Review: The Green Hornet (2011)

WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Yesterday I saw the much-anticipated Green Hornet movie. For those who don’t know, the Green Hornet is Britt Reid (played by Seth Rogen) whose father, James owns and runs the Daily Sentinel newspaper. After his death, Britt and his fathers’ mechanic and assistant Kato (played by Jay Chou) team up to form a crime fighting team.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, that’s where the good times end because what we get is a bad attempt at a crime fighting comedy buddy movie along the lines of Ben Stiller‘s Starsky and Hutch but poorly executed.

Seth Rogen’s Reid is an infantile loser living off his fathers’ wealth and partying well into his thirties. There’s an early scene between him and his father, played by Tom Wilkinson, in which the tired old idea of “my dad was always too busy to love me so now I hate him” is played out with Wilkinson coming across as a harsh disciplinarian trying to help young Britt to come to terms with his mothers’ death by using tough love. We then jump to Britt in his thirties partying away and falling back to his dads’ palatial home with a bimbo on his arm whose name the next morning he can’t remember. Ha Ha. Very original.

A movie like this is carried by the actor playing the central role. Unfortunately Rogen isn’t an actor, he’s a comedian who makes movies; big difference. I’m sure he tried his best but he just doesn’t have the chops to pull off the few and far between dramatic scenes in the movie and during the comedy sequences (which aren’t funny. I didn’t laugh once during the whole movie) he’s just plain irritating. I was hoping Chudnofsky would kill him.

Jay Chou on the other hand was on a hiding to nothing to begin with. He handles the dramatic stuff well enough but, like Rogen, he fails completely on the comedic front. Further more, his martial arts skills pale in comparison to those of Bruce Lee. What’s worse is that we don’t get to see all that much of it thanks to director Michel Gondry‘s constant use of jump cuts during the fighting scenes. We don’t get to actually see Kato’s martial skills except for a few bullet time sequences used to highlight Kato’s speed and rapid reactions.

The script is another problem. Having never seen the original 60’s Green Hornet I can’t really comment, but the idea that Reid and Kato form a crime fighting team after having stumbled across a mugging and liking the feeling of being bad ass for having prevented it, strikes me as somewhat puerile and unconvincing. Also, Reid in this version is a lecherous child who thinks everything is a laugh and will only do something or take it seriously (such as a gas gun that Kato invents for him because he’s such a useless fighter) if he thinks it’s “cool”. In addition, Rogen’s performance is so cringe inducing that it’s difficult to take the character seriously as a crime fighter and the script was so poor that I never really bought into why this thirty-something lay about would suddenly feel motivated into becoming a socially conscious citizen; at least not until the near end of the movie when we learn the circumstances of James Reids’ death.

On the upside, the design of the movie was excellently done which is hardly surprising given that John Eaves was involved with it. Anyone who’s interested should visit his blog. You’ll be amazed. Also there were some very good performances from Christoph Waltz as Chudnofsky, Edward James Olmos as Axford (doing the best they could with such poorly written characters and some woeful dialogue) and there were a couple of brilliant cameos from Edward Furlong as Tupper and James Franco whose performance is a complete scene stealer and easily the best in the movie.

Basically, like the 60’s version, the story is forgettable. You only watch for the action sequences and, as stated above, Chou is no Bruce Lee. I haven’t mentioned Cameron Diaz‘s role because, while well acted, it seems as though she was included simply as some eye candy even though her character is the smartest one in the whole movie.

In short, The Green Hornet was a good idea badly executed and the fact that Rogen was one of the screenplay writers makes me think he wrote this as a vehicle for himself. If so, the producers should really have stepped in and either had the script rewritten or the role of Reid re-cast.

 

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