It has been years in the gestation, it has one of the most acclaimed international film-makers on the planet in the directors chair, the source material spawned a hit TV series that starred Bruce Lee, and it has Christopher Waltz as the main villain, but for many people The Green Hornet revolves around one central premise, can you take Seth Rogen seriously as a superhero? For a lot of people that very idea is a reason not to go in the first place, for more the potential car-crash-in-the-making will be a draw, and for everyone else it’s a movie and anything can happen in a movie. Right? So just what can writer and star Rogen, and director Michel Gondry do to make you take the guy from Knocked Up seriously as a masked vigilante?
Seth Rogen is Britt Reid, the son of a newspaper tycoon/bastion of integrity/pillar of the community/bit of a dick James Reid, and more than a bit of a waster. When the old man drops dead Britt suddenly inherits his empire, and all his responsibilities. It’s all a bit much and when his coffee isn’t up to scratch he explodes. Enter Kato, his dad’s mechanic-cum-barista, who is equally adept assembling an engine as he is at kicking a guy through a wall. Soon the pair team up as a crime-fighting duo and with Kato’s Batmobile besting car The Black Beauty are out on the streets to stop crime. Aided by Britt’s new secretary, Lenore Case, they soon learn public enemy number one is a villain known as Chudnofsky, so target locked they set out on a path of destruction that’s sure to bring them to his attention. With police, the bad-guys and the press all out to get them just what can the Green Hornet accomplish?
Rogen doesn’t exactly stretch himself playing Britt Reid, sure he has some fight sequences and has to physically do some stuff, but mostly he’s just the same old slacker he plays in every movie.I mean even his motivation for fighting crime is that he’s drunk and thinks it would be cool. This might actually not be a criticism though as Rogen has found a way for the character to play to his strengths, rather than go full-hero (which would be absurd). Jay Chou is a revelation in his first English speaking role, and is the true centre of the film. Equally adept with trading physical and verbal blows, he kicks ass with all the aplomb of his predecessor Mr. Lee, and says more with four words than Rogen does with forty. The pair make an unlikely duo but the chemistry is tangible and it’s quite a good bromance. Because of this chemistry Cameron Diaz’s character is wasted. Offered a completely underwritten role her only purpose seems to be as a object of Rogen’s sexual advances, and an aide to potential conflict between the central pair. Equally underwritten is Christopher Waltz’s Chudnofsky, which is an almost unforgivable offence considering the villainous talents of the man. Apart from a clever confrontation at the start he offers little by the way of menace or threat. Aside from Chou the car is the star, a tricked-out Chrysler Imperial that just might be the coolest super-hero vehicle ever, and the movie gives it plenty of screen-time in which to do its thing.
There’s a few Gondry special touches here, with a neat multi-splitscreen sequence, some time-lapse stuff, and Kato Vision – the John Schwartzman shot fight sequences. It’s this last one that offers something new to the movie (although they are akin to Sherlock-vision in Guy Ritchie’s Holmes movie) with the audience treated to a colour-coded guide as to just how Kato will disarm and beat his opponents. These are the only real moments in the movie to utilise the 3D effectively, but on the whole it’s unobtrusive and takes nothing from the visual. For post-production 3D rendering this might be the best example so far. The script is clever in many ways. It offers some nice comedic scenes, big fight scenes, and lots of explosions. It’s is also criminally lacking in others. Most notably the fact that it really has little by way of direction. The Green Hornet is trying to do good by being bad but that’s about it. There’s no consequence, no morality, no heart. It’s purely a balls-to-the-wall-action trip, and even as this the pacing is off. And it doesn’t have a great villain. A super-hero movie needs a great villain!
As comedy super-hero movies go it’s closest in tone to a drunken Kick-Ass, it’s just not as good. The flaws are plenty, the plot goes nowhere, the direction even seems staid at times and yet there’s a really enjoyable movie in this incoherent mess. Seth Rogen as a super-hero? It kind of works…