Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Release Date: January 12th, 2024 MPAA Rating: R
Director: David Ayer Actors: Jason Statham, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Bobby Naderi, Josh Hutcherson, Jeremy Irons, David Witts, Phylicia Rashad, Jemma Redgrave, Minnie Driver, Michael Epp, Taylor James
oner Adam Clay (Jason Statham) enjoys his mostly solitary lifestyle, tending to bees and occasionally conversing with his only friend, retired schoolteacher Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad). When the elderly mother becomes the victim of an internet scam that depletes her life’s savings as well as that of the children’s charity she manages, she takes her own life. When Clay is informed by Eloise’s daughter, FBI agent Verona Parker (Emmy Raver-Lampman), of the company responsible for the theft, the beekeeper begins a rampage of vengeance that won’t end until those at the very top have faced justice … or death.
“No one’s ever taken care of me before.” He’s a man of few words, but he’s as merciless to those who harm his loved ones as he is to the hornets that invade the territory of his bees. The done-to-death formula of a quiet, private, isolated persona who harbors some exceptional black-ops skills, which must be brandished for the sake of retribution, certainly doesn’t provide too many new ideas. Yet the initial premise, which involves a little old lady becoming the target of online trickery and ID theft, is undoubtedly timely and relatable.
The cautionary tale at the start, warning of the ease in which people without computer know-how can be duped by fraudsters, offers up a very sensible motive for Statham’s calm, no-nonsense killer to exact revenge – of the exceptionally destructive kind. The goofy eccentricity and comical repugnance of the villains (leaning into something of a clash between Generation X and Millennials/Gen Z) allows for a complete lack of sympathy – something darkly beneficial when it comes to these antagonists sustaining mutilation and extermination at the hands of a juggernaut slaughterer. It’s oftentimes funny to see such sniveling, weaselly youngsters (who indulge in New Age holistic hokum, try to peddle NFTs, wear a full suit with the word “GOAT” printed on it from collar to cuff, or sport a life-size Terminator statue in the office) receive a brutal comeuppance, even if the levels of violence would otherwise be revolting. The revenge-fantasy setup is morbidly well-handled.
Unfortunately, the scope of the film soon gets out of hand – perhaps thanks to writer Kurt Wimmer’s evident predilection for egregiously fanciful scripts (including “Ultraviolet” and “Total Recall” ). Instead of sticking to the more intimate design of a retired secret agent resurfacing to right a wrong against a friend, the plot spirals out of control, shifting from cybercrime (the new focus of the basic “Taken” concept, and one with more specificity and realism than mere watch-the-world-burn hackers) to “Mission: Impossible” types of ghostlike nongovernmental groups (“outside the chain of command”) waging war against one another, ordering overpowered military weaponry to be unleashed on urban environments. This escalation to an unwieldy tangent at the top of the political food chain seems better fit for the likes of James Bond, John Wick, or the Equalizer, but at least it gives rise to some delightfully snarky one-liners and lots of dying hard.
It’s simple and stupid yet mostly entertaining, fueled by Statham’s comfort in roles that dole out executions upon hordes of special forces soldiers (and a few individualistic henchmen), some quirky bee factoids, and the distinct demarcation of good versus evil (there are no shades of gray here). As an action film, it doesn’t come up with much inventiveness, but it does make a blunt statement about the potential for the country’s governance to deteriorate patently – perhaps the perfect cautionary tale about the upcoming 2024 U.S. presidential election, and how a checks-and-balances system grows ever more vital (though not, to be sure, implemented by a larger-than-life Rambo-esque lone-wolf problem-solver). “Nobody’s untouchable.”
– The Massie Twins