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Political Mercury

‘The Beekeeper’ is a not-so-subtle Trump fantasy movie

4/3/2024

If civil judgments don’t drain the Trump Machine into cashless-ness, the former president may want to open up theaters in the swing states for free showings of the Jason Statham movie “The Beekeeper.”

Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer may be accidentally inspiring MAGA more effectively than any speechwriter in Trump’s infamously off-script political orbit.

“The Beekeeper” is a trope built on a conspiracy theory packaged in improbability. 

It’s far-fetched fare, and marvelously funny, until you realize, sitting in a dark theater, laughing out loud, at a level where you even disturb yourself, that most people around you aren’t similarly guffawing —  for they are not all in on the joke of this cult classic, a movie so bad, it’s good. Unless you are MAGA. Then the movie is something of a hero’s journey — a cult classic in another sense. The dangerous one.

“The Beekeeper” — with an estimable two-month Box Office run and now streaming — is in that can’t-take-your-eyes-off category, right there with randomly rolling across car crashes (like the vehicle I saw on fire, heaving flames, on the shoulder of I-380 outside of Iowa City a few months ago) and attending a Trump campaign rally. (I’m a veteran of the experience.)

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The movie, with wild, ridiculous and, to be fair, entertaining narrative threads and ill-considered scripting and plain weird plot swings, is, at its core, a Trump propaganda film.

I’d had no interest in seeing the film until I listened to “The Big Picture” podcast with Amanda Dobbins and Sean Fennessey. Dobbins’ takes on movies are the best I’ve heard since Roger Ebert.

The podcast raised the connection to our modern politics. And they are right. It’s there, the references to the Clintons and Bidens.

Two of the villains are so clearly based on Hunter Biden and Hillary Clinton that the political figures should get mentions in the credit roll at the movie’s end. The Biden and Clinton send-ups are outrageous caricatures, but they are, with so much that is Trump, both funny and frightening.

Here’s how it all unfolds (warning, spoiler alerts):

Statham’s character, Adam Clay, lives a monkish life in rural Massachusetts on a farmstead where he is, oddly, seriously, hold the irony, please, a beekeeper. The owner of the property, Phylicia Rashad’s Eloise Parker, is a surrogate mother/grandfather and benevolent-seeming landlord to Statham’s dude, whose pining, pensive ways let us know he was up to something serious, some menacing or necessary and deadly business, before taking the quiet life turn into a honey of an emotional redoubt with Rashad. A retired teacher who runs a nonprofit, Rashad’s character is tricked into turning over bank accounts to an online hacker/huckster ring led by actor Josh Hutcherson’s Derek Danforth. Hutcherson, who steals the show in this film, inhabits the role with joy and gusto.

Depleted and ashamed at getting scammed, Eloise (Rashad) commits suicide, which puts Statham on a mission. We learn that he’s a member of a select, clandestine organization known as The Beekeepers. High-level bureaucrats populating the movie react with a knowing terror (and second helpings of over acting) when “the beekeepers” are mentioned.

Statham looks to avenge the death of his landlord — Rashad, whom GenX-ers like me always see as Mrs. Cosby from her Clair Huxtable days.

Also in the hunt is Eloise’s surviving daughter, Veronica Parker, who happens to be … an FBI agent, played by Emmy Raver-Lampman.

Statham and River-Lampman quickly learn that the ringleader of the phishing scam is Hutcherson’s character, who is, in fact, the very Hunter Biden-ish son of the President of the United States. He drinks and does drugs and even vapes. Amid controversy with the walls closing in on him, Hutcherson does what one would suspect Hunter Biden would do — hold a rave — at his mom’s presidential retreat — on the beach — with day drinking and, oddly, day dancing.

Jemma Redgrave’s President Danforth is a Hillary Clinton knock-off in the first order. She learns that her campaign was in fact financed by her addict son’s skillful crookedness in ripping off old people. Poor Hillary — I mean President Danforth.

In the movie’s final scenes, Statham (acting in a Trump-like “I alone can fix it” fashion) arrives via scuba gear on a beachfront compound jammed with Secret Service agents. He infiltrates the rave, corners the Hillary and Hunter characters and doles out justice before action-hero leaping (impressive from a 56-year-old Statham) from the window and returning to the sea.

The hero’s journey is complete. ♦

Douglas Burns of Carroll is fourth-generation journalist and founder of Mercury Boost, a marketing and public relations company.

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