Tag Archives: D+


Producers: Bill Block, Jason Statham, David Ayer, Chris Long and Kurt Wimmer   Director: David Ayer   Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer   Cast: Jason Statham, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Josh Hutcherson, Bobby Naderi, Minnie Driver, David Witts, Michael Epp, Taylor James, Jemma Redgrave, Enzo Cilenti, Phylicia Rashad, Jeremy Irons, Don Gilet and Megan Le   Distributor: Amazon MGM Studios

Grade: D+

Intentionally or not—and if you judge from the résumés of writer Kurt Winner and director David Ayer, probably not—this is an almost perfect parody of Jason Statham movies, by way of the “John Wick” franchise.  But the joke of “The Beekeeper” runs thin fast, and by the close the movie has descended into a riot of imbecility one must see to believe.  (Or, preferably, simply avoid.)

With Wick it was his beloved dog that was the catalyst; with Adam Clay (Jason Statham), it’s his sweet landlady Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad), at whose isolated farmhouse he rents a barn where he raises bees: she’s the only person who’s ever taken care of him, he explains.  Poor Eloise commits suicide after she’s bled dry by a phishing scam, losing not only her own savings but the funds in a charity account she oversees.  Her daughter, FBI Agent Verona (Emmy Raver-Lampman), at first considers Clay her mother’s killer, but is persuaded otherwise by the evidence.  He’s released, bent on revenge against those responsible for Eloise’s death.

And he has the tools to succeed.  It turns out Clay’s a retired Beekeeper—an ex-member of an organization of highly trained, single-minded agents tasked with taking action against corruption so great it’s beyond the reach of the regular authorities.  Its origin is never explained, and even Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons), the former Director of the CIA, had only tenuous connection to it.  But with only a single call to its Director (Minnie Driver), Clay gets the address of the phishing boiler room that scammed Eloise, and proceeds to blow it up, leaving its surviving manager Mickey Garnett (David Witts) to get an order from his boss, yuppie entrepreneur Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson), to take Clay out.  Predictably, his attempt to do so fails miserably.  Verona and her partner Wiley (Bobby Naderi) are, of course, one step behind Clay.

Our hero now proceeds to the premier boiler room of Danforth’s operation in Boston, run by a manager named Rico (Enzo Cilenti) who’s even sleazier than Garnett.  Despite platoons of cops, FBI special forces and a squad of elite troops put together by Westwyld (now head of security for the Danforth family) and led by a gruff guy named Pettis (Michael Epp), Clay not only destroys the place, taking down scads of opponents effortlessly in the process, but forces Rico to give up the name of his boss. Naturally, Verona and Wiley arrive late and are left empty-handed.

But with help from the aptly-named Prigg (Don Gilet), the deputy director of the DOJ, they fortify a beach house where Danforth has fled at Westwyld’s suggestion to seek the protection of his powerful mother (Jemma Redgrave) and her host of bodyguards.  Clay nonetheless infiltrates a party being held there with absurd ease and, offing what appear to be hundreds of opponents, makes his way to young Danforth, taking care of Westwyld and his secret weapon, a maniacal assassin called Lazarus (Taylor James), in the process.  The only question is whether Verona, faced with a choice between shooting him and letting him scuba off into the sunset, will choose justice over law.  You already know the answer; after all, a door has to be left open for a sequel. 

“The Beekeeper” pauses occasionally for Statham to deliver ludicrous pronouncements about protecting the hive or kicking the hornets’ nest, but after its slow-as-molasses expository opening, in which Eloise, though supposedly an erstwhile educator, can barely deal with a laptop keyboard before being swindled online, it becomes a parade of action sequences that grow increasingly preposterous in terms of Clay’s ability to avoid hails of gunfire while dispatching scores of ostensibly expert security people and marksmen.  Except for a single one-on-one face-off with a flamboyantly dressed and aggressively nasty Beekeeper named Anisette (Megan Le), these are choreographed by Ayer, shot by Gabriel Beristain and edited by Geoffrey O’Brien with a depressing lack of thenstyle the “Wick” pictures reveled in; the production design by Ben Munro is drab too, and the background score by David Sardy and Jared Michael Fry blandly generic.

As Clay, Statham is his usual slab of inexpressive dullness, while except for Rashad everyone around him overacts fiercely in contrast.  This doesn’t work for Hutcherson, who despite his shows of twittering nervousness makes a colorless villain, and it’s positively embarrassing in the case of Irons, who appears to have inherited Michael Caine’s penchant for accepting every opportunity to play an effete secondary scumbag offered to him.  But James outdoes everyone else with a show of tough-as-nails bellicosity that would be overdrawn even in a comic book.  The movie misses an obvious topper, though: it fails to conclude the inevitable final fight between him and Statham with Clay ripping off Lazarus’ prominently-displayed prosthetic leg (he lost his real one in a previous face-off with a Beekeeper) and beating him to death with it. In this instance  Wimmer certainly overlooked a perfect opportunity to to take the lunacy to almost-inspired heights. 

Action fanatics may give “The Beekeeper” a pass, but most viewers are likely to feel they’ve been stung by a stinker—or will be laughing too hard to care.                    


