Michel Gondry directs The Green Hornet, the long-gestating superhero action-comedy based on the classic pulp, TV and radio hero. Seth Rogen plays the title role of dissolute media heir Britt Reid, who finds his true calling after his stern father, Daily Sentinel publisher James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), dies. Partnering with a former employee of his family's estate, the enigmatic and multi-talented Kato (pop star Jay Chou), Britt and Kato don masks to fight crime as The Green Hornet and ... Kato. (His lack of a superhero sobriquet is a running joke in the movie.)
What makes Green Hornet and Kato different from other superheroes is that they pose as villains in order to get closer to the criminals they're out to bust. But what starts as a prank snowballs into something much more dangerous when they take on the city's underworld boss, Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), a gangster having a midlife crisis who is determined to, well, squash the Hornet and his partner.
There's been such a dark cloud over this film for so long and the buzz has generally been so negative that The Green Hornet really had nowhere to go but up. As it turns out, The Green Hornet is actually pretty damn good fun. Rogen, who co-wrote the movie with Evan Goldberg, explores and pokes fun at the conventions of the superhero-sidekick dynamic, much as Without a Clue presented a partnership where Dr. Watson was actually better at crime-fighting than Sherlock Holmes was. Britt Reid and Kato live in the 'real world," a contemporary Los Angeles where everybody is aware of superhero comics and movies and just sort of inherently understands all their tropes.
- Columbia Pictures
Click for more images from The Green Hornet.
The heart of the film, as it is with all buddy flicks, is the relationship between the partner-protagonists. Rogen and Chou have great chemistry together, and the film's flattest moments are when the two aren't onscreen together. Britt is an a-hole who is almost oblivious to just how much of an a-hole he is, while Kato is so damn cool that he's damn near superhuman (Britt calls him a human Swiss Army knife). Kato can build cars, weaponry, drive like a bandit, fight like hell, and make a great cup of coffee.
Kato's the real superhero here, but is destined to be the unsung second banana. In some ways, it's as if the writers split Tony Stark into two characters, with Britt being the glib, hard-drinking playboy to Kato's mechanical genius and badass. Rogen might consistently get the biggest laughs in the film, but it's Chou and Waltz who steal the show.
Unfortunately, Cameron Diaz is just sort of there (apparently merely for star power) as Lenore Case, Britt's new secretary who unwittingly becomes the brains of Green Hornet and Kato's crimefighting operation. The overly serious Edward James Olmos is not very effective as Mike Axford, the day-to-day boss of the Sentinel. It's as if he doesn't realize what type of film he's in.
More Green Hornet Videos
Gondry's made his most commercially accessible film to date, but that doesn't mean he hasn't put his own distinctly visceral spin on things, with Kato Vision -- the video game-meets-Predator style of target acquisition Kato employs in fights -- being the biggest visual standout. The 3D is only truly effective in the Kato Vision scenes and the end credits. Otherwise, seeing it in 2D is fine.
Gondry delivers several fun action set-pieces, the most noteworthy being the first time we see Kato Vision, a hilarious brotherly brawl between the two heroes, and the entire last act battle royale at The Daily Sentinel that tops the Kryptonian invasion of The Daily Planet in Superman II. The heroes' tricked-out car, The Black Beauty, is another source of action-packed fun, the ultimate boy toy that would make Batman and 007, ahem, green with envy.
While it may not ultimately prove memorable enough to launch a new film franchise, The Green Hornet is still a fun action-comedy and clever superhero satire that's about as close to a cool summer movie as you're going to get in the dead of winter.