The Green Hornet represents a pretty big shot in the arm to the recent crop of self-serious superhero films. While those films like reflect on the problems of the times, The Green Hornet is really only interested in having fun, satirizing the genre, and packing in plenty of over-the-top action. While the package as a whole never truly strikes a consistent tone, the boundless energy, surprisingly irreverent dialogue, and creative action sequences carry the day.
Seth Rogen stars as Britt Reid, son of newspaper tycoon James Reid (Wilkinson). He’s a spoiled twenty-something who’s done next to nothing with his life, but lives in the lap of luxury. When James suddenly dies under mysterious circumstances, Britt inherits the newspaper. Impatient and clueless, Britt fires everybody, including Kato (Chou), his late father’s number one assistant. Like Britt, Kato has never found a way to truly channel his talents, which are many. When Britt and Kato stop a robbery one night, the two find themselves an unlikely crime-fighting duo – and creators of headlines for the newspaper.
Director Michel Gondry and the screenwriting team of Rogen and Evan Goldberg have gone for broke here, throwing action scenes and crazy dialogue at us as if it were their last film ever. The dialogue is funny and refreshingly incisive about the genre, mocking conventions and stereotypes. At its core The Green Hornet is a satire, and a pretty effective one. The action scenes are creative, well-shot, and absolutely ridiculous. The viewer should best be prepared for bodies and cars to be flying everywhere. A multi-screen tracking shot by Gondry is the highlight from a directorial standpoint, and Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz has some great scenes as the villain.
Seth Rogen continues to improve as an actor, but his Britt Reid has kind of a reverse character tolerance arc. He’s a blast in the film’s hyper first thirty minutes, but into the third act the hit-and-miss one-liners wear out their welcome and Reid starts to become an annoyance. Chou is perfect as the foil, however. With a knack for dry humor and impressive martial arts skills, Chou excels as Kato. Cameron Diaz, as Britt secretary, isn’t given a whole lot do. Her character bogs down the story in several spots, but she does what she can with the thinly-written role.
It remains to be seen how Green Hornet purists will react to this take on the character, but for the casual superhero action film moviegoer, it delivers. It’s a welcome reprieve from the seriousness the genre has experienced over the past year or two and is one of the best satires of the genre to be seen. The creative dialogue and sheer craziness of the action scenes makes up for the narrative shortcomings. A nice, early surprise for 2011.
Note: The Green Hornet has been given the dreaded post-production 3D treatment. Like recent offerings, such as The Last Airbender and Clash of the Titans, the 3D experience is pretty dismal and can easily be skipped in favor of saving a few bucks.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 108 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content.
Theatrical Release: January 14, 2011
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Written by: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg. Based upon the radio series by George W. Trendle.
Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Christoph Waltz