The Green Hornet (2011) – movie review

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Movie review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz, Edward Furlong, Tom Wilkinson, Edward James Olmos, Robert Clotworthy, Emily Hahn, Jay Chou
Director: Michel Gondry

GREEN HORNET comes with a mixed heritage. It has been touted as a major film for a while and passed through a number of writers and directors and this mixed heritage shows.

It stars Seth Rogen as Britt Reid, the spoilt playboy who becomes the Green Hornet through a combination of chance and boredom. The “sidekick” role, played in the 60’s TV series by Bruce Lee, goes to Jay Chou, mostly unknown in the West, but a massive pop star in most of Asia. Rogen wrote the script along with Evan Goldberg, his collaborator on SUPERBAD and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. And then we get the real wild card, the director is Michel Gondry, whose previous films include BE KIND REWIND and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, whose films are known for visual imagination but more so for their weirdness.

So with all these competing influences, it comes as little surprise that GREEN HORNET is a bit of mash-up, but this is not necessarily a criticism. It is a mash-up that does what all good mash-ups should do, including all the elements of the original and somehow creating something new and different.

The biggest influence on the finished film is that of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Green Hornet is really a “Superbad”-hero film! The dialogue and the character of Britt Reid are pure Rogen and his character could be the same one he has played in KNOCKED UP etc. The dialogue is typical slacker speak but it works well here and the banter between Reid and Kato is pretty amusing, even if sometimes Chou’s accent is a little difficult to understand.

GREEN HORNET doesn’t quite have the originality of some other Gondry projects although it certainly isn’t dull looking and he proves to be a good director of action especially in the exciting last half hour when the Hornet and Kato face off against the villains (including a nicely balanced bad guy in Christoph Waltz from INGLORIOUS BASTERDS).

One obvious visual trick is Kato-Vision — where we see Kato slow down time and assess and attack groups of thugs. It works well, isn’t over flashy and more importantly isn’t over used so it keeps its freshness. If Jay Chou doesn’t always seem comfortable with the dialogue, he proves a more than capable action hero.

The other visual trick is less successful. The 3D here adds very little to the film and in fact detracts from some of the action sequences.

Also less successful is Cameron Diaz in a part so miniscule and badly drawn that she may as well not have turned up for work. Her part is there to add some tension to the bromance between Reid and Kato but by the time she appears, she is already superfluous.

It’s not to everyone’s taste and if it had been released this summer, it would have been lost amongst the glut of other superhero movies. But despite its faults this is a witty and visually exciting film, that tries to be a little less serious than many of the superhero films recently, but is just as enjoyable.

4 out of 6 stars