Sorry about the title. I couldn’t help myself. Oddly, when I went to see it on a Wednesday evening after a few weeks running, the theatre was unexpectedly full, so it does seem to have a buzz.
Anyway, I walked into the beekeeper and expected it to be silly violent trash. And it was! Don’t get me wrong about that. Totally silly violent trash. Met all expectations in that regard.
But here’s the interesting thing.
It was actually about something. Not bees, that’s the excuse for a lot of silly puns.
There was stuff going on, thinking-type stuff: The central idea of the beekeeper, is that we’re all prey. That all of are literally at the mercy of predators looking to strip us bare, and that the people and agency we are actually relying on to protect us either aren’t doing it, can’t be bothered, or are actually in on it.
There are actually ideas here.
And a lot of violence. Crazy amounts of violence.
But yeah, dig down, there’s an idea powering all that violent energy, like a nuclear reactor with a pile of sweaty men on top of it.
The opening is all about this nice little old retired lady. She gets a pop up on her computer, it’s a phishing expedition, and before you know it, scammers strip mine her entire life savings. She’s us. She’s all of us. She’s everyone.
Most of us own a computer, a lap top, a smart phone or something, The one thing we all have in common is phishing attempts. Scammers trying to get through at us. Count them up. I’m probably getting a thousand phishing attempts a year, maybe ten thousand, on my phone, in my emails, sent to me through social media. I can’t go on facebook without fighting my way through a cloud of paid advertisers most of them running scams. We’re literally walking around in a blizzard of this stuff.
And you know what? You’re screwed. You hear about giant corporations, law firms, businesses of all kinds getting hit with scams and hackers. They have IT departments, they have teams of professionals up on the latest hijinx, and they get hit all the time.
Well, you don’t have an IT department. At best, you’re an average shlub wandering around, with a bunch of electronics we use but barely understand, in the middle of all this. We’re roadkill. Odds are, sooner or later, at some point in your life. You’re going to get hit, and hopefully you’ll be lucky. But none of us are safe.
And there’s no law enforcement to speak of. There’s no protection. If you get your credit card scammed, your bank account lifted, if you get held ransom by malware… no one is going to do anything. Not the police, not the NSA or CIA. You’re on your own, buddy. Outnumbered, outgunned, outthought, getting hit on a thousand or ten thousand times a year, year after year. And no matter how smart you are, you only have to make a mistake once, and they’re in.
This is what the beekeeper is all about. It’s about the fact that it’s wall to wall predators out there, people ready to strip you of your life savings, always prying and pushing, always waiting for you to make that mistake, and you’re… Alone. You’re prey.
Which brings us back to the beekeeper. This is what it’s about. It’s a fantasy, for all of us out there who are prey, who are one unlucky keystroke away from having our credit cards stolen, bank accounts emptied, our lives taken hostage, with nobody, not the police, not government, not anyone giving a shit, that out there somehow, there’s superhero to make things right.
Well, I’m just going to watch the shit out of something like that.
Because let me tell you, I’m not at any real risk of Thanos finger snapping me out of existence. But I am in permanent danger of having my credit card stolen and getting stuck with the bill. We all are.
There’s your idea, and that basically fuels the whole movie.
There’s some interesting stuff going on, in what might otherwise be pretty stupid movie.
Watching it, I couldn’t help flashing back to the Wolf of Wall Street? Remember that? Jordan Belfour, high pressure scumbag, became a millionaire ripping people off. There are scenes here that feel right out of that movie. Like the scene where Belfour browbeats some guy into investing his life savings into junk.
EXCEPT here, instead of the victim being a faceless shmuck to be mocked and laughed at by Jordan and his cronies, we get to see the victim — some nice little old lady, worked all her life, schoolteacher, looking after people, serving on a charity for disabled kids. We get to see her taken advantage of, we see both the friendliness and manipulation, and the actual cruelty. We get to see the harm.
You can’t watch this movie, and go back to the Wolf of Wall Street, and see that scene in the same way again. I think that’s a good thing. The more we see of the Jordan Belfour characters, the more repulsive and ugly they get.
This feeds into some interesting criticism and comment on capitalism and class dynamics. Jason Statham’s character is basically two steps from being a homeless guy. He’s definitely working poor — he works with his hands, works with tools, he dresses in rags, everything he’s got is dirty, he drives a dirty beat up pickup, can’t afford a razor. Everything about him screams lower working class.
He holds that vibe for most of the movie, his initial attacks are all ‘low-tech’ handyman style. He doesn’t go all James Bond on us until right at the end. He’s a working class, manual labour guy.
That’s the hero.
Against him, is a system of people in steadily nicer suits. The scam call center that rips off the old lady is basically office workers, although when we get a look at some, they’re scummy. Even the security guards are well dressed.
As it turns out, the scam call center is a part of a bigger operation, bigger and better scam centers, which as it turns out, are actually an operation of a bigger tech giant, headed by one of those Jeff Bezos/Elon Musk/Elizabeth Holmes/Steve Jobs/Bill Gates tech giants. You know the kind, just larger than life and better than the rest of us, all that visionary crap. The sort of people that have Tibetan massage therapists on staff, and get profiled on the cover of Forbes.
Except that it turns its crap. Tech boy actually makes his real money from the scam operations, from preying on people. What this movie is saying is that all these people, they’re not geniuses, they’re not enlightened. They’re just predators, and their tremendous success is not from being geniuses, but flat out preying on the rest of us.
And as we get a better and better look at the sleazy practices of people like Musk, Bezos and Gates, the way they’ve lied and abused people to make their billions, the damage they do and the appalling people they really are… That’s not an accidental message.
It goes further, all the way into the White House. The President is the mother of Tech boy, put into office on dirty money, and claiming innocence. It turns out that the predator software was donated by the CIA, and it’s a former CIA head that helps run the company and makes sure that bodies get taken out and buried. The whole system is rotten, and the higher you go, the more rotten it gets. Capitalism isn’t honest, it’s just predation, and government and our leaders are in on it, helping it, benefitting from it, looking the other way. That just leaves us poor bastards at the bottom, fantasizing about a beekeeper.
Wealth in this movie is utterly synonymous with corruption, the more wealth, the more corrupt people are. There’s the blatant wallowing corruption, but there’s the genteel stuff as well, but what is very clear, is that the higher you go, the richer you are, the more disgusting and dishonest and reprehensible you are. It pulls its punches now and then, Jeremy Irons CIA guy gets to live with only some broken fingers and a talking to. Madame President gets away with plausible deniability. But mainly, for what is essentially a live action cartoon, this is a pretty damning condemnation of the world that we’re forcing people to live in, and an indictment of the people who are supposed to be running it on our behalf.
As for the action scenes? There’s a lot of them. They’re mostly good. There’s a bizarre fight at a gas station with some chick from an 80s music video that dips into gratuitous sadism. Well, you’re going to get a bit of gratuitous sadism in a movie like this. But the various villains, even the principle fight villains all get little bits of personality, and the sequence of action scenes builds up properly, to an epic boss villain fight.
None of this, “Hey let’s put all our big action scenes right at the front before the audience gets to invest emotionally and then spend the rest of the movie tailing off nonsense.” I’m looking at you Black Adam, but also Indiana Jones and way too many modern movies. There’s way too much of that.
Oh and there are just terrible bee puns all the way through. Criminal stuff.
But there’s a point to even that bit of stupid. Bees live in a society, they come together, they work together, even the queens, they all look after each other.
That’s not the way we’re running things now. And that’s probably not a good thing.