By Scott Martin
The Green Hornet, USA, 2011
Directed by Michel Gondry
It takes a certain kind of film to make me question the state of a genre. Certain horror movies make question the audiences that attend them, and certain movies that go on to win Oscars make me question the voters, but not since 1990’s Captain America (a horrid movie starring Matt Salinger as the first Avenger) have I sat down and thought about the state of a genre. I remember seeing that and being thankful that even after such a gigantic misfire we’re still allowed Batman movies and Spider-Man movies and even another Captain America film (which appears to be infinitely better). The Green Hornet, you should know, is one of those certain films – I’ve seen it twice now and both times I’ve thought to myself, “Is this the state of the superhero film? This is what we’ve come to?”
Michel Gondry, by all accounts, is an astonishing director; he’s a visionary. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the best films of the last ten or so years, andÂ far and away the best film of 2004. The Science of Sleep (2006)Â is gorgeous. The Green Hornet is misguided and full of itself, but I mostly blame Seth Rogen for that. Rogen co-wrote, co-produced, and stars as Britt Reid, our hero (?), who puts on a mask and a trenchcoat and fights crime by pretending to be a criminal. I have no problem with the story at all; I’m a fan of The Green Hornet series and radio show and all other incarnations thereof. However, seeing it brought to this shameless level makes me wonder why it had to be done in the first place. My guess is that it was solely designed as a vehicle for Rogen, which doesn’t even make any sense because audiences already know him. He’s famous, and can open a film on his own. I generally enjoy him, specifically in supporting roles – Knocked Up (2007)Â is the exception that proves the rule.
Britt Reid grew up with a strict father, played in two scenes by an age-defying Tom Wilkinson, who was the editor in chief of The Daily Sentinel, a newspaper which was going downhill. We meet Reid as a young boy who gets in schoolyard fights repeatedly, but always with good intentions. After Reid’s father is found dead twenty years later (and Wilkinson looks exactly the same age as twenty years before), Reid inherits the newspaper and takes control. While all of this is going on, a criminal mastermind named Chudnofsky (Cristoph Waltz)Â owns the city’s underground and takes out his competitors one by one. By the time Reid is all grown up, Chudnofsky has no competitors. He killed the last one in an opening scene (with a nice cameo from James Franco). Chudnofsky just wants people to think he’s scary. If he keeps killing everyone, though,Â soon no one will be left to fear him; I don’t think anyone told him that. Reid’s closest friend is a Chinese man named KatoÂ (Jay Chou),Â his father’s old auto-mechanic. Kato makes a damn fine cup of coffee, too.
In addition to missing a career as a star baristo, Kato is a martial arts freak of nature and modern weapons technician / expert. Part ofÂ the story hints at both Reid and Kato discovering their full potential, but any hint at an actual story is soon done away with to make room for large action sequences and needless dialogue. Waltz (who won the Best Supporting ActorÂ Oscar for Inglourious Basterds) plays Chudnofsky, and even he has trouble keeping things interesting; he’s never out-acted, of course, but he isn’t given too much to do. Cameron Diaz has an embarrassingly small role as Reid’s secretary and love interest, and is given the task of looking attractive and having a nice body.
There are, admittedly, a handful of worthwhile things about the film; nothing to go out of your way for, but you should know they’re there. If someone suggests watchingÂ a bad movie for the night, you can say, “How about The Green Hornet?” knowing there’s at least something to enjoy. Chou is loads of fun as Kato, and endlessly watchable, Waltz does the best he can with the paper-thinÂ character he’s given, and Franco’s cameoÂ alone is worth the price of admission. One more good thing, seeing as the film is coming to DVD soon, is that you won’t have to suffer through the 3D. Most 3D in films only serves the purpose of making the lighting dimmer, while most of the colors in The Green Hornet are green and black by default; the 3DÂ serves no purpose. The film winds up having no sting, but has toxin to spare – if you wind up wanting to see your hero have the crap kicked out of him, you know you’re watching a bad movie.
Contact the author: ScottMartin@MoviesIDidntGet.com