Unreal Movie Review: The Green Hornet

It’s January. It’s cold and any movie playing in theaters is more than likely not going to be worth the frigid trek to the theater. Saying something is the most promising film in this time of year, where studios tend to dump their turds in a month-high pile, isn’t exactly high praise, but Green Hornet does have that honor this year.

Between Season of the Witch, The Dilemma, No Strings Attached and many more, The Green Hornet looks like a relative oasis, but with a history of production problems that have resulted in several cast and director shifts, it wasn’t clear how cohesive of a work this would end up being.

The final team we got together was led by Michel Gondry, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind, Rewind, and nothing even close to a movie in the action genre. The star is the highly overexposed Seth Rogen as The Hornet, who seemed determined to show off his new svelt(ish) physique more than anything else, and the all-important role of Kato was handed to an actor completely unknown to America, Jay Chou.

But all these low expectations gathered around and did something truly magical. The Green Hornet is a good film, and not just “good for January” but it’s a legitimately funny, entertaining flick, which is something that most of us didn’t see coming at all.

The Green Hornet didn’t need to be dropped here from another planet, or watch his parents die in front of him in order to motivate him on his hero’s quest, rather his genesis is inspired by little more than pure boredom. A lazy rich kid who has just lost his father and has no interest in running his media empire (Seth Rogen) befriends the servant in his house who makes a mean cup of coffee, and also happens to know how to build military grade assault vehicles and practices every form of martial arts known to man (Jay Chou). They decide they’re fed up with wasting their potential, and using Britt’s massive amount of money and Kato’s numerous talents, the duo become superheroes.

Being a hero is a tough business however, and the pair aren’t quite sure where to start. They have journalism grad and Britt’s new secretary Lenore (Cameron Diaz) fill them in on how a criminal upstart like the Green Hornet might rise to power, and then they go and act out her predicted crimes after hours, secretly knowing they’re the good guys all along.

Soon they bump up against the kind of man they’re trying to get to, a real criminal boss, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) who is perturbed with their devastation of his empire, but more so that their cool moniker, car and costumes are getting more attention than he is. Britt uses his newly acquired newspaper to turn the town into a frenzy for the Hornet, but as the duo rise in fame, they’re driven apart by jealousy and their mutual affection for Lenore.

We’ve already had one major attempt at “everyman superheroes” in the past year, and that was the much beloved Kick-Ass, appreciated by critics and fans alike. Green Hornet has some big shoes to fill with a similar premise, and when it could have easily failed, it’s slick visuals and smart script actually save it from disaster.

The film is funny, thanks mainly to the script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Even if Rogen has been overexposed during the last few years, the man did blow up for a reason, and he does know funny. The dynamic is great between his character and Jay Chou’s Kato, who uses his foreign accent and ass-kicking abilities to great comedic effect in way that reminds me of Jackie Chan a decade or two ago. Rogen is his usual slacker asshat self here, but at times he’s annoying to the point of being annoying. Like, past how irritating his character is meant to be to other characters, and moving into pissing off the audience itself.

But more often than not he reigns it in, and is able to lead a film that is at the same time real and out of this world. The premise is based in reality, but the action is often not, thanks to Kato’s video game-like ability to slow time and single out his assailants weapons before launching into a fury of boots and fists. The action is often unrelenting, but it’s well choreographed, and they really did find a way to make an old, old hero (Green Hornet started as a radio serial) seem fresh and modern.

Part of this is due to the direction of Michel Gondry, who always seemed like a strange pick for this project. He gives scenes more dimensions than they would have had under a more mainstream director, and every so often his signature visual wackiness shines through. It can feel a bit out of place though, as when “Gondry-isms” do pop up, they don’t always jive with the flow of the film, and it’s like he throws them in there just to make sure you remember he’s directing.

The Green Hornet is a thoroughly enjoyable film. With a shit release date and a whole bunch of baggage, the movie overcomes all its obstacles to be a solid entry in a genre that’s slowly being beaten to death. It proves Gondry has range, Rogen still has comedy smarts, and Jay Chou just might have a future in American cinema.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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  1. I thought the action was decent, and it made me laugh more than expected (sexual innuendos!), but a lot of times the dialog seemed, I don’t know, forced? Out of place? It felt kind of weird. I give it a B minus. Maybe I’m just not used to seeing decent movies in January. Also, Christoph Waltz stole the show for me, again. Get that guy in more movie pictures!

  2. Good review….twas a decent action film with average-good 3D effects but it was the fact that it was the laughs that saved it from being laughed at…that and Hans Landa

  3. I’m so happy Jay Chou managed to break into the American audience. I was in China a few years ago and he’s akin to musical Jesus over there. Also, sha-wing!

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