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Movie Review: "The Beekeeper

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Last week I wrote about “Mean Girls” and the problem of having seen a version of the movie before, which made it too familiar and predictable. I meant it in a very literal sense – there was a 2004 movie called “Mean Girls,” written by Tina Fey, with basically the same characters and story (though no musical numbers, those were a nice addition). Now I’m making the same complaint about “The Beekeeper,” but in a figurative sense. There is no other movie called “The Beekeeper” that resembles this movie or involves the same people, nor is this movie technically based on any other intellectual property. And yet you’ll know what I mean when I say that I’ve seen this movie so many times before.

Jason Statham plays Adam Clay, a drifter given work by the kind Eloise (Phylicia Rashad). Online scammers take every penny of Eloise’s savings, including over $2 million earmarked for charity. Eloise’s FBI agent daughter Verona (Emmy Raver-Lampman) gets involved and has Clay arrested. He complies with the arrest, but this is the kind of character that only complies because he cares about Verona’s peace of mind and not because he is actually conceding power. He’s soon released, and while he has no hard feelings toward Verona, he does want to shut down the scammers permanently. They don’t know it, but they’ve made an enemy of the world’s deadliest assassin.

Clay starts out burning down the call center where the scammers worked, but of course the path of destruction doesn’t stop there. He works his way up to the highest levels of the operation, inching ever-closer to… “mastermind” isn’t really the word here, but figurehead Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson). Danforth has the help of his powerful mother (Jemma Redgrave) and a former CIA director (Jeremy Irons), who’s smart enough to have a great deal of respect for Clay. Verona is assigned to bring down Clay for his unlawful actions, and she’s really good at figuring out where he’s going to go next. She’s not good at knowing what to do with this information once she figures it out, but no one else on the law enforcement side is doing any better.

It seems the bad guys kicked a hornets’ nest and angered a guy that was once assigned to protect the hive that is the United States. Also he had an amateur beekeeping/honey collecting operation in the barn where he lived. The movie makes every bee joke and metaphor it can muster, because the beekeeping gimmick is the only thing separating this movie from hundreds like it where an apparent nobody or everyman turns out to be an unstoppable action hero. Ten years ago, Liam Neeson was the face of this genre, though it’s not like Hollywood hasn’t been mining this formula for decades.

“The Beekeeper” doesn’t do too much to stand out from the swarm, but it’s enjoyable at times. Statham is his usual charming self, some of the action set pieces are pleasingly implausible, and the scummy bad guys are fun to punish. If you’re looking for nothing more than a movie where the most fun comes from speculating if the villain of the moment will get gunned down or blown up, this might be the movie for you. I’m looking for something where I can get a little more invested in the characters and story, which is why I can’t recommend it. I know this movie probably wants me to give it the next letter grade up, but I’m afraid it will have to settle for a…

Grade: C

“The Beekeeper” is rated R for strong violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexual references and drug use. Its running time is 105 minutes.

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu