It’s the time of year for smooth-brained relaxation. Moviegoers can recover from the holidays with the comfort of knowing Gerard Butler, Liam Neeson, or Jason Statham will be here to satisfy their mid-budget, action-programmer needs. Is it really the new year if one of those cherished Kings of January doesn’t appear on the release slate? There’s no Gerry or Liam, but the ever-reliable Statham dons a trucker hat and blue jeans to grit his way through David Ayer’s The Beekeeper, an overall valiant, occasionally fun attempt to take us out of Q1 doldrums.

As Adam Clay, Statham is both a beekeeper and a BeekeeperTM––a retiree once tasked with operating outside the Intelligence community’s normal chain of command in order to “protect the hive” from chaos and corruption. Adam’s landlady (Phylicia Rashad), who rents her barn for his titular pastime, has her finances wiped out in a phishing scam, including the community charity she manages, and ultimately despairs into suicide. Thus the bald bruiser springs into action to take down the smarmy organization responsible. On a scorched-earth campaign of headbutts and honey jars, he brawls his way up a food chain consisting of Jeremy Irons (who almost looks like he’s having a fun time!) and Josh Hutcherson (astutely leaning into his incredibly punchable haircut). Hot-ish on his trail are some remarkably lax Feds (Emmy Raver-Lampman and Bobby Naderi) who unearth that it all goes predictably higher than they thought. All of it culminates with a villain reveal that basks in silliness, accompanied by a music sting that almost rivals May December’s “I don’t think we have enough hot dogs” in hilarity.

That hilarity feels too ever-present to be an accident. Though Kurt Wimmer’s script is one that wraps everything up in a Facebook Uncle’s vigilante fantasy by turning Hunter Biden’s laptop into a veritable Legion of Doom, Beekeeper‘s Q-adjacent touchpoints would read as troubling were the execution not so harmlessly zany. Throughout, Statham puts the hurt on tech-bro scammers, federal agents, and flamboyant mohawk-clad Beekeepers who feel ripped directly from comic-book panels. There may not be a Suicide Squad Director’s Cut, but that’s not stopping Ayer from exorcizing what’s left of that film’s aesthetics from his soul. It occasionally reads like he’s in on the joke of how the politics of his filmography are perceived writ large.

What The Beekeeper hones in and feeds on is Jason Statham’s immense appeal. Ever since he dodged fire axes in The Transporter––a true star-is-born moment––the actor has spent the better part of two decades as the most dependable anchor for action programmers, spawning multiple franchises of his own and jump-starting a few others. If the mileage may vary, his sheer magnetism is undeniable, and uncontained by whatever blockbuster IP or DTV throwaway he’s tasked with driving. You don’t show up for Frank Martin or Chev Chelios––you show up for Jason Statham, and David Ayer knows this well. Outside of his recent Guy Ritchie collaborations (the excellent Wrath of Man and the underrated romp Operation Fortune), Statham has felt relatively neutral when battling giant sharks or biding his time in Fast films. That The Beekeeper allows him room as a proper action lead on what appears to be a decent mid-sized budget is frankly a delight.

When breezily dispensing with logic in hopes of cutting to the Statham of it all, The Beekeeper thrives. It’s incredibly potent fodder for future Sunday nap time (complimentary) and a decent evening at the January multiplex. Any eye-rolling quips or comic-book acidity is generally outweighed by this fundamental understanding: the best special effect your action film can deploy is Jason Statham kicking people.

The Beekeeper opens January 12.

Grade: C+

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