runs to his mother (Jemma Redgrave), the President of the United States, for cover.
Sound like anyone we know?
Statham’s character is darn near invincible once more, which means “The Beekeeper” lacks the kind of stakes that elevate generic action films.
The bee metaphors prove as relentless as our hero and could make a great drinking game depending on the player’s liver. Bee careful.
Director David Ayer (“End of Watch,” “Sabotage”) knows how to choreograph bone-crunching action, and even horror fans might flinch when the Beekeeper buzzes through an army of foes.
The first act shows the cruelty of the various scam centers, led by charismatic goons who watched too many infomercials in their youth. That sense of outrage eventually fades, and suddenly we’re wondering why our Beekeeper is slaughtering people who aren’t evil and are just doing their jobs.
“The Beekeeper’ is a lark, albeit one that never takes itself seriously. Adding some WWE-style villains for Adam to stare down in the third act is a hoot, even if the film doesn’t take full advantage of their appearance.
The story does land differently than it might have a decade ago.
We’ve seen such chronic malfeasance from the modern FBI and White House that Adam’s vigilante work feels more timely than ever. He’s exposing corruption at the highest levels, and as crude as Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay might be, there’s a cathartic kick to Adam’s handiwork.
In real life, the bad guys get away with almost everything. Not on the Beekeeper’s watch.
Hit or Miss: “The Beekeeper” is another dumb, frantic Jason Statham adventure begging to become a film franchise.