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Jason Statham in The Beekeeper | Films | Entertainment

THE BEEKEEPER (out now on Netflix) – 2 stars.

The buzz emanating from David Ayer’s brutal revenge thriller starring Jason Statham as a retired assassin who tends beehives in the rolling green hills of Springfield, Massachusetts, is merely ho-hum.

The rickety plot is set in motion by a malware pop-up phishing scam that drives a retired teacher (Phylicia Rashad) to commit suicide after her life savings and pension fund are cruelly plundered. Enigmatic neighbour Adam Clay (Statham) vows revenge.

He is a former member of a government-sanctioned kill squad codenamed the Beekeepers. They “protect the hive” from threats to national security and Clay intends to forcefully neutralise obnoxious self-made millionaire Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson), whose company mines personal data to identify elderly victims.

Cue thrilling fight sequences, which draw heavily on Statham’s extensive martial arts training.

When the Derbyshire-born hard man communicates with fists and feet, Ayer’s picture is curiously compelling. Unfortunately, Statham’s avenging angel repeatedly sermonises about the scourge of heartless online predators.

The script forgives his questionable American twang during an early exchange with the teacher’s grief-stricken daughter, played by Emmy Raver-Lampman.

“There’s some British Isles hiding in your accent,” she observes. Genuine emotion is much harder to find.

The Boys in the Boat (out now in cinemas) – 3 stars

They do make ’em like they used to. At least George Clooney does, comfortably nestled behind the camera for an unabashedly old-fashioned story of real-life sporting underdogs, who triumphed against overwhelming odds in Depression-era Washington DC to row for glory at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin.

London-born model and actor Callum Turner sports a mop of blond hair in the second seat of the University of Washington’s junior boat, conveniently distinguishing him from sweat-slathered co-stars during an obligatory training montage that moulds inexperienced dreamers into a finely tuned brotherhood of giant slayers.

Brisk editing energises the race sequences while screenwriter Mark L Smith mimics a cox at the stern, maintaining a steady rate of knots with touching scenes of self-empowerment, diluted romance and heavy-handed class warfare.

Frustratingly, the thinly written female characters exist solely to support the men’s ambitions and cheer proudly from the sidelines.

Composer Alexandre Desplat’s twinkly piano-led score complements chocolate box images of perfectly synchronised oars scything through rippling water bathed in sunlight. Clooney hits each predictable emotional beat and builds to a crowd-pleasing finale that teases the possibility of Team USA’s scrappy upstarts humiliating German Chancellor Adolf Hitler (Daniel Philpott) on a global stage.

One small battle against fascism before a devastating war.

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