Title: The Green Hornet
Directed By: Michel Gondry
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Christoph Waltz, David Harbour, Edward James Olmos
So maybe no superhero movie is sensible, but this new breed of films focusing on average guys trying to be heroes does require a sense of realism. The Green Hornet certainly has that element throughout most of the film, but it also has a significant amount of those outlandish, no-man-could-possibly-survive-that incidents. The mixture of the two plus a hefty dose of laughs from star and co-writer, Seth Rogen, does make for a wildly enjoyable film, but one that doesn’t quite know what tone it’s looking to achieve.
Britt Reid (Rogen) is a spoiled brat. His father, James (Tom Wilkinson) owns The Daily Sentinel newspaper among other lucrative outlets, so Britt’s never had to work a day in his life. His sour attitude isn’t all his fault; Britt’s father is fairly tough on him. He even decapitated his favorite toy when he was a child. Even so, he’s the king of media and very well respected in the field. When he suddenly passes away, there’s just one person to inherit his empire, Britt. With zero interest in journalism or working at all for that matter, Britt decides to fill his time by teaming up with his father’s former mechanic and coffeemaker, Kato (Jay Chou), to live on the edge and steal the head of his father’s memorial statue from the burial ground. Just before they can make their getaway, Britt catches sight of a mugging and takes action. Well, actually, Kato takes action; Britt’s merely in the way.
Regardless, Britt thinks they make the perfect team and should become masked heroes. Been there, done that, right? Britt’s doing it differently this time around. He suggests they pose as bad guys so they can topple Chudnofsky’s (Christoph Waltz) LA crime monopoly from the inside. When they’re not cruising around in the armed-to-the-tee Black Beauty and testing out all of Kato’s high-tech weapons, they’re in the office using the Sentinel to glamorize the Green Hornet’s threat. Before they know it, they’re fully entrenched in a world of crime and dirty politics.
The big question is, in a time when we’re being slammed with superhero film after superhero film, is there anything new this one has to offer? Yes and no. The Green Hornet is basically a cross between films like Batman and Iron Man and ones like Defendor and Kick-Ass. Britt Reid is just a guy who has nothing better to do with his time or money than party and fund Kato’s weapon building abilities. That’d be fine, but not enough attention is paid to where this cash is coming from. We know his father is as rich as they come, but absolutely no time is dedicated towards really making that profitable business a concrete element, whereas Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark are heroes, but businessmen as well. Britt doesn’t need to be an all-powerful CEO, nor does he even have the capabilities, but a little insight into his inheritance would make the situation more tangible.
The Defendor/Kick-Ass aspect of The Green Hornet is a little tough to digest as well. Rogen makes for a perfect average guy trying to be a hero while Chou is the quintessential indestructible hero with seemingly supernatural powers, and based on those descriptions, they don’t quite gel. Britt is just so bumbling and helpless and Kato is so powerful; the gap is far too wide. This has a particularly negative effect on Rogen’s character. It’s a good thing he’s funny because otherwise, all Britt’s there for is financing. There is an effort to show he’s capable of more, but by the time that comes into play, it’s already been established that he’s incredibly inferior to his sidekick. The superhero element and the concept of the powerless guy trying to be a superhero don’t meld. At times, it feels like two different movies.
However, from a performance standpoint, Rogen and Chou are a perfect match. Whether they’re fighting or just hanging out, the chemistry is there and endlessly enjoyable. Plus, whether or not the characters were written to an extreme, both actors nail their parts. Sadly, two others who couldn’t overcome weak writing are Waltz and Diaz. Perhaps it’s just because Waltz’s last villainous performance was so profound, but as Chudnofsky, he’s not that scary. Oddly enough, that’s one of Chudnofsky’s shticks. He has a fantastic scene with a younger rival crime boss during which he brands Chudnofsky’s as a harmless old-timer. Throughout the film, Chudnofsky is obsessed with making himself appear more frightening and while the gag is quite fun, it also grows old and there’s not much there to make up for it.
Diaz fairs even worse. In fact, The Green Hornet doesn’t really need her at all. It feels as though she’s simply there to play the stereotypical “girl” character and nothing more. Naturally, she creates some romantic tension, which is actually quite interesting, but the whole scenario is so weakly resolved, it’s hard not to look back on it all and think, what was the point? Diaz is also lacking her typical spark. She seems entirely disinterested. Her character, Britt’s new office assistant, Lenore Case, might as well have been a nameless cardboard cutout.
Even with all these shortcomings, The Green Hornet is still a lot of run. The film still fails to justify the use of 3D technology, but otherwise, the imagery is vivid, the effects are snazzy, the fight scenes are outrageous and Britt and Kato are just too really cool guys worth spending 108 minutes with. Thanks to the film’s fantastic fast pace, even when one of these inadequacies threatens to ruin the fun, we’re already onto the next souped up moment. The story is quite ridiculous and not every plot point entirely makes sense, but if you’re willing to turn your brain off for a bit and abandon any second thinking, the entertainment value is high.
By Perri Nemiroff