Review: The Green Hornet
PLOT: After his father dies, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), heir to a newspaper empire, takes it upon himself to rid L.A of crime, with the help of his father`s brilliant, kung-fu fighting mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou).
REVIEW: THE GREEN HORNET is not one of the more beloved superhero franchises out there. In fact, I`d wager that the only thing particularly noteworthy about it is that the old sixties TV show (a companion to the campy Adam West BATMAN series) was famous for introducing audiences to the great Bruce Lee, who played sidekick Kato. The international success of that series is what made it possible for Lee to star in a series of Hong Kong classics, that eventually made him the biggest martial arts film star of all time.
Despite its rather humble origins, Hollywood`s been trying to turn THE GREEN HORNET into a modern blockbuster franchise for at least a decade, with people like Kevin Smith, and George Clooney being attached at one time or another. It`s finally made its way to the big screen thanks to Seth Rogen, who in addition to starring as the titular superhero, also co-wrote the film with Evan Goldberg (with whom he also penned SUPERBAD, and THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS).
Rogen's taken a fare share of ridicule for his decision to launch the GREEN HORNET franchise with himself in the lead role, and to be sure, Seth Rogen is not the first guy you'd imagine donning a superhero suit and kicking ass. To his credit, nobody seems more aware of this than Rogen himself. Other than losing a good twenty-five pounds, THE GREEN HORNET isn't actually that much of a departure for Rogen, as he more or less plays the same kind of eternally adolescent man-child here that he`s been playing for years. That`s not a bad thing, as the role fits Rogen to a T, and he obviously knows enough to play to his own strengths.
Rest assured, THE GREEN HORNET is not Rogen's attempt to make himself into an action hero, and for the most part he plays the role for laughs. The real action hero here is Jay Chou as Kato, who, just like Lee in the original TV series, is the far more bad-ass half of the crime fighting duo. Here, The Green Hornet is actually Kato`s sidekick, and Chou makes for a terrific new action hero.
A pop-star in Asia, Chou`s incredibly adept in the numerous action scenes, which are actually very well-staged by director Michel Gondry, who directs this in a much more traditional, mainstream way than you'd expect from his previous work (including the incredible ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND). The only time Gondry really stylizes the action is when he makes use of `Kato-vision`, which shows the way Kato is to process his attacks in a way that make him almost invulnerable.
Considering this is an action-comedy, one might wonder which this film is more of, action or comedy? I think they tried to weigh it pretty evenly between the two, which is probably the film's major fault. As a comedy, it's not really all that funny. There's really only two good gags; the first involving a nifty cameo by a former Rogen co-star, and the second a funny gag involving Kato's gas gun, which puts Rogen into a week-long coma. I think they might have been better off making it a straight action flick, but nevertheless, they do a decent job balancing the two, although I'll admit I enjoyed the action part of the movie a whole lot more. If I have one big complaint about the film`s tone, it`s that in an effort to make the film funny, Rogen's interpretation of playboy Reid comes off as a little derivative of IRON MAN, with Brit Reid coming off as a Tony Stark clone at times, minus the genius or edge that Downey Jr., brought to the role. I also wish Christophe Waltz, who plays the drug-lord villain, had been made a serious threat, rather than the buffoon he comes off as throughout (although Waltz IS pretty funny at times).
I also felt that Cameron Diaz's role as both Kato, and Britt's object of affection felt tacked on to give the film a bit of sex appeal in addition to the bromance going on between Rogen and Chou. Diaz is fine, but she doesn't get a heck of a lot to do, and one can't help but feel that the entire role could have been excised without changing the movie much.
As for the 3D, well- it's not very good. Despite everyone involved claiming that the 3D conversion was done carefully, and was not a rush job, it doesn't change the fact that THE GREEN HORNET is a film that was quite obviously intended to be shown two-dimensionally. At least it's color-corrected, unlike CLASH OF THE TITANS, but the 3D effects are subtle, and completely superfluous. If you have the change to see this in 2D, trust me- you're not missing much.
Nevertheless, the majority of THE GREEN HORNET works. Rogen and Chou have really good, buddy-buddy chemistry, and some of the action scenes are incredible. The last half-hour of the film offers some spectacular carnage, and the final battle royale in Britt's newspaper headquarters is pretty damn slick, and better than any of the action scenes from a lot of the mega-budget superhero epics we've been getting flooded with over the last few years. It's a smaller-scaled film than the big Marvel or DC films, but to my way of thinking, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's actually a refreshing change that instead of CGI pyrotechnics, we get some nifty hand to hand fights, and a couple of fun car chases.
While I can't say THE GREEN HORNET is a terrific, or particularly original work, it's nevertheless a great popcorn flick, that does exactly what it sets out to do, which is entertain. I enjoyed this a heck of a lot more than the early trailers made me think I would. It's a good, solid action comedy, and a great showcase for Jay Chou.