Today’s film was chosen by my friend Justin over at Today I Watched A Movie. Well, he used to be my friend…
Hornet: A mildly troublesome annoyance.
Following the untimely death of his father, newly-anointed media mogul and spoiled brat Britt Reid becomes aware of the criminal element within Los Angeles. He becomes determined to do something about it, recruiting his dad’s mechanic, the martial arts expert Kato, to assist him. While maintaining his life in the spotlight during the day, at night Britt becomes the masked vigilante known as The Green Hornet. Consequence-free property damage ensues.
I expected a lot from this film. I have been a fan of Seth Rogen since Freaks and Geeks, being one of the two dozen people who actually saw it during its first broadcast run. Rogen is an actor who is aware of his limits. He knows what he can and can’t do, but at the same time he isn’t afraid to try to push those limits, even if it’s just by a little bit each time. On paper, the role of Britt Reid seems like a natural progression for him after his more physical turn in Pineapple Express. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work (which is a phrase I may be repeating quite a bit in the course of this review). Rogen and his frequent scripting partner Evan Goldberg have written an action comedy but forgotten to bring any actual jokes. The result feels like something I should have been laughing at, yet I couldn’t help but sit mostly stoney-faced throughout.
Rogen himself seems most comfortable during the early, “Britt Reid is a dick” sections of the film, less so when Britt becomes more heroic. His comedic strength is as the (relative) straight man – see Pineapple Express, Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin – but here Kato is the straight man, while Britt is the out of control one who keeps getting them into shit. Mostly, Rogen’s Britt just comes across as dickish and unlikeable. Kato, on the other hand, is spot on. Jay Chou is the best thing about this film, without question. Even through broken English, he brings the same detached charisma he had in Kung Fu Dunk. His constant exasperation over Reid’s hijinks is the source of most of the film’s limited laughs. The guy’s just cool.
One of the film’s biggest mistakes is wasting its supporting cast, particularly Cameron Diaz and Edward James Olmos. Diaz plays Reid’s secretary Lenore, who is set up as a potential love interest for both Britt and Kato, only to be completely sidetracked in favour of the bromance between the two leads. Olmos is Mike Axelrod, the editor of Britt’s paper The Daily Sentinel. He is in about three scenes and has almost as many lines. As for the movie’s villains, Christoph Waltz brings some campy insecurity to the role of Chudnofsky, the gangster determined to run all the crime in the city. Unfortunately (there’s that word again) Waltz doesn’t seem to be really engaged in the part. Apparently he was a last-minute replacement for Nicolas Cage, and obviously didn’t get the opportunity to put any kind of personal stamp on the character. And the supposedly shock twist about the corrupt DA can be seen a mile away.
I’m really glad I didn’t fork out to see this on the big screen, because I probably would have gone for the 3D option and ended up even more disappointed than I am now. The person I feel most sorry for after watching this is Michel Gondry. The marvellously eccentric director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind seems to have been overshadowed by the script’s excess. There are a couple of moments where The Green Hornet feels like a Gondry movie, specifically Kato’s first fight scene (which marvellously depicts his inhuman reflexes and kung fu skills) and a fantastic but brief split screen montage, but for the rest of the flick it could have been almost anyone wielding the megaphone.
So that was The Green Hornet. Another victim of Hollywood’s determination to turn everything into a comedy. Not exactly stinging, was it?