Film Review: The Green Hornet
The Green Hornet
Director: Michel Gondry (2011)
Allowing your film to be placed in a triple DVD box set alongside Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, is only describable as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the sublime story telling of the former, and uniquely ambitious approach of the latter, are in themselves, enough to guarantee sales, on the other hand, you film will inevitably find itself the subject of a review scrutinising how it measures up to the quality of its companions. Being the cool cat who purchased said box set, (from crappy supermarket no less), I feel I’m in a suitable position to write said review, first though, how about some arbitrary questions;
Is The Green Hornet as good as Kick-Ass or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World?
Is The Green Hornet as enjoyable as Kick-Ass or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World?
Is The Green Hornet enjoyable?
Are you going to spend the rest of this review explaining that somewhat vague and indefinite answer?
Yeah baby, you know it!
Are you going to stop being stupid?
The Green Hornet is a film starring Seth Rogen, (who, incidentally jointly wrote the screenplay) and directed by Michel Gondry. So straight away the biggest potential problem with The Green Hornet is it’s a film starring Seth Rogen and directed by Michel Gondry. Gondry is the somewhat polarising, ‘visionary’, behind the likes of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind, some interesting short films and about a million music videos, while Seth Rogen is best known for playing a loveable stoner version of himself in titles like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Schindler’s List………… I mean Pineapple Express. So if you’ve seen those films, you can probably outline the entire plot in about five minutes.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed the few Gondry films I’ve seen, they’ve tended to look amazing, (see Eternal Sunshine or any of his million music videos), but I will say the pacing has been somewhat wayward. Be Kind Rewind for example, had some wonderful comedy arising from the genius concept of ‘sweded films’, but a hell of a lot of what I can only describe as slow filler. For a lot of it, nothing anyone did made sense or had any relevance to the ending, which sort of made the whole story a bit pointless. Likewise, Rogen’s characters have tended, (and there are notable exceptions) to be charming, intelligent and kind rogues who start out lazy, but eventually see the error of their apathetic ways, finishing by settling down with whatever ridiculously attractive Hollywood actress has been cast as generic nice girl who sees past appearance and poverty.
The Green Hornet is a good example of the pros and cons of these two forces at work. There’s an odd, somewhat disjointed pacing to the plot, events and character decisions that make little sense, and an annoying stoner/slacker version of Seth Rogen at his laziest, which is ironic, because he probably looks in better shape in this film than anything I’ve seen him in not called Fanboys. In reverse though, there’s a sleek shine to the whole thing, and despite some characters making absolutely ludicrous decisions, the main cast feels well observed. Even the supporting characters feel fairly real, and, with the exception of Cameron Diaz, who I’ll come to later, pretty entertaining. The biggest question mark over Hornet lays elsewhere, so instead, here, slightly later than usual, is Sam’s patented plot summary, because I loves me a formulaic approach in my film reviews.
The premise is decent, even if very 1930’s radio show, which the historian in me needs to pretentiously inform you, is how Hornet started life. Britt Reid (Rogen) is the spoilt, slacker son of a neglectful newspaper tycoon not named Rupert Murdoch. He gets thrust into the world of politics when said tycoon dies. Said tycoon had, amongst his many servants, a Chinese immigrant named Kato (Jay Chou), who can fix/modify cars, make perfect coffee, do science andddddddddddddddddddddddd is a martial arts expert. Upon discovery of Kato’s talents, Reid promptly does what any self-respecting westerner would, and takes advantage of Kato’s culture in order to fight crime, have sex and wear a mask. So, in a #shudders before using the term# ‘pimped out’ #shudders again# car, the two set about fighting crime across the city.
The twist that caused me to use the adjective ‘decent’ in the first line of my previous paragraph, is that The Green Hornet, or rather Reid and Kato portraying themselves as a single entity called The Green Hornet, pretend(s) to be a villain, Reid’s logic being that bad guys don’t have to fear heroes. Heroes, he theorizes, are bound by a strict moral code that can be exploited, allowing bad guys to take hostages and easily trap good guys in the resulting trade off. Presumably, this means that this updated version of Green Hornet is set in an alternate modern day where; The Punisher, John McClane, Rorschach, V, Eric Draven, Omar, Jesse Custer, Oh Dae-Su, Altaϊr, Snake Plissken, Dexter Morgan, Hamlet, Duke Nukem, Raylain Givens, Harry Callahan, John Constantine, Chev Chelios, Max Payne, Jack Bauer, Vic Mackay, Deadpool, Jack Carter, Han Solo, Lēon, The Shadow, Alucard, Dante, Malcolm Reynolds and Crash Bandicoot, never existed.
Using the newspaper inherited from his father, Reid and Kato set about creating a buzz behind this new ‘villainous persona’, which brings them into conflict with the actual crime lord of generic city, Chudnofsky (Christopher Waltz). Oh, and at one point Reid hires the girl next door version of Cameron Diaz to be his secretary, leading to an incredibly tenuous love triangle between himself, Diaz and Kato, blah blah blah blah blah.
Summary over, here’s what’s good about The Green Hornet……………………………Christopher Waltz. As crime kingpin Chudnofsky, Waltz steals the show, beginning with an almost perfectly pitched introduction, in which Chudnofsky faces down Danny Clear (A very entertaining James Franco not playing an idiot scientist with a pet ape), a meth dealing challenger to the title of crime lord of generic city. I found myself waiting for more Chudnofsky, he’s just an awesome, awesome character, also, as mentioned, Hornet looks great, plus there’s some pretty well executed action scenes. Finally, there’s an effect that I’ll name Kato Vision, which is slick, effective, and would make a terminator jealous.
