Tuesday, 23 July 2024

Jason Statham turns ‘The Beekeeper’ into his action persona


Known for his muscular physique and believable portrayal of a gritty action hero, Jason Statham, with his martial arts background, has made such a career of being the tough guy that in about a dozen years or so he could turn into a durable aging version of Liam Neeson or Steven Seagal.

As long as he remains a bankable action star, Statham should not be lacking for work. His resume includes fine films in the thriller genre, from crime dramas like “The Bank,” “Snatch,” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” to the action thriller “Transporter” trilogy.

The appeal of this British actor is that he is convincing in his action roles, which likely comes from his practice of kickboxing and karate. Having been a member of Britain’s national diving team and competing for his country in the 1990 Commonwealth Games rounds out his athletic abilities.

Statham’s Adam Clay is a loner living on Massachusetts farm land where he tends to his bee hives and operates out of a barn rented from his neighbor, the elderly Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad), who acts like his surrogate mother.

Aside from his love of beekeeping, Clay is a retired Beekeeper, a member of a clandestine government agency that apparently operates outside legal boundaries to restore order when corruption and nefarious crimes must be addressed.

Unfortunately, retired teacher Eloise responds to a tech support group’s notification of a virus on her computer and gets connected to sleazebag Mickey Garnett (David Witts), who then proceeds to drain her bank accounts of her entire life savings as well as the $2 million in her charitable foundation.

The scammers work for the despicable Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson), a man-child cokehead who skates around his corporate office under the protection of some powerful people.

Feeling hopeless after losing everything, Eloise commits suicide, and this prompts Clay to take immediate action to hunt down the perpetrators of the telemarketing fraud.

Eloise’s suicide is a blow not just to Clay but especially to her FBI Special Agent daughter Verona Parker (Emmy Raver-Lampman), who wants to find those responsible for her mother’s death, but must function within the law.

There are no such constraints for Clay who wastes no time finding the call center of the United Data Group where he arrives with two cans of gasoline and announces to the security guards that he is going to burn the place down.

Making good on this threat to turn the entire operation into an ashtray, Clay sets his sights on going after the main source, only to find that his Beekeeper replacement, Anisette (Megan Le), a punked-out lunatic armed with a machine gun tries to take him out.

As odious as he is, Derek is protected by people in high places, as his mother Jessica Danforth (Jemma Redgrave), with the ultimate political connections, is the founder of the multibillion-dollar conglomerate Danforth Enterprises.

Derek’s minder and protector of the family business is Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons), a former Director of the CIA now in a cushy corporate job, who informs the spoiled rich kid that when a Beekeeper says he’s going to kill someone, nothing can stop him.

Westwyld calls in a favor from his old friend, the current CIA director Janet Harward (Minnie Driver in brief cameo), and before long everyone from Verona’s FBI S.W.A.T. team to Secret Service agents and mercenary thugs working for Danforth Enterprises are after Clay.

In addition to traditional law enforcement, Westwyld assembles his own team of Special Forces types, but they have no clue that the Beekeeper will do everything to “protect the hive” while spouting mythology about the importance of bees.

Derek seems to think his ace-in-the-hole is gnarled South African mercenary Lazurus (Taylor James), who once killed a Beekeeper but lost his leg in the process. You may guess how that’s going to turn out.

The climactic end comes down to a big party at Mama Danforth’s seaside estate, where Westwyld’s thugs and Secret Service agents are out in force, and Clay slips under their noses to end his mission.

Fifteen minutes shy of two hours, “The Beekeeper” has the welcome pace of an action thriller with just enough exposition and plenty of hard-hitting violent retribution on the bad guys that should satisfy any fan of Jason Statham.

Jason Statham always seems to be at his best when he lets his fists do the talking. Some of the best action stars have mastered the art of being laconic. As it is, enough of the dialogue is nonsensical.

What’s enjoyable about “The Beekeeper” is that Statham shines in his action scenes, and let us not forget the atrocious waste of his talent in recent the recent outings of “Meg 2: The Trench” and “Expendables.”

Even “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” proved disappointing. But that’s not the case with a thrilling B-movie bulging with stunts, explosions, gunplay and overall volatile mayhem.

Enjoy the scorched-earth ride for what it is. A “Beekeeper 2” could even be a possibility.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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