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“The Beekeeper” is a strange, self-aware action movie

It’s the best time of the year for a certain kind of action movie fan: January is cheap trash season. Last year that slot included “Plane,” the lean, brutal flying machine starring Gerard Butler; this year, there’s the off-brand “John Wick” knockoff “The Beekeeper,” starring Jason Statham and directed by David Ayer.

This supremely silly and self-aware, blood-guzzling farce is a refreshing antidote to the awards-season fare that floods theaters in December, and Ayer’s overstuffed approach to filmmaking elevates Kurt Wimmer’s entertaining but rather weak script.

The PSA-like premise centers around a highly organized phishing scam targeting lonely elderly people. A warning message pops up on their computer, they call the number, and a sleazy guy at the call center walks them through surrendering all their passwords to their bank account. But they go up in flames when crooked schemers target Eloise (Phylicia Rashad), who has an FBI agent daughter, Verona (Emmy Raver-Lampman), and Adam Clay (Jason Statham), a moody and quiet tenant. to take care of beehives.

The often cunning Statham embraces Carhartt’s core as Adam, a real-life beekeeper who delivers jars of honey to his friendly host, but also a retired “Beekeeper,” a top-secret mission who exists outside the government chain of command and whose mission is top-notch. conspirator. “to protect the hive”. When phone scammers target Adam’s queen, Adam takes action to destroy the predatory hornets.

And what sneaky wasps they are. Ayer’s filmmaking is a gleefully blunt instrument: Adam’s house is shot like a Ford commercial, with natural sunlight filtering through the rafters of his barn, while the call centers are hellishly lit with pink and blue neon lights, casting shadows over those obnoxious servers. They tease their minions like evil game show hosts. One of them is wearing a suit that says “GOAT” on it. The crooks each wear a thick gold chain and satin shirt like a “Saturday Night Fever” extra, making it easy to spot the bad guys.

The movie is full of these vague and unexplained flashes, which make it that much more fun to watch. An assassin who attacks Adam at a gas station is decked out in cyberpunk attire; another is a wild Aussie with huge mutton chops. Do we need to know why? No. It’s much more entertaining to see Statham fight one of these cartoonish thugs than a bland henchman.

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Adam follows the money in his quest for revenge, while Verona follows Adam. As she moves to the top of the data-mining food chain, she discovers that slimy Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson) is at the top. Derek is a parody of his monster crypto brother and has a very, very powerful mother (Jemma Redgrave) who makes his massive ego and shady shell companies possible. The man sees everything as right or wrong, black or white, and believes that justice and law are not the same thing. This lack of moral ambiguity is reflected in the filmmaking: The bad guys are very bad, the good guys are Jason Statham.

“The Beekeeper” may share its DNA plot with “John Wick,” but it lacks the poetry and emotionality of those films; Where “John Wick” was brooding, this is brutal. Statham doesn’t express any regret for Keanu Reeves, and there’s nothing for him to do here other than grunt, wear a baseball cap, and kill people in a very creative way. The man does not carry a firearm, weapons would be too ordinary for this Beekeeper, who destroys his enemies with his fists, his feet and the skillful use of ropes, cords and gas pumps. He is also very fond of explosives.

Jason Statham plays Adam Clay in the film directed by David Ayer. "Beekeeper."

Ayer brings a colorful tactility to “The Beekeeper,” surrounding Statham’s stoic avenging angel with a large, interesting cast; Any movie in which Minnie Driver plays a sweetly-accented CIA director for two minutes deserves at least an appreciative chuckle. But the character itself is a cipher and the story isn’t exactly deep, so if Ayer didn’t put everything into locations, sets, cinematography, actors and stunts, it looks like the returns for the sequels would be diminished. But this frenetic and self-aware action extravaganza is immensely entertaining and flies by with the good-natured buzz of a bumblebee. If that’s your kind of silly action movie, honey, it’s delicious.

“The Beekeeper” — 2.5 stars (out of 4)

MPA rating: R (for strong violence throughout, strong language, some sexual references and drug use)

Running time: 1:45

How to watch: In theaters January 12

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