Review: The Green Hornet (2011)
Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is a tool. That’s really his one defining trait. He’s a spoiled brat, smug and self-absorbed (when he has absolutely no reason to be either), and he seems unable to keep his mouth shut for more than three seconds at a time. He talks. And talks. So. Damn. Much. Like a Hallmark card, he’s got a one-liner for every occasion (hell, he’s got ten of them!). As for his redeeming qualities… well, he doesn’t seem to actually have any of those. It’s as if Rogen, who co-wrote the screenplay to Michel Gondry’s The Green Hornet with Evan Goldberg, felt guilty for writing himself into virtually every single scene, and decided to make his character insufferable to balance it out. No, that doesn’t sound like such a great idea to me either.
Reid’s dad (Tom Wilkinson), the owner of Los Angeles’s Daily Sentinel, kicks it, and Reid inherits the newspaper. He also inherits his dad’s mechanic and coffee maker, Kato (Jay Chou), who turns out to be an incredibly gifted martial artist with some sort of time-slowing super power, and after they almost accidentally save a random couple from being mugged, the two of them decide to use their wealth and talent to fight crime (three guesses as to who’s got the wealth and who’s got the talent). Reid’s one idea is for them to pose as criminals, because he can’t be bothered with having to actually do good. He’d much rather take out gangsters the old-fashioned way–with a car that shoots bullets and has a built-in flamethrower. Also, by kicking them in the nuts. Reid sure loves himself a swift kick to some poor guy’s nuts.
Any good superhero movie needs a good villain; I suppose every bad superhero movie needs a bad villain. The Green Hornet‘s Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) is as bad as can be. Waltz proved in Inglourious Basterds that he’s great at playing villains, being able to shift from subdued menace to all-out hamminess and back several times in the same scene. Unfortunately, Rogen is no Tarantino, and Chudnofsky is no Colonel Landa. His role here seems limited to angsting over the fact that he’s no longer as scary as he used to be, which gets old halfway through his first scene, and sending his underlings to die in pursuit of Rogen’s spaz of a superhero.
Oh, and there’s a love interest in there, too. Of course there’s one. Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) is Reid’s new secretary, and we’re told she’s very smart in addition to being very hot, but that’s about all there is to her character. She mostly serves as a way to drive Reid and Kato apart when the screenplay needs the superheroic pair to split, which makes her a tad redundant considering just how big a tool Reid is. Seriously, I don’t even know why Kato ever comes back. Probably because it says he has to in the script.
I have a confession to make: I’m a fan of Gondry’s. As a kid growing up in France in the ’90s, I could not help but be exposed to his music videos, many of which were incredibly well thought-out little gems. I think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Minds is one of the very best films of the past decade, I liked The Science of Sleep a lot, and I believe Be Kind, Rewind to be way underrated. The Green Hornet simply doesn’t feel like a Gondry movie. All his other films have a deliciously lo-tech quality to them, an ingeniosity that simply isn’t here. The Green Hornet is all slick metal and shiny plastic (or not-so-shiny plastic, given how much 3D–as usual–dims the picture), and looks like any other superhero movie out there. The fight scenes, all ugly slow-motion and awkward camera angles, could have been directed by Zack Snyder, and the amount of stuff getting blown up would make Michael Bay proud. Don’t expect anything more revolutionary than an extreme split-screen scene (albeit a pretty neat one, I have to admit).
To be fair, there are a few laughs to be had during the two hours that the film lasts, but not many. Given that Reid makes about twenty jokes a minute, there’s bound to be a handful of effective zingers in there. Chudnofsky’s lieutenant Popeye (Jamie Harris) has some nice moments as the voice of reason. And the ubiquitous James Franco (here in an uncredited cameo) is great as Danny Clear, the dealer who explains to Chudnofsky in an early scene just exactly how un-scary he is. That is, until Chudnofsky pulls an ugly double-barreled handgun on him, and you realize you’re watching the kind of movie in which apparently successful drug dealers are dumb enough not to frisk the local crime boss before admitting him into their nightclubs. Given how much The Green Hornet feels like a parody of superhero movies written by people who know next to nothing about superhero movies, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.