'The Beekeeper' Knows You’ve Got Other Sh*t to Do
This movie is not here to waste time.
It took me a few weeks to get around to seeing director David Ayer’s new action movie, The Beekeeper, because I’d been led to believe that it’s not a good film. Which is accurate. It’s not a good film.
It’s a GREAT film.
The Beekeeper is the latest entry in the Secret Badass sub-genre of action movies like Taken, John Wick, Nobody, etc. In fact, it wants to be John Wick so bad that I’m shocked they didn’t just call it Jean Wick: there’s a snotty douche-chill nepo baby (Josh Hutcherson) who pisses off the Secret Badass and an older villain (Jeremy Irons) who is like “You really fucked up now, kid!” and secret societies and an underground call center and a crazy lunatic lady assassin in a trench coat (although The Beekeeper’s crazy lunatic lady assassin in a trench coat actually kinda resembles Jared Leto’s Joker from Ayer’s Suicide Squad, so her comeuppance is all the more satisfying).
In this case, the Secret Badass is Jason Statham, so, y’know, his bad-assery is a secret, but it’s a poorly-kept secret, like when you watch First Blood today and find it impossible to believe that Brian Dennehy could somehow not figure out that fucking with Rambo is a lousy idea.
Jason Statham is friends with a nice older lady, played by Phylicia Rashad, from whom he rents barn space. The premise of the movie is - and I’m not spoiling anything here, this is all in the trailer - that Phylicia Rashad loses all her money in a phishing scam and kills herself. And then of course it turns out Jason Statham is not just a beekeeper, he’s Jason fucking Statham, and he goes around killing everyone responsible for Mrs. Huxtable’s untimely demise at the tender young age of 75.
What’s great about The Beekeeper is, it knows you know that Jason Statham is a badass, and it knows that you’ve either seen the trailer or just have a vaguely-functional brain and are therefore aware that Phylicia Rashad is a dead lady walking. And it doesn’t wanna waste your time, ‘cause it knows that brevity is the etc.
So it dispenses with the formalities and kills Phylicia Rashad faster than you can say “earning her SAG health insurance.”
No joke: Jason Statham and Phylicia Rashad’s sole scene together is so short you’ll miss it if you’re late to the movie, and then she immediately gets phished and immediately reacts to that realization by ending her own life.
Folks, we are ten fucking minutes into the movie when Jason Statham finds her body. TEN. A mere eight minutes later, Jason Statham is mowing motherfuckers down like grass.
John Wick’s dog gets to live a full 13 minutes into John Wick, and then it’s a whopping 16 minutes more before John Wick begins to rain holy terror down upon the perpetrators. And because it’s a classy movie with the guy from Schindler’s List, Taken REALLY drags its feet getting to the point: Liam Neeson’s daughter doesn’t even get taken until 25 minutes in, and it’s a full 40 minutes before blood is shed! But, oh, prior to that, we do get to watch Liam Neeson plays cards with his buddies, so thank Christ they took time for such a key moment. By the time John Wick is done digging his arsenal out of the basement, The Beekeeper has already slaughtered six people and made himself a fresh jar of honey; by the time Liam Neeson gets to France, The Beekeeper has already tied a guy to a car and then sent that car careening off a bridge.
Which is something that happens in this movie, as a practical effect, using what is clearly a dummy.
It is magnificent.
I’ve heard some people liken The Beekeeper to a slasher film, which isn’t very far off - it even has a scene where someone is trying to escape The Beekeeper and they keep coming across all their friends’ corpses, just like in a Friday the 13th flick. It’s just that instead of the person running being a Final Girl, it’s a guy who looks like he got his suit from the Andrew Tate x Ed Hardy spring collection, so you don’t feel so guilty about rooting for something terrible to happen to him. The Beekeeper isn’t quite as over-the-top violent as Lexi Alexander’s 2008 work of complete insanity, Punisher: War Zone, but it is very much in the spirit of that masterpiece.
What The Beekeeper lacks in wheelchair-bound old men being decapitated it makes up for with a plot that is ultimately go-for-broke bonkers (the script is credited to Kurt Wimmer). I’m not sure that anything that happens makes even the tiniest bit of sense (this is a movie where the bad guys put armed guards all over their estate but do nothing to protect the property’s inexplicable manholes; this is a movie where an FBI agent assumes a guy holding a knife just shot someone; this is a movie where the head of the CIA is British). I do know that this motion picture definitely goes someplace you’re probably not expecting, which is always delightful. Without giving away too much, the movie winds up tackling some very relevant political issues, but it does it in such a way that you can read it as pro-right or pro-left. In fact, if there’s anyone who should find this film offensive, it’s probably WASPs - like, the people, not the insect (there’s an early scene involving the insect that turns out to be foreshadowing FOR the fate of the people). The Beekeeper is as cynically non-committal as it is ruthlessly efficient.
This is not to say that The Beekeeper is a perfect film. Alas, there is the usual subplot about some kind of law enforcement agent officer person who is after the hero and in the process comes to begrudgingly admire the badass and yawn. And also, as much as I enjoy Jeremy Irons (and Minnie Driver, who appears to have wrapped her entire role before lunch), I don’t need five scenes of the bad guys trying to figure out how they’re gonna save themselves. We all know they’re completely screwed. It’s like, c’mon, The Beekeeper, I thought you had more respect for me than this.
Also, Jason Statham never actually turns out to be made up of literal bees like on the poster, and I think that’s a wasted opportunity.
Come to think of it, I believe the script could have used more bee puns in general. They must not have had the money to get Akiva Goldsman to do a rewrite on this.
Still, there’s a silver lining to The Beekeeper’s handful of shortcomings, which is that literally anytime Jason Statham isn’t on screen, you know you have a few minutes to go pee or get popcorn or whatever without missing any subscribers to the Axe Body Spray Scent of the Month Club suffering a horrific death. So this is a 105-minute-long movie that could have been 95-minutes-long, but also, you’ve got those ten minutes to stretch your legs and check your text messages and scroll through Insta. Come to think of, I bet all those dumb talking scenes are perfectly spaced out to be where the commercials would go if they ever tried to show it on basic cable. The Beekeeper knows it’s destined to be second-screened, and it handles that fact kind of brilliantly. The Beekeeper will probably continue to be barely-watched-in-the-background by teenagers long after Past Lives is forgotten.
Anyway, I think I’ve made my point clear: The Beekeeper is the pinnacle of human achievement up until this point in history, and if you don’t see it, you’re stupid and not cool and no one will like you. The end.