de facto film reviews 3 stars

Jason Statham, one of cinema’s most consistent modern action stars, is coming off a rough year. While his Meg 2: The Trench earned over $400 million, it was a waste of his talents. Same goes for the putrid Expend4bles, arguably the single worst film of last year, which tanked both financially and with audiences. His last noteworthy performance was 2021’s Wrath of Man, directed by Guy Ritchie, which lent itself well to Statham’s physicality and gravitas. Thankfully, the action star has rebounded with the kind of pulpy throwback actioner that is precisely the kind of film you want it to be.

Courtesy Amazon MGM

Statham is mysterious beekeeper Adam Clay, who spends his days tending to his bees while renting a barn from retired teacher Eloise (Phylicia Rashad). Eloise, deemed the only person who’s ever cared for Clay, is scammed out of $2 million from an online phishing scam. Having lost everything, Eloise takes her own life, with her FBI agent daughter Verona (Emmy Raver-Lampman) vowing to take down those responsible. However, Clay, with no oath or obligation to meet, takes matters into his own hands, tracking down the phishing scam’s HQ. When he shows up at the front door of the center, which turns out to be a big data-mining operation run by coked-out tech douche Derek Danforth (an entertainingly smarmy Josh Hutcherson), he starts doing what you bought a ticket to see Jason Statham do; protect the hive, by any means necessary. Of course, Clay is formerly a part of a top secret agency known as Beekeepers, who are seemingly indestructible assets of war.

Director David Ayer, coming off a rough several year stretch with duds such as Bright, The Tax Collector and his compromised cut of Suicide Squad, aces the film’s pulpy tone, never deviating too heavily one way or another. Scripted by Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium, Salt) the tone is never too jokey, but finds that sweet spot of taking itself just serious enough to straight-face constant bee puns such as “I’m going to protect the hive” and “to bee or not to bee”. The plot ratchets up the ridiculousness by the final act which takes a number of inspired, strangely ambitious and kooky directions. The world building has plenty of The Equalizer and John Wick thrown in, but feels comprised of a grab ideas of ideas from other films. Thankfully, The Beekeeper largely stands out on its own terms.

Courtesy Amazon MGM

This is a revenge flick that fully delivers, without winking to the audience. The villains are as detestable as you would hope from a genre film like this, making it all the more satisfying when Statham starts tearing through them. After a slow start to establish the stakes at hand — which turn out to be far greater than initially promised — the pace ratchets up. By the time Statham shows up to the scammers call center with two full cans of gasoline, ready to torch the place to the ground, Ayer kicks the film into high gear. Shot by Blade II DP Gabriel Beristain, the fight scenes are cleanly shot and staged with real ferocity. The hand-to-hand combat sequences have a visceral edge to them, with the climactic fight between Statham and Taylor James getting particularly grisly with multiple face stabbings and broken bones. While not nearing the body count of a John Wick or Equalizer, there is a brutal glee to watching Statham utterly destroy tech bros and their goons. One sequence sees Statham cutting off a goons fingers with a band saw, only to tie the same goon to a car and drive it off a bridge. Another sequence set at a gas station features a gonzo baddie that looks like she came straight out of a Saints Row or Cyberpunk video game, wielding a minigun mounted on the back of a truck. A jar of honey is used as a sadistic punchline; if you come away with anything after The Beekeeper, it’s that honey is surprisingly flammable.

The plot, for all its galaxy-brained ideas, strains whenever the focus is taken off of Statham. While supporting players such as Jeremy Irons as the former director of the CIA and Minnie Driver as the current director understand the material they’re given, it’s still largely thankless.  The side plot involving Eloise’s FBI agent daughter is mostly filler, whose b-plot tends to add up less and less as the film goes along. Surely the daughter of the woman who took her life after being scammed would be taken off the case of tracking down the company behind the scamming??

Courtesy Amazon MGM

The Beekeeper is not only a return to form for Director David Ayer, but it’s the exact kind of film you want to see from star Jason Statham. It’s a bone-crushing revenge flick that understands what its audience wants, and it delivers plentifully.

The Beekeeper is now playing in theaters.