Thursday, 25 August 2011

Film Review: The Green Hornet

On paper this film shouldn't fail. It's got Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Edward James Olmos and Christoph Waltz. Indeed, the very name Seth Rogen would ordinarily create a buzz of excitement. Unfortunately while The Green Hornet isn't an abject failure, it is however a disappointment and an example of spurned talent.

Britt Reid (Rogen) is your quintessential example of directionless youth. When his stern father (Wilkinson) suffers an unexpected death, the bored billionaire playboy teams up with servant Kato (Chou) - also a gadget maker extraordinaire and martial artist expert - to take on crime using the unique guise of pretending to be criminals themselves.

Interestingly while sharing many similarities to the background of one Bruce Wayne, the Green Hornet actually predates Batman. It even had its own TV show in the sixties featuring Van Williams as the Hornet and one Bruce Lee as Kato. While Rogen doesn't quite drag this into the same farcical realms of his other works (Pineapple Express, Superbad), his role as a screenwriter can definitely be detected as he injects his effusive humour on proceedings. Ostensibly, the teaming of Rogen and director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) would constitute some sort of a dream team. Unfortunately Gondry's attempts to influence events doesn't quite sit in the action genre where the story feels a little higgledy-piggledy. Indeed, there's a lot going on in The Green Hornet, maybe too much. While it is energetic, the numerous different genres of comic book, buddy-up, action, romance etc just seem a little all over the place, none of which fully hold the audience's attention.

Rogen's Britt Reid is a bit like Bruce Wayne would be if he were to act like Russell Brand's Arthur. He barely displays any redeeming features and doesn't really grow all that much as a character. He is selfish to the point where even his motivations to fight crime come from alcohol-infused boredom, atypical to the sort of alturism or even vengeful dispositions of your typical comic book hero. On the one hand it's what makes The Green Hornet different, yet it still doesn't make the character particularly likeable. This is where his sidekick Kato steals the show with an aura of quiet confidence. The Taiwanese popstar, Chou, is probably the most appealing part of this film - a proverbial swiss army knife with unrivalled mechanical and martial arts skill. You wonder what the hell he's been doing serving as one of Reid's servants. However, despite his appeal Chou is scarcely intelligible to the point where subtitles might have been helpful. Unfortunately many parts with potential, such as Christoph Waltz's villain Chudnofsky, are relegated to a curiosity. His gimmick is that despite being the baddest mutha in all LA, no one finds him scary. So affected is he by this that the otherwise ruthless villain experiences a midlife crisis and embarks on a quest to reinvent himself in order to gain the respect he feels he deserves. While the idea could have worked the part is poorly written, much like Cameron Diaz's secretary Lenore Case and Olmos' Chief Editor Mike Axford at Britt's paper, The Daily Sentinel.

Overall The Green Hornet isn't 'that bad', but it doesn't glue together very well either. While reasonably endearing, it is also flawed in the sense that is feels a tad overdrawn and represents a bit of a wasted opportunity as some big talent feels completely underwritten. It's lengthy and convoluted screenplay unfortunately serves to erase the good work it does in other places. If only The Green Hornet chopped a few needless moments here, a few there, and honed its focus, it could have had much more sting. As it stands there are a lot of good points interspersed throughout which save this from pure direness thus it would be unfair to call The Green Hornet a complete disaster.