Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The Green Hornet
I remember listening to "The Green Hornet" on the radio. Not back when it originally aired, but rather on a local radio show that specialized in replaying old radio dramas. I loved those old detective and mystery shows like "The Shadow" or "Escape," but "The Green Hornet" was my entry into the genre. It was never my favorite, but I enjoyed it and I had a special place in my heart for it. So it was with mixed enthusiasm that I heard a movie was being made, and even more so when I learned Seth Rogen had been cast in the lead. Definitely not the Green Hornet I remember. I had never seen the old TV show, so my doubts increased when I learned that Jay Chou had been cast as Kato. Mr. Chou has always been something of a joke to me, perhaps because of his debut Hong Kong film, Initial D, which was uninspiring to say the least.
Nonetheless, I decided to give it a shot, and lo and behold, The Green Hornet is actually a hell of a good time. Seth Rogen as Britt Reid inherits a newspaper empire and a kung-fu adept valet named Kato after his father dies. After an initial prank veers into crime-stopping territory, Reid finds himself with a new hobby. Make no mistake, he doesn't do it out of a sense of justice, he does it because he thinks it's pretty cool.
And that's the thing about the movie. It makes no bones about what it is, simply inviting us along on a crazy, pyrotechnic ride. Michel Gondry seemed an odd choice to direct this, but he is remarkably adept at directing action scenes, laying on the crazy camera shots and slow-motion like there's no tomorrow.
Of course, much of the weight lies on the stars. Some people dislike Seth Rogen, but I personally find his schlubby immaturity to be pure comic gold. His comic timing and physical performance are hilarious, and the actor, just like the character, is clearly having the time of his life headlining an action blockbuster. Jay Chou also surprises, turning his soft-spoken nice-guy act to his advantage as the amiable Kato who is just as happy tinkering with machines as kicking a guy through a window. Christoph Waltz doesn't get a whole lot to do, although he gamely tries to play his one comedic card as the less than menacing villain Chudnofsky. It's not his fault, it's just this movie is more about the Hornet and Kato. And then there's Cameron Diaz, who seems to only be present to get a major female star's name on the poster, because her character isn't really very necessary to the plot.
But again, this movie is all about fun. And fun it is. Whether you see it in 2D or 3D, the visuals will satisfy action fans, and the script will almost certainly have you laughing. It may not be great cinema, but somehow it's a lot more fun that many recent superhero movies.