Film Review: The Green Hornet

2010 – 119mn – 12A

Directed by Michel Gondry. Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Edward James Olmos. Review by Walter Nichols.


Created in the 1930s for radio, The Green Hornet was one of the more clever serials the genre has seen: debonair newspaperman Britt Reid turns into masked vigilante the Green Hornet by night, assisted by his trusty confidante, friend, and martial-art expert Kato; the spin being that the Hornet and Kato posed as villains, enabling them to draw criminals and racketeers out of the Underworld to be exposed. The Green Hornet would pose as a possible ally (or rival) of the gangsters, provoke them into compromising themselves, and deliver them to the police while all the while, in the eyes of the public, remaining a criminal on the run himself. As a further twist on the superhero genre, in The Green Hornet the sidekick was the real hero: Britt Reid was intelligent but often hapless; whereas Kato, beyond his fighting skills, also devised and drove their gadget-filled car, the Black Beauty, and was often relied on to bail Reid out of danger. When the show was adapted for television in the 1960s, the Green Hornet was played by little-known Van Williams – while Kato gave cult icon Bruce Lee his breakout role.

This week's film adaptation comes with a pedigree incredibly well-suited to the material’s quirky background. Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (writers of Superbad and The Pineapple Express) and directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), the film stars Rogen as an updated version of Britt Reid, now a careless slacker who, after the death of his father, has to take on the family newspaper and return it to its former glory – while transforming into the Green Hornet at night. Kato is the brains as well as the muscle and gadget wiz behind the operation, and there’s more than a whiff of bromance to their relationship. Their foe: an Eastern European gangster by the name of Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), who conveniently runs all of Los Angeles's gangs.

It all sounds reasonably good, so it’s even more crushing that the film is such a disappointment. Rogen is a competent (if self-indulgent) improviser and writer, but he's a poor actor, and his Gen Y smugness makes him an uncomfortably unlikeable leading man. Reid should be an infuriating but well-meaning doofus. Rogen makes him a boorish, tiring oaf. He and Goldberg have also turned in a lazy, inane script; and director Gondry lends it none of his usual invention. Christoph Waltz is the only relief, but even his character – a mentally unstable egomaniac – is only an uninspired play on his Inglorious Basterds Nazi. Add sub-par CGI, poorly cut fight scenes, and bad 3D effects (much of the time the film looks like two badly-lit projections sumperimposed), and the result is a forgettable, only occasionally entertaining missed opportunity.

Star rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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