The Green Hornet Review
I would never expect Seth Rogen and director Michel Gondry to come together for a superhero action flick, but weirder things have happened than a fat comedian and a French music video director working together. Stronger as a comedy than a superhero action flick, The Green Hornet is best watched with low expectations and appreciation for the outlandish. It's not even a bad flick: It's a goofy comedy vehicle for Seth Rogen, also allowing Taiwanese newcomer Jay Chou as Kato to shine as the Hornet's surprisingly entertaining (and capable) partner in vigilance.
For anyone who doesn't know, The Green Hornet is a radio/comic book hero in the same vein as Batman: a rich and smart vigilante. Rogen takes a slightly different skew on the source material, which took itself fairly serious. Instead of staunchly fighting crime and standing up for the rights of man, Rogen's version of The Green Hornet is about some spoiled rich kid acting out his superhero fantasies as a middle finger to his dead father.
But that's jumping ahead of ourselves. When Britt Reid's (Rogen) father apparently dies to a bee sting allergy, Britt is finally liberated from his domineering father and meets his family mechanic (and barista) Kato, in the process. Kato, (fantastically performed by Jay Chou) is just as bitter towards Reid's father, and together they team up to fight crime as The Green Hornet. Well, mostly it's Kato fighting crime with his awesome ability to see weapons as red and do kung-fu and drive an awesome car, but together they get the job done.
Leading up to the release of The Green Hornet, I've been interested to see how the film would address the Reid/Kato component. The original series painted Kato as Reid's compliant servant, which doesn't really fly nowadays. Director Michel Gondry (more known for his surreal and odd comedies) addresses this smartly, by portraying Reid and Kato's relationship as one of partners on equal footing where the servant issue becomes problematic. As a matter of fact, one primary plot point is their competition for the affections of Lenore (Cameron Diaz), Reid's smart and sexy secretary. While the treatment toward women isn't perfect, at least the relationship with Kato and Reid is somewhat progressive.
But when it comes to the actual crime fighting, the roles are reversed from the original. Kato is the capable martial arts master, as well as technological genius. He's the one who invents everything, and he's the one who modifies the car to withstand all of the silly acts of vigilance they perform. Reid is nothing more than an incompetent sidekick, providing laughs compared to Kato's abilities. Again, this is a buddy comedy, not really an superhero film full of angst, so it works.
Of course, any superhero film (even one played more for laughs than thrills) has to have a villain, and The Green Hornet has Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), a Russian gangster struggling to be relevant as an old school mobster in a new century. He's honestly an odd character with an eccentric accent and his transformation into “Bloodnofsky” is merely fodder for Reid and Kato to have something to do. Unlike other superhero flicks, the evil villain is entirely secondary to the two buddies having a good time, and the film doesn't make any grandiose arguments or have silly voice-over providing a deep meaningful ending. The Green Hornet is just a twist on the familiar buddy comedy, and it's pretty damn successful.
There's something to be said for the visuals as well. While the movie was filmed in 2D, it went through 3D conversion. Normally I hate these sort of effect (see Tron: Legacy), but something about The Green Hornet charmed me. Maybe it is because the film isn't so dark that the 3D effect made it unwatchable, or maybe it's because the 3D is noticeable in every scene, but I found it to be a nice addition to the movie. Hell, the closing credits are the best use of the effect I've seen, and that is not even relevant to the film. Gondry and crew deserve respect for making a decent conversion that is worth our time.
Ultimately, I liked the film. I found the relationship between Reid and Kato to be interesting, and a fresh take on what could have easily been a 21st century version of 1950's racism. The car and action sequences are exciting, and the movie is funny. It's nothing to blow people away, but I hope this is the stepping stone for the immensely likable Jay Chou, and I wouldn't mind seeing more from this franchise. The Green Hornet may not have a killer sting, but there is certainly some bite.