The Green Hornet (2011)

Posted in Reviews by - December 19, 2014
The Green Hornet (2011)

During the two-decade development hell of bringing this radio show superhero to the big screen – which included involvement from five major studios and innumerable script writers, plus escalating budgets and casting alterations – it was announced that Jay & Silent Bob director Kevin Smith would take the helm. Yet, quite incongruously, it is music video and pop art extraordinaire Michel Gondry who settles into the director’s chair – the man responsible for the spellbinding Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The frat-boy popcorn nature of the film does little to suggest Gondry’s stamp but rather the remnants of Smith, channeled through the boyish pen of Seth Rogen. This is just one of the many confounding problems with this movie.

Sony then further delayed the release of the film to retrofit some turgid 3D effects. The script – which feels processed to within an inch of its life – attempts to capitalise on the spirit of superhero game-changer Kick-Ass, but feels less organic and more self-conscious. Here, the knockabout comedy is out-of-sync with the superhero set up, which is certainly not an accusation one could throw at Kick-Ass. And the cast are simply straight-jacketed: Seth Rogen reprising his man-child persona from his other films; Christophe Waltz reprising Inglorious Basterds, only with less conviction; and Cameron Diaz reprising, well, Cameron Diaz.

The film deserves acknowledgment for its handling of the dated and dubious nature of a Chinese sidekick. Kato is the Green Hornet’s chauffeur – he is also a weapons expert and a kung fu fighting confidant. The original character helped to popularise Chinese martial arts among western audiences, but the idea has since been parodied innumerable times, most notably in the Pink Panther films. The much-maligned Kato became synonymous with Bruce Lee after he played the role in a short-lived, campy 1960s TV version, created as a spin-off to the original Batman series.

Taiwanese pop singer Jay Chou plays the role offered to Jason Scott Lee, Jet Li and Stephen Chow before him, and manages to conjure up a mildly convincing sense of buddy camaraderie in a Rush Hour meets Wallace & Gromit kind of way, despite this being his first English-speaking role. Rogen provides the film’s ‘charm’ – the effectiveness of which is relative to how charming you find Seth Rogen. He plays Britt Reid, the egotistical son of a murdered media tycoon who utilises his deceased father’s LA newspaper as a means of glorifying his own exploits as a rather clueless, masked crime fighter. Along with his trusty valet Kato, the two eventually disturb the activities of the city’s main drug baron, Chudnofsky, a Russian with an inferiority complex. The buddies ride in the Black Beauty, a bulletproof car which can change colour, eject rockets from the front spoiler and steel spokes from the hubcaps. The Black Beauty predates the Batmobile – a fact that seems somewhat irrelevant now.

The film tries sincerely to stay true to the source but with so many factors pulling in different directions, the resulting film is cumbersome and muddled. This hornet has lost its sting.

AKA: The Green Hornet 3D

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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