It Stings! — The Beekeeper

William J Hammon
7 min readJan 30, 2024

One of the better joys of being a movie buff is when you come across that oh so rare miracle that is a “so-bad-it’s-good” picture. Whether it’s The Room, Sleepwalkers, or any number of others, there is an unbridled giddiness in seeing a flick that is god awful on every possible metric, but because it’s so terrible, you somehow love it all the more.

That, my friends, is the case with The Beekeeper, the latest revenge rampage from Jason Statham. Apart from a couple of creative kills and some instances of quippy dialogue, this film is a complete disaster. It’s poorly written, shoddily directed, has terrible performances, and is filled to the brim with some of the most horrible effects and editing techniques you are ever going to see in a major studio release. And yet, in spite of how mind-numbingly stupid it is — and often because of it — I had a blast watching it.

Statham stars as Adam Clay, a name that writer Kurt Wimmer (Expend4bles) and director David Ayer (Bright) probably think is a tremendous biblical reference, casting Statham as the #1 man, but really it just makes me chuckle because it leaves Statham one syllable shy of being the bassist for U2. Anyhoo, Clay is an actual apiarist (the sight of this gruff brute in such a darling little hobbyist outfit is beyond hilarious) living in a rented out barn on a remote estate in Massachusetts owned by a kind woman named Eloise (Phylicia Rashad) who lives alone and is glad for the company. Clay is appreciative, noting that he’s never had anyone take care of him before, and poor Eloise couldn’t be more marked for death if she was born with a literal target on her forehead.

While Adam tends to his bees and makes some honey for Eloise (oh god it’s too funny), the lonely old woman gets a pop-up ad that her hard drive is compromised. Never mind that she’s not on a web browser when this message comes up, she just instantly dials the number on the screen, connecting her with Garnett (David Witts), who leads a call center where the workers intentionally scam people out of their money through phishing schemes. He gleefully fools Eloise into giving her bank password (how he knows that she has one master password for all banks and accounts is just as happily glossed over), and the instant she does, he drains every account she has, including for a charity she runs that had over $2 million in it. Realizing what just happened, she instantly shoots herself. When Adam shows up for dinner with the gift honey, he finds her dead.

Think about that for just one second. In the time it took Adam to process a jar of honey from his beehives, we’re talking less than a couple of hours, Eloise not only got scammed out of all her money, but she also decided in that space of time that there was no way to recover and promptly committed suicide. I mean, as soon as it happened, she got fraud alerts from her bank on her phone, so clearly her institutions would know she was the victim of identity theft and could work with her and law enforcement to recover the funds, as such a security breach reflects just as poorly on them as it does on anyone else. But no, she’s somehow too confused to see the ruse, but clear-minded enough to know that her life needs to end? As someone who’s dealt with suicidal demons before, that’s just monumentally, hysterically dumb.

Clay is arrested by Eloise’s daughter Verona (Emmy Raver-Lampman), who just happens to be an FBI agent. After the cause of death is determined, she apologizes for acting hastily, and explains to him what happened. As Verona and her partner Wiley (Bobby Naderi) go off to conduct an investigation into the hackers, Adam pulls out a convenient satellite phone INSIDE ONE OF THE BEEHIVES to contact his old covert organization for a lead on the culprits. Yeah, it turns out that Adam isn’t just a beekeeper, he’s a BEEKEEPER! As explained by secondary antagonist Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons getting ALL THE W’S for his name), “Beekeepers” are an elite organization of assassins operating outside all jurisdictions. Even when he was CIA director, he couldn’t control them. And now, one of them is Pissed. The Fuck. OFF! Even though he’s retired, Adam will “protect the hive” and come after those responsible, including Westwyld’s main charge, a pissant tech bro named Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson), who runs his family’s eponymous business, funded by the cybercrimes. Yep, it looks like Peeta can’t camouflage himself out of this one.

Adam proceeds to go on a tear with a massive body count in his wake. He burns down the call center, its local headquarters, and takes out wave after wave of assassins, mercenaries, and even his own Beekeeper replacement (Megan Lee) on his way to Boston, where Derek lies in a profanity-laced yet timid wait, basically making him an even more pathetic version of Alfie Allen’s mafia failson from the first John Wick movie. As Clay literally scorches the earth around him, Verona and Wiley start to figure out just how high up this criminality goes, including a high-ranking government official (Jemma Redgrave), realizing that Adam is playing the role of “Queen Slasher,” a rogue worker bee who kills the hive’s queen if she produces inferior drones.

None of this makes a lick of fucking sense if you think about it for even a microsecond. Why would a “Beekeeper” retire into actual beekeeping? How does he keep a phone in the hive without damaging it with smoke or the actual honey the bees create? Why would an old associate give him a lead on the hackers but also dispatch a current Beekeeper to execute him? How does Megan Lee’s trigger-happy berserker character in any way fit the ethos of “protecting the hive” when she just fires indiscriminately with a minigun? Just how many mercenaries can one man hire in less than 48 hours, and why do they all look like they’ve come from a cosplayers rave? How could anyone at the FBI not be aware of a cybercrime network operating right under their noses when they use the front company’s own software? How does field training for both covert ops and FBI agents consist of only the standard action movie “one-at-a-time” attack pattern cliché? How many ways can you confuse metaphors about bees?

Further, the production values are spotty at best. The CGI of the explosions is beyond bad, for example. When Clay blows up the call center, you can actually see where the VFX team didn’t do their compositing work properly, as you can make out sections of the building perfectly intact behind the blast points. Similarly, the fight sequences are edited horrendously, with multiple cuts for simple exchanges of blows and tons of shaky-cam, making the action completely unfocused and dizzying.

But despite all that, you can’t help but enjoy how silly it all is. Every time Jeremy Irons said the word “Beekeeper” with a straight face, like it’s the most serious word in the English language, I about fell out of my chair laughing. When Adam calls a security guard’s bluff by casually counting to three when the guard threatens to do so, it’s weirdly bad-ass. When he tortures a guy by hitting him repeatedly with a stapler, I’m grinning ear to ear. When some poor schlub gets bifurcated by a falling elevator, it’s the height of comedy. I’m pretty sure all of this is meant to be seen as gritty, hard-nosed, high-octane, pulse-pounding excitement, but instead it’s a knee-slapping riot.

So how can I possibly hate this? To see The Beekeeper is to witness the upper limits of unintentional humor, led by the only man who could pull it off while still making you feel the slightest inkling that he’s in on the joke. This past weekend, its third in theatres, it finally beat out the Mean Girls musical remake at the box office, which is a relief as January comes to a close. This is the type of film you should highlight on a designated “Bad Movie Night” with your friends, as it’s endless fun because of how playfully bonkers and idiotic it is. If you’re gonna make an awful flick, this is the way to do it, and I’m glad it’s getting some decent attention in what is traditionally the worst month of the year for movies.

Grade: C+

Join the conversation in the comments below! What film should I review next? What’s your favorite “so-bad-it’s-good” movie? What other dad hobbies can be turned into action set pieces? Let me know! And remember, you can follow me on Twitter (fuck “X”) and YouTube for even more content!

Originally published at http://actuallypaid.com on January 30, 2024.

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William J Hammon

All content is from the blog, “I Actually Paid to See This,” available at actuallypaid.com