Right, next I’ll go into what’s not so good about Hornet, and finish with the big problem that I’ve cunningly prepared you for with hints in previous sentences. Initiating the not so good; a lot of Hornet doesn’t really make any sense, this could still work, the problem is, there’s too much of Hornet that crossed from making no sense, into the realm of incredible inanity. Here’s where I bring in Cameron Diaz’s character, Lenore Case; Lenore spends her time being perved on by her boss, doing her bosses work for him or dealing with the Green Hornet, and yet, all she ever does is smile and nod. She shows absolutely no interest in actually understanding what’s going on, which, when Reid is at his most sleazy, makes her about as reactive as a half melted mannequin under tarpaulin. She stands like an idiot, smiles and through her inaction, suggests it’s the most natural thing in the world to have your boss make inappropriate comments about your breasts, or argue and start whispering to his Chinese assistant, halfway through a conversation with you. A moron could see that Reid has something to hide, but then that would ruin some of the slacker comedy, and make Reid look like a bit of a jackass, so it’s easier to leave Lenore as an incredibly boring, one dimensional character who shows no progression. I want to emphasise I don’t blame miss Cameron herself for this, she’s a talented actress given the chance, I mean, this is the woman whose performance saved Vanilla Sky, bad Penelope Cruz in Tom Cruise wet dream version, not the good crazy Penelope Cruz version.
The not so good goes further than Diaz’s character, you see, with the exception of Waltz’s Chudnofsky, (who takes the understandable step of changing his name to Bloodnofsky), every character demonstrates this same lack of progression. The bumbling slacker Reid you meet at the beginning of Hornet, is, in terms of personality, identical to the masked, bumbling slacker you finish the film with, meaning he hasn’t learnt a thing. Likewise Kato, already an awesome fighting machine in the beginning, shows, apart from a slight aversion to swimming, (which plays no part in any major confrontation with the bad guys), not the slightest sign of weakness, and every other character is, well, every other character is pretty one dimensional to begin with, no one develops, no one seems to learn a thing, no one improves themselves. It kinda makes me feel like I wasted my time watching, if no one’s learning anything or developed, why bother watching till the end? I should just watch 5 minutes and leave it there, because ultimately, everything that happened meant next to nothing.
There’s an early scene I want to examine to emphasise my point. Reid’s tycoon father not called Rupert Murdoch, dies and the first action Reid takes, is to fire all of his dad’s staff. Except you don’t actually see Reid fire all his dad’s staff, you just hear about it from an inexplicably not fired maid, when Reid complains to her about his coffee not being made. This does lead to a scene where Reid meets and then rehires exploitable Kato, who doesn’t seem to give two shits he was just fired, so that’s progression in one way I guess, but this could so easily have been a great scene. If we’d seen Reid step out of his father’s shadow, then within a matter of minutes, we could get have gotten some idea of the differences that had existed between Reid and his father, witnessed the moment where Reid begins to transform from spoilt slacker son, into a man finally in charge of his own destiny and finally got sense of Reid finding a true friend. Instead, we hear about this event through expository dialogue between Reid and a maid who’s never seen again, just so we can watch a scene where Reid and Kato drink and get stoned in the back of a nice looking car. It’s just sort of wasteful, and shows no real interest in plot progression.
I’ll accept this isn’t a problem unique to The Green Hornet, which is a nice thing to admit, a nice thing to admit which nicely segues in to my big problem with Hornet; There’s nothing new or unique about this film. Why Hornet is describable as, ‘enjoyable…………………sort of’, is that while there are some entertaining moments, all of them are direct lifts from other films. Everything in Hornet, from the plot, to the comedy, to the action, to the dialogue, to the Mathews bridge, has been done before, and I don’t mean, ‘ a theme explored in a different way’ done before, or a Tarantino ‘homage’, done before, I mean done, exactly the same way, before. Every word, action or reaction that Rogen’s character’s does, has been seen a million times in other Rogen films. Cameron Diaz has played that smiling girl next door in exactly the same way before, and every plot twist has been done a million times. There’s even a scene where Kato and Reid, suited up, cruise around in their car doing a silly dance wile an urban tune blares out the stereo, exactly like the one in Kick-Ass, between Kick-Ass and Red Mist. Rule of thumb, if there’s a, very likely better film out there, that has a scene exactly like one in your own film; don’t put it in a fucking box set with said film.
The major problem with The Green Hornet, is it’s effectively a trace of other films, which, paradoxically means, the more Rogen/Gondry/Waltz/Diaz/Superhero films you’ve seen, the less likely you’ll enjoy Hornet, and vice versa. I wish I could be more positive about the whole thing, because there are a lot worse films out there, but I can’t, so I’m not gonna force it, instead I’ll leave you with the immortal words of my Torquay born housemate who watched/suffered Hornet with me. Words spoken spoken as soon as the end credits rolled……..
‘I’m not sure if I liked that’
Written By Sam ‘I considers Crash Bandicoot the yard stick by which all other anti-heroes should be judged’ McKinstrie
Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP
See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions
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