The Green Hornet


Reviewed by: Martin Gray

The Green Hornet
"What we get insults the intelligence - no one would follow Britt Reid into a donut shop, never mind a life or death battle."

What makes a hero? A big heart? A desire to use his or her natural gifts for the greater good?

Not in this update of the pulp masked hero - Britt Reid becomes The Green Hornet, scourge of the LA underworld, because he's a bit bored.

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Son of crusading newspaper publisher James Reid, Britt barely notices when his father dies suddenly, supposed victim of an allergic reaction to a bee. He does get excited when he finds out that the morning brew he loves comes courtesy of a custom coffee machine made by his dad's mechanic, Kato.

He soon learns that Kato is an all-round mechanical genius and martial artist, and comes up with an idea - have Kato drive him to the graveyard to desecrate his father's memorial statue, in disguise. Nice.

On a more positive note, Britt spots a mugging outside the graveyard and tries to help the victims, despite being seriously out of his depth. Happily, Kato helps out/saves his flabby arse and the pair are soon zooming home down the highway. Rather too fast, which attracts the attention of a patrol car. Do they up the speed further, and get away? Nope, they try to force the policeman off the road, the cop, understandably, pulls his gun... and they unleash their auto's Ben Hur wheel spikes, destroying the patrol car and causing it to crash, tumbling over.

You might expect Britt and Kato to have a few regrets, but no, the incident is presented as fun, and cool. As with the graveyard vandalism, the audience is invited to cheer some pretty scummy behaviour. Hey, it's just lads 'aving a larf. When we see events reported in the newspaper Britt's inherited, the graveyard business is on the front page, but there's no mention of the car chase and probably dead policeman. No, the whole city is talking about the lime-clad stranger seen in the cemetery who is soon nicknamed The Green Hornet.

Which gives Britt a buzz. He decides that he and Kato should go out and fight crime every night, instilling fear into the underworld by pretending to be criminals (er, they ARE criminals). Soon they come to the attention of crime kingpin Chudnofsky, survive his assassination attempt, have a massive fallout, and so on. It's probably not a big spoiler to say the boys make up, though they most decidedly do not kiss.

Heck no, this film can barely float the idea of the 'heroes' touching in a manly manner, that would be soooo gay. They do touch in an angry manner though, with their fall-out resulting in an impressively staged fight scene that's more funny than thrilling. The spirit of Buster Keegan is alive and well in this knockabout drama, but it's the spirit of executive producer, co-writer and star Seth Rogen that dominates. His Britt has moments when decency shows through, but for 90 per cent of the movie he's a gigantic arse - self-regarding, sexist, ageist and very, very dumb. Rogen may have lost a lot of weight for the part, but his character would fit into Superbad and Knocked Up with ease. Even with Kato by his side, Rogen's Green Hornet wouldn't survive an hour on the dark streets of inner city LA.

And I certainly didn't want him to - Britt is the most annoying 'hero' I've seen in a long time and had he perished at the hands of Chudnofsky I'd have been cheering. That said, the two attempts on the Green Hornet's life - one on a building site, the other in the newspaper's print plant - are the highlights of the film ... fast-moving, dramatic and outlandish without getting too silly.

Jay Chou's Kato is more likeable, but after a short time in Britt's company he's almost come down to his boss' level. Given film trickery, it's hard to know how many of Kato's moves are Chou's, but he certainly looks the part - Bruce Lee, the most famous screen Kato, is smiling somewhere.

If you can tell a hero by his villains, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) is perfect for the Green Hornet. All LA criminals answer to him, but - aside from in a superb opening scene - the man is presented as a moron, desperate for his own colourful motif to make him seem more fearsome.

The ever-classy Cameron Diaz is in here too. Barely. She plays Lenora Case, the secretary with aspirations to be a journalist who comes between the boys. Much is made in her introductory scene of her age, for no obvious reason - it's as if Rogen is winking at the audience, "Yeah, I know she's kinda hot, but isn't she old?".

And the storytelling isn't great. The acting editor of the Sentinel keeps showing up but isn't introduced beyond being "your father's right-hand man for 40 years" or somesuch. Kato tells Britt that his dad had him kit out his cars with guns, spikes and the like, implying that he was an earlier Green Hornet, but that goes nowhere. And so on.

Bar the beautiful closing credits, the 3D feels thoroughly tacked-on ... I can't recall a single sequence in which the depth of field, or hurled objects, impressed; I do remember several headaches caused by fuzzy ornaments.

Directing the film is Michel Gondry, but you'd barely know it. Apart from an annoyingly jerky sequence at the beginning in Reid Sr's garage, Kato's slow-motion vision and a bit of split-screen coolness, there are none of the visual flourishes you might expect.

The Green Hornet is a 12A, but I think 12 is probably the maximum age at which anyone should see this film. Twelves and under will love the idiotic characterisation, the big daft fight scenes and, especially, the pimped-up cars - really, this is a toy line in search of a script.

Should I lighten up, accept that this is just a big, daft superhero sitcom (after all, I hated the oh-so-serious Christopher Nolan Batman movies). If the film been sold as such, yes, but all the publicity I'd seen pegged this as a drama that was fun but, essentially, a drama. And what we get insults the intelligence - no one would follow Britt Reid into a donut shop, never mind a life or death battle.

The Green Hornet is right - I was stung right in the wallet.

Reviewed on: 17 Jan 2011
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The Green Hornet packshot
After his father dies a man decides to fight crime.
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Director: Michel Gondry

Writer: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz

Year: 2011

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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