Friday, March 4, 2011

The Green Hornet (2011)

On paper, The Green Hornet had the potential to be something truly unique. A superhero film (of sorts) based on the 1940s radio serial of the same name, the script was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who had previously written Superbad and Pineapple Express. Rogen would also star in the film, and initially Hong Kong actor/director Stephen Chow signed on to direct and co-star as the Hornet's sidekick, Kato. However, Chow dropped out, and Michel Gondry signed on to take his place (Jay Chou took the part of Kato). This was the film's promise: a delightfully quirky director plus a script from a pair of comedy writers plus Rogen's unconventional casting foretold a one-of-a-kind superhero film that could subvert the genre. To top it all off, Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) was cast as the villain, Chudnofsky.

Unfortunately, the film did not deliver on that promise. Rogen is Britt Reed, the son of a wealthy newspaper man who inherits his father's paper when he mysteriously dies. Britt's a rowdy party boy, though, unprepared for the challenges of running a newspaper. When he discovers that his father's assistant, Kato, is a supergenius inventor with a knack for martial arts, he decides to help both the paper and the city by fighting crime through committing crimes, under the moniker of...the Green Hornet. Things go awry, though, when kingpin Chudnofsky decides to fight back, starting a vicious crime war.

There are several problems with the film. The first is that there's no real difference between Britt Reed and every other character that Rogen has ever played. He's a self-centered frat boy with an easy-going, responsibility-dodging demeanor, and it doesn't make Reed an interesting, or even believable or likable character. This is also very much a boys-club, with Cameron Diaz representing the women and she's only here to be gawked at. But Waltz is deliciously villainous, clearly embracing the ridiculousness of the film and rolling with it. And Chou does charm, but his character is nowhere near engaging enough for anyone to really care.

The film's biggest problem, though, is fundamental: its an action-comedy that doesn't know how to combine the two. The tone shifts wildly, as a scene of straight comedy transitions immediately into an explosive action scene without any warning. And the two are always mutually exclusive, with few attempts to mix comedy into the action and vice versa. Its frustrating, and wears thin very quickly, especially since the film is not particularly funny or exciting. Rogen coasts through the movie, and though it got a few laughs out of me, there was never enough to call it a successful comedy. And the action scenes are over-the-top violent, with an unexpectedly high and gruesome death toll. Gondry does include a few imaginative moments, such as the way Kato sees during combat, but for the most part he plays it straight, a disappointing and uncharacteristic move on his part.  The rote storytelling does nothing to help the film as well.

Ultimately, The Green Hornet fails to deliver on its potential. Its a mess of a movie, not completely unsalvagable but certainly more disappointing than not. The Green Hornet wasn't really necessary, and proved that maybe its time for Rogen to start diversifying his roles. This same-old schtick won't carry him forever.


Rachel [ f.g.i. ] said...

This movie was horrible. Even the amazing Christophe Waltz couldn't save it. Nice review!

DEZMOND said...

I think we all knew the film would gonna be horrible when they came up with the "brilliant" idea of putting Rogen in the role of a superhero!!! :)