I’ve always been an action movie fanatic.
There was a time in my formative movie viewing years when all I needed to know about a film before seeing it was which action hero was on the poster. If it was Eastwood, Bronson, Stallone, or Schwarzenegger (never a first name), they had my time and money. As time passed, my viewing horizons expanded, and a second generation was added to the list: Willis, Gibson, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li.
Being a dedicated fan like this led me to some of my all-time favorite films, which I still enjoy today, like Dirty Harry, Terminator 2, and Super Cop. It also meant sitting through such miserable movies as Pink Cadillac, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot You and everything Willis has been in for the past decade.
Jason Statham is cut from the same old-school action hero cloth. He generally plays the same essential character, the softspoken – ok, mumbly-mouth – loner who is reluctant to fight but ends up kicking everybody’s ass in the last half hour of the film. Like everyone else on my go-to list, there have been a few exceptions in Statham’s career, only primarily positive. He showed a comic flair pairing up with Melissa McCarthy in the underrated action/comedy Spy. And he’s adoringly goofy in his 1988 big-screen debut, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. For the most part, though, he’s followed the formula that made him, and most of the guys on my list, an action movie hero.
Although the formula failed him in his past few movies, the laughable Meg 2: The Trench and the embarrassing Expend4bles, Statham gets back on track with his latest release, The Beekeeper. He’s once again the quiet loner reluctant to fight; in this case, he is Adam Clay, a retired member of a secret organization called The Beekeepers, dedicated to ensuring America stays on the right path (as defined by the self-same secret organization). When his landlady loses all her money to a shady online scam and then puts a bullet in her head because of it, Clay comes out of retirement to right wrongs by violently working his way up the food chain to kill the people behind the scam.
And that’s all a Jason Statham fan wants. Sure, there are a few attempts to explore the more significant meaning behind the bad guys’ motives and make the movie relevant, but they’re just a dumb distraction, something to fill the space between ass-kickings. There’s a lot of bee lore, too, but the result is the same, especially when they start blabbing about Queen Killer bees. Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, the person responsible for Expend4bles, probably spent much time on Wikipedia looking for fun bee facts to fill out his thin story idea, but he needn’t have bothered. With the possible exception of a few apiculturists who mistakenly went to the movie hoping to see a documentary about their profession, nobody watching The Beekeeper cares.
With two exceptions, the acting in The Beekeeper falls into two categories: stoic hero (Statham) and hyperactive scenery chewer (everybody else). It’s almost laughable to watch the great Jeremy Irons (The French Lieutenant’s Women) do so little to collect a paycheck; it’s frustrating to know Josh Hutcherson (Five Nights at Freddy’s) made any money for his appearance.
The exceptions to the generally poor acting in The Beekeeper come from the two women in the cast. Although limited by Wimmer’s script, Emmy Raver-Lampman (The Umbrella Academy) makes the most of her character, FBI Agent Verona Parker. She gives the part some much-needed sass that cuts through the mediocrity. Then, Phylicia Rashad gives the acting masterclass playing Eliose Parker, the landlady/scam victim whose desperate actions drive Gray out of retirement. Rashad only has a dozen lines in the movie and only appears at the beginning. Still, her performance is strong enough to be as memorable as any action scenes in The Beekeeper—maybe more.