From radio to television and, then a more than a 40-year break, “The Green Hornet” is back in the media hotspot. But don’t expect this remake to treat the material with any level of respect. Director Michel Gondry and lead star (and producer), Seth Rogen, take the once classic pop culture material and transform the masked hero posing as a villain into a spoof on the superhero genre. Such a concept seems promising, but it’s neither crass enough nor serious enough to be anything other than a January movie masked as a blockbuster smash.
Brit Reid (Seth Rogen) never really understood responsibility until his father, newspaper mogul, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), died, leaving some rather substantial shoes to fill. After meeting pop’s car guy (who also makes the best cappuccino), Kato (Jay Chou), the pair decides to make up for lost lifetimes and become masked vigilantes. Using his extensive comics knowledge, Brit decides they should pose as villains to avoid inspiring any criminals to exploit their nobility. Armed with an array of gadgets, a Hornet-mobile — a few Black Beauties — and criminology research concocted by Brit’s new secretary, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), the Green Hornet and Kato take to the streets, hoping to bring down Chudnofsky’s (Christoph Waltz) crime empire in the City of Angels.
I imagine the original vision for this one was quite different, what with Stephen Chow (“Kung Fu Hustle” and “Shaolin Soccer”) set to direct and play Kato. Instead, indie has-been, Michel Gondry, picked up the reigns. Sadly, the director behind “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” has proven to be empty without screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, by his side. The film juggles sincerity and satire without letting on which is the focus.
“The Green Hornet” would’ve been a better film if Gondry put more of his token style in it. The credit graphics reek of Gondry while the film uses more action convention, coupled with awkward performances.
Rogen doesn’t really pull off the superhero role, even if his weight loss for this film is admirable. Chou, however, may be new to English-speaking cinema, but he’s got promise.
The real acting letdowns here are how every other actor is used. Wilkinson, as James Reid, doesn’t get much but caricatured lines for his brief performance. Diaz doesn’t really serve a point in the film. Even more disappointing is how little Edward James Olmos, as newspaper editor, Axford, is used. Truly an amazing actor, Olmos remains in the background, doing very little of interest.
Sure, “Hornet” has some fun moments and quaint sound bites of humor, but the final product is rather awkward.
Waltz made waves in “Inglorious Basterds” as Col. Hans Landa, the most conniving screen Nazi since Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) in “Schindler’s List”, but Waltz does little more than recite dry Eastern European crime lord clichés.
There’s even an unnerving undertone about the racial state of Los Angeles.
As the Green Hornet and Kato drive through Crenshaw, Reed suddenly realizes they’re in the “hood” when he sees a pair shoes dangling from a phone line.
Cute, I guess, but it’s a little disturbing when the first ethnic group they run into turns out to be drug runners. Sure, it’s convenient for film writing, but the implications throughout the film are a little too naive.
“The Green Hornet” might be one of the better films out right now, but the competition is slim. It’ll probably make back its budget, but I’m curious to see if there will be a sequel. In the end, it remains a bland film with entertaining moments that could have been more than generic.
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