The thing I love about January action movies is recognizing how little care is put into them. That isn’t me being mean. Imagine a writer is pitching an action movie and they non-sarcastically say the word Beekeeper. After doing a spit take, the studio executive is going to immediately think two things. One – January. Two – Liam Neeson, Gerard Butler, or Jason Statham. Meanwhile, the studio executive is also going to notice laughter, but it’ll take about thirty seconds for them to realize they are the one laughing.
Adam Clay (Statham) is a retired assassin, working as a beekeeper and renting a garage from retired schoolteacher Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad). While working on her finances one day, Eloise’s computer pops up a window that says her computer is infected and needs to update her anti-virus software. Unfortunately, Eloise is a cliched old lady, so of course she doesn’t recognize this very obvious scam. Eloise calls the phone number on the screen and a couple minutes later a bank account she manages for a charity is relieved of over $2 million. Later that night, Adam comes up to the house to give her a jar of honey and finds Eloise has committed suicide.
While I can accept Eloise not pausing the phone call to consult with Adam (she clearly wants to, glancing at him through the window a dozen times), I cannot accept Eloise putting a bullet in her head mere hours later without at least telling Adam what happened. Eloise’s decision becomes even more nonsensical when we learn her daughter Verona (Emmy Raver-Lampman) is an FBI agent who investigates cybercrimes. But this is a January movie, so we’re going with whatever was the first draft.
On that topic, that first draft of this movie from the screenwriter only includes one more sentence after Eloise’s death – “Combine John Wick, Enemy of the State, and 24.” Adam is going to avenge Eloise’s death by taking down the cybercrime operation and killing anyone that stands between him and its boss. John Wick – check. The criminals are using top secret government spy software to infect people’s computers, software given to them by a former high-level official. Enemy of the State – check. Involve the President of the United States (Jemma Redgrave) and make her good or bad (pick one, it doesn’t really matter). 24 – check.
One way you can tell how bad the writing is by the number of times the word “beekeeper” is spoken and how often they’ll reference bees. At multiple points, Agent Parker will literally read from a beekeeping manual. Even her partner, Agent Wiley (Bobby Naderi), will snap at her, but I’m not convinced he’s only tired of the bee talk. Raver-Lampman’s dialogue throughout the film is different flavors of garbage and Naderi delivers every one of his lines dripping with sarcasm that is clearly in partial protest for having to hear that garbage. I laughed every time he spoke because I saw what he was doing.
Speaking of garbage, the rest of the characters seemed to have been pulled from a landfill. There are two assassins that Adam must deal with that are like mini-bosses in a video game. They are not developed beyond their appearance and one of them doesn’t even get any lines unless screaming counts as dialogue. And in this film, it kind of does.
Then, there is former CIA director Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons), whose name I did not make up. He runs President Danforth’s business and is also tasked with keeping her idiot son Derek (Josh Hutcherson) out of jail. Irons is just going through the motions, except when he decides to chew up scenery explaining the Beekeeper program (an off-the-books, clandestine assassin program charged with protecting country at all costs) to a bunch of mercenaries, including that they will probably all die. On the flip side, Hutcherson is chewing up every scene he gets, knowing full well his character is little more than a line of cocaine.
Finally, there is President Danforth, a spectacularly poorly written character. She is talked about by other characters as being just short of a supervillain and definitely corrupt, yet the climax would have you believe otherwise. In fact, the climax itself is one giant face-plant, the President reacting to things as if she has just awakened from a coma. I’ll admit that I was entertained at points during the movie (all the action scenes), but the climax was like getting a pie to the face. And not a good-tasting pie.
But I didn’t hate the movie. On the contrary, it was exactly what I expected from a Statham-led action flick opening on January 12. I wasn’t expecting competent writing or layered performances or exceptional special effects. I was expecting a dumb movie, mumbling something resembling sentences in between Statham effortlessly defeating scores of opponents. I would have liked for them to lay off the bee metaphors, but then again, video games tend to do that.
Rating: Even for a January movie, you should ask for sixteen dollars back.