By Roger Costa
Acting skills and reputation apart, no matter how you classify Jason Statham, one thing everyone agrees with: he is the definitive action star of our times. Of course there are other fantastic players in the game as well, see Tom Cruise, Ryan Reynolds for instance, but Statham has a unique appeal in both comedic and action fields, that made him an international movie star, topping box-office charts worldwide.
Men respect him and find in his movies a source of inspiration for male confidence, while women (and some men too) will agree on his physical attributes, his dangerous-mysterious type that some would define as sexy, and his reliability (the guy usually plays the hero type in about 3 films per year). Statham has under his accolades almost 1-billion in box-office profits, that is a reflection of his star power, and how he continues to make films for which audiences love and cheer about. I have always been a fan of the British actor and stunt player, since his debut in Guy Ritchie’s films. He confirmed his international stardom in 2002’s “The Transporter” gaining more fans around the globe and consolidating into the big names in the industry, appearing in indies, comedies, thrillers and blockbusters alike with the same familiar, contagiously charming skill.
For his 50th film (yes, you read it right!), our contemporary, explosive, hot-tempered hero plays Clay, a retired hitman who lives in a remote area taking care of his hive and running errands for the elderly neighbors. When one of them falls victim of a money scam that clears her savings and charity’s donations, leading her into tragic consequences, he steps in and tries to dismantle the criminal organization. Of course, there will be blood, explosions, cutting fingers, heads and etc, burning-down places, awesomely choreographed fights, surprising cameos, cynical and subversive humor and reckless, non-sense holes in the screenplay (he starts by fighting off dozens of men totally unarmed, and hardly gets an injury). But who cares? Once you are in, you are not for the story, but rather for the sometimes brainless action scenes that are in fact well articulated, crafted and executed. And Statham does it masterly. Period.
There are a bunch of hot stars in supporting roles, some are great, others are not so much: names such as Josh Hutcherson as a spoiled playboy, Jeremy Irons as his attorney, Minnie Driver as a whistle-blower, Phylcia Rashad as a charity leader and Jemma Redgrave as the US President, make it for the great, relevant parts. In the other hand, Emmy Raver-Lampman, doesn’t convince as a grieving daughter, despite playing a tough detective, she tries hard, but doesn’t pass the test. The same goes for David Witts as the first assailant to savor our hero’s revenge rampart: with his fingers just cut off he shows little, if none, demonstration of pain. But, once again, these are forgivable misteps as much as their performances, and that won’t bother anyone of having a good, fun, action-packed time with this flick.
Directed by David Ayer, from a screenplay by Kurt Wimmer, the overall success and satisfying results of this cat-and-mouse bloodshed thriller is part of Ayer’s truthful aesthetic to the crime storytelling and his ability with the material. Even at moments when the story feels like going extremely exaggerated, he finds a way out and delivers a prompt resolution to the sequence.
After penning the Oscar-winning film “Training Day”, the submarine thriller “U-571” and the first “The Fast and the Furious”, Ayer became a prolific director, gaining attention for his directorial debut, “Harsh Times” starring Christian Bale. Then he continued on with critical praised crime tales, “Street Kings”, “End of Watch” and “Sabotage”. Flirting with more ambitious material and CGI, he made “Suicide Squad”, “Bright” and the disposable “The Tax Collector”, which had him experiencing a considerable decline in his credibility. Next he is working on the screenplay of the “Wild Bunch” adaptation with Michael Fassbender and Jamie Foxx, which should put him back on track for A-list again.
“The Beekeeper” is not a great film, but it is fun, entertaining, cynically silly and extremely violent. If you need a good time as a post-holiday break, this will do the trick.
(MGM Studios/Amazon. In theaters nationwide Friday, January 12)