Does ‘The Beekeeper’ Senselessly Fuel Conspiracy Theories?

Kevin Gosztola
The Wide Shot
Published in
5 min readJan 18, 2024


Screen shot from the promotional trailer for “The Beekeeper” | Fair use as it is included for the purpose of commentary and criticism

Rolling Stone movie critic David Fear did not hide his displeasure with the “follow the money” storyline that forms the foundation of director David Ayer and screenwriter Kurt Wimmer’s berserk action movie, “The Beekeeper.”

“[Ayer] and screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (the recent Point Break and Total Recall remakes) don’t want to give you just a hard, fast, violent-as-fuck revenge flick,” Fear wrote. “They also want to suggest that there are other agendas at work behind this criminal enterprise.”

Fear continued, “What starts out as [Jason] Statham defending the downtrodden and the defenseless hard-working citizens who get robbed by 21st-century villains turns into something close to toxic tinfoil-hat ranting. By the time a final showdown snaps your suspension of disbelief and suggests there are bigger hornet’s nests to kick, The Beekeeper has crept out of the realm of pulpy B-movie thrills and falls just short of being a Bee movie dabbling in deep-state paranoia-mongering.”

But what Fear obtusely considers “deep-state paranoia-mongering” is the most absorbing aspect of the movie. It is the sticky honey that holds the “violent-as-fuck revenge” action sequences together.

Retired Beekeeper Adam Clay (Statham) unearths a call center that steals millions from elderly people through phishing attacks on their computers. After destroying the call center, Clay moves up the chain to Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson).

Derek, a nepo baby, came up with the idea for a network of call centers that would prey on the vulnerable. The companies that he established to operate the centers exist under his mother’s firm, Danforth Enterprises. Yet as it turns out, the firm was contracted by the U.S. military and intelligence agencies to develop classified data mining software, which Derek subsequently relied upon to perpetrate his scheme.

Conspiracy theories, particularly on social media, have dominated much of the political discourse for the past decade. Studies blame such theories for the erosion of trust in U.S. government institutions. Former President Donald Trump and his colleagues promoted the false conspiracy that President Joe Biden stole the election in 2020 while allegedly committing election-related crimes that were intended to keep Trump in the White House.

Numerous Republican voters believe the FBI, Justice Department, and other U.S. government agencies were behind the “Russia hoax,” an effort to delegitimize Trump by alleging that Russian President Vladimir Putin and a network of Russian nationals with ties to Trump and his businesses meddled in the 2016 election. (Note: The Columbia Journalism Review published an exhaustive analysis of the narrative around Trump and Russia “collusion” and the irresponsible acts of the U.S. news media that fueled many allegations, which were never substantiated.)

Perhaps, the most extreme conspiracy believed by millions of Trump supporters is the QAnon conspiracy that Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and various other Democrats are Satan-worshiping pedophiles. QAnon believers claim Trump was recruited to end this conspiracy.

None of these conspiracies should enter anyone’s mind while watching “The Beekeeper.” In fact, the corruption in the story is entirely plausible, given the revolving door between corporations and government that is well-documented since the terrorism attacks on September 11, 2001.

Throughout history, U.S. military and intelligence agencies have been involved in conspiracies, such as the CIA’s MK-Ultra program that involved mind control, a CIA assassination program that was operated in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s, the CIA’s campaign to influence media (“Operation Mockingbird”), US intelligence offering employment to Nazis after World War II (“Operation Paperclip”), the CIA’s plot to stage terrorist attacks and blame them on Fidel Castro’s Cuba, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and lies about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction.

While unsettled by how the corruption leads to the highest echelons of the U.S. government, Fear does not seem particularly bothered by the premise that an off-the-books squad of Beekeepers might exist for activation. Or that a former CIA director (Jeremy Irons) can mobilize kill teams on U.S. soil. Even so, the CIA has long recognized the value of covert operations that involve untraceable violence and give U.S. government officials the ability to deny any knowledge whatsoever.

Screen shot from Rolling Stone movie critic David Fear’s review of “The Beekeeper”

Another critic, Jake Coyle of the Associated Press, published a similar review. “Yes, this silly beekeeper thriller goes all the way to the top.”

“As the movie’s renegade protagonist makes his way closer and closer to the White House, with blood and chaos in his wake, ‘The Beekeeper’ begins to feel like an uncomfortable B-movie crosspollination of today’s conspiracy theory-marred political landscape, with a violent, self-appointed guardian of America slashing his way toward the president. Most of the dead bodies are secret service.”

It is pearl-clutching for anyone to watch a throwback action flick starring Jason Statham and grumble about the secret service body count. Of course, such groaning is easier than considering why the landscape is “marred” by conspiracy theories and why Americans have such low confidence in U.S. government institutions (outside of the military).

Both Coyle and Fear’s handwringing brings to mind the panic over Todd Phillips’ “Joker.” Numerous critics fueled anxiety around the film’s opening weekend, suggesting that “incels,” hate groups, or far-right individuals would embrace the Joker’s nihilism and commit violence. The FBI and Defense Department even put out security bulletins, but nothing happened.

There are thousands of movies that have stories with conspiracies underpinning them. The conspiracy is typically designed to add intrigue to the action. Sometimes it furthers a larger political message, though in “The Beekeeper” the corruption is merely a playground for Statham to perform stunts and deliver cheeky one-liners.

Because the conspiracy roots itself in the notion that parts of the U.S. government may operate in a lawless or unaccountable manner, a handful of top movie critics were unable to sit back, eat their popcorn, and enjoy the movie. That says a lot about the cultural gatekeeping role that critics, like Coyle and Fear, think they must play.



Kevin Gosztola
The Wide Shot

Journalist, film/video college graduate, and movie fan. Previously published by Fanfare and Counter Arts.