Film Critic Joel Bishton reviews The Beekeeper, finding it to be tonally mixed beneath its star-studded cast

Written by Joel Bishton
2nd Year History student. Interested in nerdy film, tv and musicals
Published

The Beekeeper poses a certain challenges to a reviewer. It’s not the plot, which is relatively simple (Jason Statham kills a whole bunch of people) whilst being very stupid. It’s not the cast (a mixture of British and American character actors, some doing needless American accents). It’s not the director (Suicide Squad’s David Ayer, though he would probably object to the description). It’s a far more substantial question. Is it a comedy? And what even constitutes a comedy?

It is probably worth giving a longer summary of the plot, though it’s not a film you watch for the plot. Adam Clay (Statham) is living in Eloise Parker’s (Phylicia Rashad) barn. She is scammed out of her life savings by Mickey Garnett (David Witts) and commits suicide. Clay decides to take revenge essentially on anyone involved. This means a series of set piece attacks on Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson), his associate Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons) and his mother Jessica (Jemma Redgrave). At the same time, Parker’s daughter Verona (Em my Raver-Lampman), who works for the FBI, is also trying to track down those involved. This mainly seems to consist of turning up to Clay’s crime scenes, once he’s left and staring at them.

This is a deeply stupid film

This is a deeply stupid film. It’s a film that has been written by someone who has worked out how things work in the world (business, the intelligence services, killing), by watching films. This is perfectly acceptable if you don’t think too hard when you watch it about how anything really works. It also means, more importantly, that you’ve seen everything in this before. Some moments are direct rip-offs, while others just vaguely remind you of other films. However, it’s a stupid film being made by very clever people, who aren’t showing what a deeply silly film they’re making.

This silliness revolves around Statham, playing a one-man army who, we’re told, can kill anyone. Statham plays this the way he plays any other part – with the possible exception of an inexcusable and entirely superfluous American accent, which Statham can’t do. His line delivery has the same level of gravitas as someone doing Hamlet. This is where the issue of comedy comes up. As Statham doesn’t change his performance whatever the film, whether out-and-out comedy (Spy), sincere drama (Hummingbird), or idiocy masquerading as seriousness (the Fast franchise), it’s impossible to tell from his performance how silly the film is.

The main cast […] seem as though they’ve wandered in from an Oscar-bait movie

This idea continues into the main cast, some of whom seem as though they’ve wandered in from an Oscar-bait movie. On one hand, there’s Minnie Driver, essentially cameo-ing as the director of the CIA and putting in the least effort I’ve ever seen. That is not a complaint. She’s correctly judged what she’s supposed to be. In the middle is Jeremy Irons, lending the film the same gravitas that he lent House of Gucci. It’s a thankless part and Irons grasps at anything to do. However, his main task is to deliver exposition and essentially just be there. The ‘and Jeremy Irons’ on the credits seems like an odd mark of respect and the equivalent of saying to the audience ‘It can’t be that bad, Jeremy Irons is in it.’ The person who least knows the film they’re in is Jemma Redgrave (Doctor Who’s Kate Stewart, doing the best American accent in the film). She mainly acquits herself well, with the only exception being the last scene she’s in. Then she displays a level of acting that is oddly inappropriate, and reminds you of the human cost of the killing, which is not what this genre is about. But what this genre normally isn’t a comedy.

Now, I don’t think this actually is a comedy. It’s far too violent for one thing. Ayer has leant into the violence of the film to a degree that made me uncomfortable in places and there is a scene that edges into horror. The film also seems to use its occasional, deliberate, jokes with the deliberate air of someone who doesn’t have a sense of humor but feels it has to be funny. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take it as a comedy.

Verdict:

I’m a firm believer in the idea that a lot of things can be funny, without being comedies. Some things have jokes in them, some are so self-serious they become accidentally funny, and some things are so bad that they deserve to be laughed at. This is one of the latter and is best enjoyed in that spirit.

Rating: 5/10

The Beekeeper is in cinemas now. 


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