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The Green Hornet (2011)

January 18, 2011

5/10 Anti-Antiheroes

Starts off strong, but wears out by hour two.

The Green Hornet is about the party animal son of a newspaper mogul who finds himself staring responsibility in the face when his dad suddenly dies, leaving the publication and family fortune in his hands. But since he doesn’t know the first thing about running a company yet wants to do his part to bring down crime in L.A., he teams up with the family mechanic/kung fu master, pimps out a vintage Chrysler with enough ammo and gadgets to make Q look like a home ec. teacher, and gets to cleaning up the city one meth lab at a time all while pretending to be one of the bad guys.

So the only thing I know about the TV show this was based on was that Bruce Lee was in it, apparently he was a badass and totally stole the spotlight like the boss he was, and that’s about it. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t going for the same comedic angle that this runs on, but since I’ve never seen an episode, I have absolutely no base of comparison when it comes to whether this does justice to the source material. All the same, it ended up being a pretty entertaining superhero riff before it all started to crumble under its own weight.

Way back when this was still in the early development stages, the most awesome Stephen Chow of Kung-Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer fame was set to direct and star in this, and as a big fan of Chow’s, I think that would have been pretty effing perfect. Anyway, that didn’t happen, so by some strange course of events, the powers that be got Michel Gondry to take the reigns and bring Seth Rogen’s baby to life. Now, I think Gondry’s one of the best directors out there, absolutely no one can make a movie quite like him, but I can’t be the only one who thinks his involvement here was a bit odd.

I mean, Chris Nolan did a damn good job transitioning from psychological thrillers to churning out two of the best superhero movies of the past decade, but Gondry’s never been one to go mainstream like this, and after seeing Be Kind Rewind it almost seemed like he’d be the last person to ever take on a big budget Hollywood action movie. I don’t know, it’s not that he does a bad job or anything, because the first fight scene in the movie really is awesome and the epic amount of destruction that goes down during the last 15 minutes makes that strip mall drive-through scene in Blues Brothers look like a stroll through the park, it’s just that this movie definitely doesn’t give him a whole lot of room to use his imagination, and that’s what he’s always done best. Jesus, he’s the guy who did Eternal Sunshine, I don’t see what could have gotten him on board for this outside of blackmail.

Regardless, Gondry’s not the problem here even if every other fight scene could have looked more realistic than computer generated, the real problem is the script.

The thing is, the script is actually pretty solid for a while. Written by Rogen and pal Evan Goldberg, it’s a lot funnier than I expected it to be, it had me laughing out loud pretty consistently from the time James Franco turns up in the first five minutes and starts dissing Christoph Waltz for dressing like a “disco Santa”, and the whole first Act is actually great in that regard. It’s no Superbad by any means, but it’s got a solid sense of humor throughout and that went a long way.

But then the movie keeps going, the laughs get harder and harder to come by, the run-time starts to feel an hour longer than it actually is, and it ultimately falls prey to the Achilles’ heel of every superhero movie: having too much shit going on at the same time. We’ve got Rogen’s estranged relationship with his late father, Rogen trying to maintain an amicable partnership with his sidekick even though his sidekick is essentially the real hero of the two, Rogen attempting to run his dad’s newspaper, Rogen and his sidekick trying to go after the same girl, Christoph Waltz trying to reinvent his image while taking out Rogen, and there’s still one or two other plot lines that make what could have been a straightforward superhero movie with a faux-villain twist into an increasingly muddled mess that ends up being way too complicated for its own good.

Although I don’t really have anything bad to say about the cast, so that’s a plus. Seth Rogen works as The Green Hornet himself, Britt Reid, since he delivers as the comedic weight of movie and doesn’t have to be much of a superhero since he’s not the one doing much of the fighting; Jay Chou (who I’d never heard of) was pretty legit as Kato and sure does kick a fair amount of ass even if he doesn’t pull off the impossible by one-upping Bruce Lee; Tom Wilkinson is here for all of two minutes as Reid’s dad; Cameron Diaz is here for some reason as Reid’s new secretary; and Christoph Waltz ain’t half bad as L.A. crime lord, Chudnofsky, even if his whole reinvention shtick gets old after a while and he doesn’t pull off the impossible by one-upping Hans Landa. At least he didn’t have a Jamaican accent.

Big fan of that Franco cameo though, and Edward Furlong of all people gets a brief cameo as a meth dealer, too. Nothing wrong with that.

And on another note, it’s also really freakin’ violent for a PG-13 movie. Usually don’t even notice that kind of thing unless we’re talking about The Sixth Day, but not only does it seem like every other word out of Seth Rogen’s mouth is some variation of “shit”, dudes get mowed down in this movie like gangbusters and Christoph Waltz gets offed in a most outrageously brutal of manners. Didn’t hurt the movie or anything, just think I’d be pretty taken aback if I was taking my kids to see this is all.

God, I sound like such a fucking loser.

Anyway, The Green Hornet wasn’t exactly a disappointing way to kick off the new year, it just started out at a solid 7 and slowly bored its way down to its current standing. If it wasn’t structured so poorly it could have been a total blast, but as enjoyable as it is in some aspects, it’s hard to focus on the good stuff when you could really care less about the story it’s trying to tell. Although there is a great fight scene that could only have been inspired by the fight scene from They Live, and that is sweet.

So is the car, that is beyond sweet.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2011 1:55 am

    Damn, that’s disappointing. Considering I don’t normally find Rogen all that amusing (his turn in Knocked Up made me clench out a tooth, I swear!) I had high hopes this would be above his normal schtick. Sadly, it looks like my fears were well founded. Is it still worth a look in cinema, or wait til BluRay?

    • January 18, 2011 2:03 pm

      You know, for a 5, it’s actually still pretty good for a while. I don’t know if it’s worth dishing out 13 bucks on, but it’s worth a watch on video. And Rogen’s still doing Rogen, so if you didn’t like him before now, this probably won’t do much to convert you.

  2. Darren permalink
    January 18, 2011 8:18 am

    The reviews are decidedly meh, which is – to be honest – better than I expected. Do you reckon it would have done better before Kick Ass was released, which is what I’ve heard a few people say?

    • January 18, 2011 2:05 pm

      I agree, it was still better than expected. And while there is that whole normal guy-turned-homemade superhero connection to Kick-Ass, I don’t think that made much of a difference.

  3. January 18, 2011 8:51 pm

    You know what this reminds me of?


    Two can play this game mother fucker!

  4. January 19, 2011 11:16 am

    I didn’t expect much from this to be honest. 5/10 sounds generous!

    • January 19, 2011 11:36 am

      Haha. It was actually pretty good for a while there, but I wasn’t expecting much either.

  5. HermioneO permalink
    January 21, 2011 5:23 pm

    I was really hopinng for a while there. I’m from a generation who actually saw this in re-runs and Seth Rogan was not green hornet. But I still hoped. It sounds to me like Seth Rogan took it and made it his and it’s not green hornet at all.

    Green Hornet was sometimes considered the poor man’s Bat Man, because it came out around the same time as Bat Man (on TV). Different coasts.

    They really shouldn’t have had a no-name (sorry, that’s how I see it) for Kato.

    • January 24, 2011 10:50 am

      Yeah, I don’t think anyone saw Rogen as The Green Hornet and I’m pretty sure he took some major liberties here in terms of staying true to the original. Still, I think Rogen’s pretty funny. Something about that crazy laugh….

      But as much as it would have been cool to have a big name play Kato, Chou is actually a saving grace of the cast and I’m glad that it wasn’t Jackie Chan in the role. Still, Stephen Chow would have been perfect as both the star and director.


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