The Green Hornet
Review by Jack Foley
AS SUPERHERO movies go The Green Hornet succeeds by attempting to do something a bit different thanks, in no small part, to Michel Gondry’s direction and a script from star Seth Rogen and his regular writing partner Evan Goldberg. But there’s a sting in this tail – it’s not without imperfections!
The subversive nature of the comedy is less well delivered than it was in Kick-Ass, while the film tends to get a little OTT while struggling to maintain a consistent tone between the knockabout comedy elements and some of its harder hitting violence.
As such, it’s often as conflicted and sometimes as clueless as its central character. But thanks to Rogen’s gruff charm, some excellent work from Jay Chou and some inspired directorial flourishes it still gets out thumbs up.
Essentially still an origins story, The Green Hornet follows aimless playboy billionaire Britt Reid (Rogen) who is forced to step up when his newspaper magnate father (Tom Wilkinson) dies suddenly.
With the help of his martial arts kicking coffee-maker-cum-mechanic Kato (Chou) he resolves to become a masked crime fighter known as The Green Hornet, who poses a threat to ruthless LA crime boss Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz).
But as he uses his newspaper to get the Hornet some much-needed publicity, playing his exploits off against Chudnofsky and the police, Reid and Kato must redefine their relationship while uncovering the truth behind the powers behind the city and Reid’s father’s legacy.
The Green Hornet is hardly a new superhero to add to the plethora of comic book creations dominating the big screen at the moment, especially since he’s also proved a radio serial success in the 1930s and spawned a popular ‘60s TV show starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee.
But the character is arguably one of the more enigmatic given his super-powerless status, his rebellious attitude and his reliance on ‘side-kick’ Kato (who is actually so much more).
As such, Rogen and Goldberg have fun toying with the superhero genre conventions, allowing Kato plenty of time to shine and infusing the relationship between him and Reid with ‘bro-mance’ elements more befitting their more outright comedic work.
It lifts some of the load on Rogen’s work as leading man, allowing him to trade on an established screen persona (including his awkwardness with ladies) while building a credibly self-centred hero in waiting. He acquits himself well, in suitably endearing fashion.
And he’s ably supported by Chou’s Kato, whose self-aware coolness is similarly endearing and quite often scene-stealing.
Alas, the same cannot be said entirely of Waltz, so good in Inglourious Basterds but so tonally uncertain here. His introduction is a blast (literally) and features a great cameo from James Franco, but thereafter he seems caught between the shifting tone of the film – menacing and ultra violent one minute; cartoonish and unlikely the next. It feels like a waste of the Oscar winner’s talents.
Gondry, too, suffers from the same tonal indecision. There are plenty of moments where his absurdist humour and surreal touches are allowed to come to the fore, but equally several moments where his film gets caught between two minds.
His decision to ‘go for broke’ with an explosive, OTT finale also feels like something of a letdown and indicative of the slightly indulgent length of proceedings. It feels like a stretched two-hour adventure when a tighter, leaner 90mins may have helped.
That said, The Green Hornet has enough buzz moments to make it amiable enough even though there are many times when it struggles to really emerge from the shadow of last year’s Kick-Ass. It’s no classic, but good, knockabout fun that makes a strong enough impression to allow for the possibility of a sequel.
Running time: 119mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 2, 2011