“The Beekeeper” is the perfect revenge movie. Introducing a new kind of villain to be overcome, the film has a breakneck pace and deftly-choreographed fight sequences. Director David Ayer expertly guides the movie to a perfect ending.
The picture opens on a farm in New England. A beekeeper, Adam Clay (Jason Statham), tends his hives. He leases space from the farm owner Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad). They agree to meet for dinner at her place.
Later, Eloise is on her computer when a pop-up message dominates her screen. It informs her that she needs to call the phone number listed to solve a technical issue. Clearly this is a scam but Eloise does not pick up on this fact.
The scene cuts to a call center. There, a smarmy Mickey Garnett quarterbacks his team to pay attention to how he lures Eloise into his trap. Faking faux concern for her predicament, he gets her to give up her password. Soon all of her money has been drained from her various accounts.
Adam arrives at Eloise’s home for their scheduled meal. He enters and finds her dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He is confronted by Eloise’s daughter Verona Parker (Emmy Raver-Lampman). Verona is an FBI agent and handcuffs Adam as a police squad arrives. Later, the police inform Verona that Adam has tested clean of gunpowder residue and is not a suspect. She apologizes begrudgingly.
Realizing that Eloise has been scammed, Adam calls a secret organization to get the location of the call center from which the phone call originated. It turns out that Adam coincidentally used to be a member of an organization called the Beekeepers. This group had extra-governmental jurisdiction to remedy world problems as they saw fit.
Adam shows up at the call center with explosives and two containers of gasoline. Confronted by security guards, he easily dispatches them in what is the first of many such encounters. Inside the call center operations center within the building, he puts the fear of God into the scammers as they flee for their lives. He dispatches another group of security and sets up an explosion keyed to the next incoming victim’s phone call. When the fireworks are done, the large building is a complete wreck.
Mickey, having escaped with his life, makes a desperate call to his boss, Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson). Derek skateboards around his palatial office surroundings and gives himself spa treatments at work using his ill-gotten gains. Derek encourages him to get a crack team together to eliminate Adam.
They go to Eloise’s farm, thinking that Adam will be an easy target. Inside the barn, total mayhem ensues as the attackers are annihilated, with the exception of Mickey, who has the fingers on a hand cut off.
Mickey flees and ends up on a drawbridge. While communicating in a panicked tone his failed raid to Derek, Adam rams his vehicle. Mickey is tied to his car and sent into the river. Later we see his body bag emerge from the wreckage.
Derek tasks Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons) to take care of the thorn in his side. Wallace is the former head of the CIA and has taken this job as a favor to his former love, Derek’s mother. Will he be able to stop Adam from his determination to kill Derek?
There are many things to love about this movie. One is the unerring moral compass of Adam Clay. There is never any angst about whether or not he is doing the right thing. He is a killing machine who has been angered and intends to wipe out the people who harmed his friend.
Another positive is the well-staged fight choreography. These set pieces are remarkable in their precision. The production notes indicate that guns are not the weapon of choice for Adam. He will, and does, use, any item in his vicinity, including a stapler, as a weapon. For those who like their action rough, the body count from individual hand-to-hand (and sometimes other body parts) fights is staggering. Another thing to like about these fights is the variety of locations used, which range from office buildings to a gas station.
A third merit is the screenplay. It is written so that the pacing moves Adam inexorably up the ladder to meet the root cause, Derek, of all this evil. Each gambit is more intense and more complicated.
I also liked the fact that here we have the perfect villains. By that, I mean evil people that no one could like. There was a time when this used to be terrorists, but lately it has segued to the Nazis. But using scammers targeting vulnerable older people creates a class of ne’er-do-wells that no one will like and who are alive in our time. The brilliance of this plot device, so obvious and yet never fully realized in an action film, is notable.
One drawback to the film is including too much bee lore and bee talk. I feel that everyone knows by now how our agriculture would go to hell if the bees went extinct so I don’t need this repeated. When Verona reads from a book about queen-slayer bees, it feels like a trivia contest more than a plot point.
Unlike Adam, Verona is conflicted morally as a sworn law officer about what Adam is doing. This gives an excuse to have her and her partner Matt Wiley (Bobby Naderi) be in on the pursuit as she feels duty-bound to stop the person killing everyone who led to her Mom’s suicide. These scenes are fortunately short and not much screen time is wasted on this blathering.
Statham is the epitome of stoicism and determination as Adam Clay. You never doubt his sincerity or will to accomplish what he feels destined to do. Jeremy Irons gets to engage in some scene-stealing as the wise but ignored adviser. Hutcherson was completely unrecognizable to me but is fairly one-dimensional in his excess. But this never was intended to be a movie touting Oscar-winning acting.
This is just a fun film for any fan of the action genre. You have villains whose comeuppance you cannot wait to see. The fight scenes are top-notch and very well-staged. And Jason Statham! Not suitable for young children.
Four and a half out of five stars
One man’s brutal campaign for vengeance takes on national stakes after he is revealed to be a former operative of a powerful and clandestine organization known as “Beekeepers.”
Cast: Jason Statham, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Josh Hutcherson, Bobby Naderi, Minnie Driver, with Phylicia Rashad and Jeremy Irons
Directed By: David Ayer
Written By: Kurt Wimmer
Score Composed By: David Sardy and Jared Michael Fry