Film: The Beekeeper
Director: David Ayer
Reviewed By: Patrick Dawkins
When my friends and family starting flooding my inbox with links to the trailer of the upcoming movie titled The Beekeeper, I can’t deny I was intrigued. I’ll admit, I was sold on the title alone, but when Jason Statham popped onto the screen gently tending to bees and then anything but gently tending to what I could only assume to be bad guys with a barrage of fast fists and an armoury of guns, explosions, and pithy puns to cut even deeper, I was counting down the days until it hit cinemas.
In the few weeks that passed before I could grab my popcorn I was left to ponder as I worked my hives … With honey harvest coming up, could Hollywood unearth some modern back-saving technique I could implement? Will they offer up some tips for improved varroa management? What cell raising method does Jason Statham use? Was I being sent the movie trailer because I was identified as the beekeeper in social circles, or because I was renowned as the elite tough guy, with assumed ability to unleash fury on the forces of evil, should it be required? So many questions…
So, after a hot day in the field hauling honey, with no time to remove the beesuit, I organised the babysitter, called in home to grab the bride and headed for town and the inviting air-conditioning of the local cinema for the most romantic of nights out.
From a purely apicultural perspective this flick starts strong for Statham, who you may know as one of the world’s leading action movie stars, or, if you are a diving aficionado, his 11th place finish on the 3m springboard at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland … He’s traded in the speedos these days and staunchly rocks a fitted and shoulder-padded, grey beesuit, decorated with honeycomb patterned stitching and replete with a triple ensemble of leather belt-strapping and buckles to fasten, not to mention near knee-high leather boots. Do I look like that in my beesuit? I ponder inwardly before turning to my date to outwardly ask. Her one look at me sitting like a fish out of water in the cinema chair in my baggy, once white, propolis stained attire and holey-veil is all the answer I need. Gotta get me some of Statham’s getup, I resolve and Google lets me know the privilege of owning a beekeeper-chic jacket will cost me but USD$135 … better hope for a good honey season …
From there we learn that competitive diver-cum-movie-star Jason Statham is in fact playing Adam Clay, a staunch but loner beekeeper who in the first scenes is tasked with removing a hornet nest from the shed of a semi-rural New England property. Then, bang! As a fitting sign of things to come he smashes a light bulb and electrocutes the pesky predators, bag and all. I guess carbaryl is banned in America.
That violent end for the unfortunate hornets foreshadows many, many more demises – all human – at the hands of Adam Clay over the next 105 minutes. For, Adam Clay is not just any beekeeper he is a Beekeeper with a capital B – a specially trained force of a select few agents who answer to no one, but have been established to keep all other law enforcement agencies in line. It basically means he can kick anyone – nay, make that any-dozen – opponents’ asses at any time and we shouldn’t question it. Those bad guys in the know certainly don’t: “If a Beekeeper says you are going to die, you are going to die”. I think I like this universe.
“This is like the opposite of any beekeeper I know,” my date turns to me to scoff mid a particularly bad-ass rampage from Adam Clay as bodies fly through tables and windows. Why does she have to hurt me so?
I shan’t dive much further into the deep narrative progression for risk of spoiling what becomes an epic story of modern day good (your humble apiarist…) versus evil (phishing scam artists who prey on society’s vulnerable). However, the characters of evil seeking to understand why a B/beekeeper is on such a rampage is a highlight when they provide succinct explanations like “Sometimes when the hive is out of balance you have to replace the queen”. I think we have all felt like torturing a particularly active drone-laying queen by punching its face with an office stapler every now and then, haven’t we Adam Clay.
On that note, crucial to the narrative ark – and some apparently top-rate detective work to understand this B/beekeeper’s motive – is the belief that honey bee colonies can produce “queen slayers – a bee that will rise up and kill the queen if she produces defective offspring”. Taking this literally, I guess that makes Jason Statham a virgin? Yeh, you’re right, queen slayer has a better ring to it.
It’s fair to say my beekeeping is unlikely to be much improved following this work of cinema, but the next time a hulking South African mercenary hit man with frosted tips, a neck tattoo and a prosthetic leg is hunting me during a cocktail party at a beachside mansion, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to take him down in hand-to-hand combat. So, there’s that.
Right throughout, it was left unexplained why the retiree of the Beekeeper program of special forces had also taken up the keeping of bees post his policing the police career. Was Level 3 apiculture education tacked on in the afternoons after a vigorous morning training on the gun range and in the martial arts dojo? Did he buy some hives off Facebook marketplace? Has he completed a DECA course?
Yes, I left that beautifully comfortable air-conditioned cinema on a hot summer’s night carrying a head swirling with even more unanswerable questions than I entered. However, with the prospect of more back-breaking work awaiting when the sun arose, and unfavourable honey prices looming at the end of the season, no question repeated louder in my mind than the words of the greatest bard of all, as dramatized by our neck-tatted, peg-legged ultimate bad guy in a clumsy South African accent…
“To bee, or not to bee? Isn’t that the f*@king question?”.