Producers: Marc Benardout, Hugh Broder, Jeremy L. Kotin, James Harris and Mark Lane   Director: Jeffrey Darling   Screenplay: Evan M. Wiener   Cast: Jacob Elordi. Zachary Quinto, Patrick J. Adams, Pheonix Notary, Ananyaa Shah, Troy Evans, Alexandra Doke, Nicolette Doke, Christopher Guyton and John Lee Ames Distributor: Vertical

Grade: D+

One would think that a movie about a guy who picks up a hitch-hiker who turns out to be a psychopathic killer would generate some thrills and suspense—remember how Eric Red and Robert Harmon turned the premise into a study of existential dread in “The Hitcher” (the 1986 original, of course, not the inferior remake)?  But “He Went That Way” (a meaningless title, incidentally) manages to transform a potentially exciting idea into an incredibly dull, pointless picture.

It’s based loosely on an incident from the life of Larry Lee Ranes, who was suspected of multiple murders and convicted of one, the killing of Gary Smock, with whom he’d hitched a ride in 1964.  He was found guilty and given a sentence of life imprisonment in Michigan; he died, still in prison, last November at the age of seventy-eight.  Ranes referred to the incident in interviews he gave to Conrad Hilberry, who wrote about him and his brother Danny, also convicted for separate murders, in the 1987 book “Luke Karamazov.”  And it’s been discussed by Dave Pitts, who picked up the nineteen-year old Ranes outside Las Vegas in 1964 on his way to Minnesota; in the back of his Chevy Suburban Carryall was his trained chimp, Spanky, with whom he performed in the Ice Capades.  Ranes threatened him (he would confess to previously killing three men) but, he later recounted, was so entranced by the bond between Pitts and Spanky that he relented; they all drove to Michigan (Ranes was headed for his home town of Kalamazoo, where he would kill Smock), and there they went their separate ways.

In the script by Evan M. Wiener, it’s not only the names that have been changed, though they are.  Pitts has become Jim Goodwin (a buttoned-down Zachary Quinto), who’s on his way to Chicago in an old Carryall that’s having engine trouble.  His career is in trouble too, since Spanky (played, in part, by Phoenix Notary in a very unconvincing costume—elsewhere he’s a puppet, presumably through the special effects non-wizardry ascribed to J. Alan Scott), with whom he appeared on television, is getting old and is no longer in demand.  Larry is renamed Bobby Falls and is played by Jacob Elordi as an unstable James Dean-style poseur who’s just been drummed out of the Air Force, clearly for good psychological reasons; a prologue shows him dumping one of his dead shooting victims out of a car, but now he’s thumbing for a ride outside a remote gas station on Route 66.  Jim’s stopped there to have the engine repaired by the cranky mechanic (Christopher Guyton), who is threatening to run Bobby off with a baseball bat until Goodwin defuses things by offering the kid a ride.

The movie tries to build some tension in a series of episodes as the trio pass through various states on the way to the Windy City.  There’s an encounter with a motel clerk (Troy Evans) who tries to sell Jim a knife, pointing out the dangers of travel; a stop at the shabby trailer of Goodwin’s brother-in-law Saul (Patrick J. Adams), a dissolute priest who owes him money; and a night with two naïve Oklahoma sisters (Alexandra and Nicolette Doke) the guys meet up with at a Tulsa dance hall.  Brief inserts illustrate a bit of Bobby’s past, most notably his killing of two more previous victims.  But as soporifically written by Wiener, limply directed by Jeffrey Darling, sluggishly paced by editor Adam Wills and played by Quinto, Elordi and the colorless supporting cast in a monochromatic fashion (all set to a nondescript score by Nicolas Rosen and Jamie N. Commons), none of them generate any sense of danger or excitement; despite Elordi’s overwrought efforts to come across as charismatically menacing, they just drag along without working up to a climax. 

Nor does the relationship between Jim and Bobby develop any complexity; it’s just a repetitive pattern of Bobby getting upset over something and Jim anxiously trying to cool him down, often by playing off the kid’s fascination with Spanky, whom he’d seen on the tube and considers a lovable celebrity.  There’s also little payoff in the big reveal in Chicago, where Goodwin isn’t actually planning to perform with the chimp in a “private gig” as he insists, but rather provide for the animal’s future in a deal with a mysterious woman (Ananyaa Shah).

And it certainly doesn’t help that this is one of the most unconvincing road trips ever put on screen.  The narrative is supposed to take us through several states, but the movie was shot entirely in southern California, and the production design (Ryan Martin) and cinematography (Sean Bagley) prove singularly unsuccessful in disguising the fact that the locations don’t change much.  Inserting shots of signs blaring “Welcome to Oklahoma,” “Welcome to Missouri” and “Welcome to Illinois” periodically while the landscapes remain obstinately the same and the urban areas indistinguishable from one another doesn’t do the trick.  The costumes by Nancy Gould don’t do much to convince us we’re in the 1960s either.              

It should be noted that Darling, a veteran cinematographer and director of commercials, music videos and shirt films, died in a surfing accident off the Australian coast before “He Went That Way,” his first and only feature, completed post-production.  One can only wish that the picture, put into final shape by his collaborators, were a better tribute to his memory; but it proves a dull slog through muddled narrative territory rather than the nerve-wracking trip through the American heartland that it might have been.