Review: The Green Hornet

Film review
Directed by Michel Gondry
Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Christoph Waltz, David Harbour, Edward James Olmos

After inheriting his father’s publishing empire, playboy millionaire Britt Reid decides to do the responsible thing – and become a crime-fighting hero. Dubbed The Green Hornet and assisted by the karate-kicking Kato (Chou), he sets about taking on the city’s bad guys – much to the chagrin of crime boss Chudnofsky (Waltz)…

Michel Gondry may seem an odd choice to helm a franchise-launching, mega-budget action romp, but the project was initially intended to act as his feature debut in the late ‘90s. Sadly you’d be hard pushed to spot much of the Eternal Sunshine director’s trademark quirkiness in the finished film, aside from a fun villains-at-work split-screen montage and a visually dazzling but rather shoehorned-in sequence in which Reid pieces together clues while cut-out-characters concertina across the screen.

For the most part this is fairly anonymous-looking stuff. That’s especially true of the action: the extensive scenes of wanton destruction somehow manage to out-bland a Brett Ratner picture, even if it’s impossible to make The Green Hornet’s gadget-packed car, The Black Beauty, look anything less than super-cool. The underwhelming action isn’t helped by the eye-straining, post-production conversion 3-D; the added dimension can really add to a movie if it works with the narrative (just see TRON Legacy), but here it adds neither depth nor excitement. It’s just annoying.

The story itself winds up oddly similar to last year’s superhero success Kick-Ass (there’s even a heroes-singing-in-a-car moment!). But whereas that film deftly mixed violence, comedy and superhero conventions with wit and energy, the tone here is decidedly more uneven – the cold-blooded killing feels at odds with the general jauntiness, while the thin story is stuffed with unconvincing plot points (why isn’t there a USB drive in the duo’s pimped-out auto?).

The film is rescued from all-out disaster thanks to the appealing central relationship. Rogen may have been an unlikely choice for the fearless crime-fighter, but in the script by Rogen and his Superbad co-writer Evan Goldberg that’s kind of the point, and his clowning playboy hero bounces well off Chou’s likeable partner-in-heroism (“The Green Hornet is nothing without me!”). The pair’s verbal and physical sparring throws up genuine laughs, including the irresponsible employment of knockout gas (the scene’s funnier than it looks in the trailer) and a prolonged scrap involving household objects. It’s just as well that previous incarnations of The Green Hornet have a fairly limited following as fans may cringe at the duo’s exploits being turned into a knockabout buddy comedy.

Inglourious Basterds’ Christoph Waltz, as wannabe-scary crime boss Chudnofsky, is less successful. He gets a scattering of amusing moments (including an early showdown with an uncredited guest star), but the character is pitched a little too cartoony and one-note, eventually winding up as neither threatening nor particularly funny. Meanwhile, Cameron Diaz, as the supposedly super-smart journalist Lenore, isn’t given much to do aside from fend off Reid and Kato’s advances; she sparks well off the pair in the scenes they share (enduring some rather cruel jokes about her age), but she never plays the key part in the story that her initial scenes suggest.

Perhaps the coolest element of The Green Hornet is the zippy opening credits sequence – at least it should be the opening credits sequence, only it comes at the end of the film. Can we return to having these at the beginning of movies please? Matt McAllister

VERDICT: 6/10
Mildly entertaining action-comedy. The stars have a nice chemistry, but it’s disappointing given the talent involved.

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