You have to imagine that the pitch meeting for The Beekeeper went something like this.
“So, it’s called The Beekeeper. “
“The Beekeeper. And it’s about a guy…”
“Who keeps bees. Right. Got that. From the title.”
“Yeah, he keeps bees. But also — “
“Also he kills people.”
“Well, sort of. He hurts a few bad guys with jars of honey.”
“So wait—he doesn’t kill people with bees?”
“Not really. Mostly he just uses whatever is around. Guns. Trucks. Power tools. Gas cans. A computer keyboard. An elevator.”
“So remind me. Why…is it called The Beekeeper?”
“Well, uh, he keeps bees.”
“You said that.”
“And there are a whole lot of bee puns.”
“Oh. I get it. I totally get it now.”
“What you’re saying is…it’s a…B movie!”
The main thing you need to know about The Beekeeper, which is playing in theaters now, is that it’s a movie about a guy, played by Jason Statham, who keeps bees and kills people, mostly not with bees. If that description sounds appealing, then this modestly competent January action movie will probably be for you.
It’s tempting to leave it at that, and say that’s all you need to know. But both despite and because of its limitations, this movie has a bit more going on. It’s not just that Statham’s taciturn beekeeper elaborately kills a bunch of people—it’s who he kills, and why. The Beekeeper isn’t just a pulpy action movie about righteous, ridiculous vengeance, though it very much is that. It’s a movie about the sense that the system—the economy, the government, whatever the word “system” means to you—is rigged by the powerful to protect their own at the expense of ordinary people.
The movie starts on a quiet farm, where beekeeper Adam Clay (Statham) spends his days quietly tending a hive and helping out Eloise, the older woman who owns the estate. But after Eloise is scammed out of her savings and a charity fund for children’s education she manages, Clay takes action. Turns out Clay isn’t just a beekeeper, he’s the beekeeper, a former intelligence operative with a very special set of skills, i.e. he’s very, very good at killing bad guys.
Clay goes after the phishing scammers who drained Eloise’s bank account. But he doesn’t stop with the local outfit. Instead, he pursues the operation all the way to the top. That means going after Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson), the smarmy, jerky, entitled 20-something who runs a network of scam operations. (The movie is at least in part about how young people are the worst.)
But Danforth has some powerful allies.
And this is where some spoilers are necessary.
See, it’s not only that Danforth has a former CIA bigwig (played with glowering glee by Jeremy Irons) on staff to run security. The young twerp also happens to be the son of a powerful woman played by Jemma Redgrave—who turns out to be the President of the United States.
Clay isn’t just trying to take down a lone scamming operation. He’s fighting, like, the entire corrupt political-economic system, maaaaaaaaan.
So sure, The Beekeeper is a silly-but-enjoyable movie about a beekeeper who kills people. But it’s also a movie about righteous vengeance against corrupt self-dealing elites.
That the movie resolves this way is not entirely surprising, considering the creative team behind it. From End of Watch to Fury to Suicide Squad, director David Ayer’s filmography is littered with films that take a cynical view of official authorities. And screenwriter Kurt Wimmer has a long history of high-concept movies about corrupt governments, including the enjoyably junky sci-fi pictures Equilibrium and Aeon Flux.
The thematic undertones aren’t exactly nuanced, which is fine, because The Beekeeper—thank goodness—is not a message movie. But it is a film that channels a pervasive sense of frustration, anger, and despair about the general state of early 2020s America into an amusing action yarn about some bad guys getting what’s coming to them. And it turns out that the bad guys are just about everyone in power today.
The Beekeeper isn’t a great movie. But in its self-aware simplicity, it is an enjoyable one. It’s over the top. It’s absurd. In its own way, it’s bee-autiful.