This city needs our help. We could be heroes!
First things first, The Green Hornet is not as bad as you’ve heard pre-release. Despite its rather low score on Rotten Tomatoes and my friend’s thoughts prior to seeing the film (he heard it was nothing but rubbish but enjoyed it once we left the cinema), it’s better than you would expect; especially for a film with blockbuster aspirations that opened in January. It’s not particularly ambitious and it does falter in some moments but it’s a fun, if wholly generic film.
Now, on to the review proper…
The Green Hornet is the adaptation of the 1940s radio show (I keep thinking it’s a comic book but I may be confusing it with The Spirit) and its subsequent TV show made famous by introducing Bruce Lee as Kato.
Following the exploits of Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) and his sidekick/genius Kato (played with surprising charm by Tony Chou), who after the death of his press magnate father Jack Reid (Tom Wilkinson) takes on the mantle of his crime-fighting work with Kato by posing as villains in an attempt to defuse crime. It reminds me very much of the recent The Other Guys and Sherlock Holmes and, unfortunately, like many buddy-cop movies follows the same exact same blueprint we’ve seen executed too many times.
The initial hook of the film lies in the way it slyly subverts the convention of the super-hero (comic, serial, crusader?) genre by having Reid and Kato pose primarily as villains in order to undermine the monopoly of crime achieved by Chudnofsky (a comedic Christoph Waltz). It’s a refreshing take as we’re used to seeing a hero that’s good/conflicted hero rather than characters jumping head first into crime-fighting making things up as they go along.
However it does make for what could be considered an obnoxious character in terms of Reid who like Tony Stark parties day and night and doesn’t endear himself to the audience by being generally displeasing throughout. I found Rogen’s approach likable as he has enough nous to portray the character’s flaw not as arrogance but for the stupidity it really is.
Reid isn’t particularly intelligent, in fact many of the plans he implements are the concoctions of his secretary Lenore Case [a rather wasted Pepper Pott’s-lite Cameron Diaz). He’s never mustered up to much living in his father’s shadow and (like a few cinematic father-son relationships) doesn’t like his father but his death comes as a shock and his sense of recklessness steers him into becoming [adopts 1940s radio voice] the masked avenger they call The Green Hornet!
Perhaps the most pleasing part of the film is the relationship between Reid and Kato with Rogen’s unconventional looks and Chou’s uncomfortable use of English (which I found endearing rather than off-putting) making for an unlikely coupling and by the time they take the Black Beauty out for their first spree singing to Coolio’s Gangster’s Paradise you may be onboard or completely unamused.
For the most part The Green Hornet succeeds as a comedy whether it’s the Rogen/Chou partnership, a hilarious scene featuring an unbilled James Franco and most of Waltz’s work as a criminal suffering from a mid-life crisis who questions whether he’s scary enough. What it doesn’t achieve as successfully is in the action which apart from Kato Vision (time slows down but Kato moves at full speed) suffers from a surprisingly uninspired direction from Michel Gondry.
Too many times the action sequences were shot in a matter of fact style, cars smashing into objects and pirouetting in the air before performing a few barrel rolls. It lacked the imagination you would expect from Gondry, especially when you see the way he handles Kato vision. It takes away from the enjoyment because of just how banal the action scenes can feel.
Another aspect of the film that leaves the viewer wanting more is the general structure of the film. Despite subverting a few conventions the film simply conforms to them in the second and third act. The first act is the most interesting part of the film but as soon as partnerships are formed, villains established etc does the film dive straight into formula. When Diaz turns up you’ll be hoping that she won’t be the character that upsets the Rogen/Chou dynamic. She does. Beyond that her role is minor, unwittingly assisting Reid in his ‘heroics’ but not contributing much beyond that.
The biggest fault of The Green Hornet is that apart from offering an interesting premise, there’s very little that hasn’t been seen or explored in other similar films. It’s a solid film, enjoyable in a preposterous way. It won’t demand much in the way of intelligence but it’s a fun if unremarkable time to spend in the theatres.