Friday, January 14, 2011

FILM REVIEW: The Green Hornet

This comic book revival, spear-headed by the Apatow School of Comedy alum Seth Rogen, went through a lot of production changes, from directors to sidekicks to genres even. When Rogen decided to take on the vigilante role, Green Hornet fans were mainly concerned that the comedian would try to make a goofy version of the masked badass. And, initially, Rogen vowed to play it straight. He even lost weight for the role. But somewhere down the line, it became a buddy action comedy, a cross between Kick-Ass and Superbad. I wasn't expecting that, and I was sincerely hoping Rogen had finally found a film where he could do more than just play a goofy slacker. Mission unaccomplished.
I was also looking forward to seeing Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) in another villainous role as Bloodnofsky. Unfortunately, he wore ridiculous suits and was more of a hotheaded joke than a nefarious crime boss. He might look menacing in that photo, carry a double-barrel gun, and thoughtlessly murder his foes and even his own goons, but his character was so busy trying to deliver witty-yet-sadistic one-liners that he failed to deliver the proper amount of terror that would make him a formidable foe.
The highlights of the film were Taiwanese newcomer Jay Chou, the energetic female lead Cameron Diaz, and the technology. Since Britt Reid, the rich playboy who spent most of his time partying before his father's death inspired him to become a hero, is fairly incapable of defending himself, Chou was the actual action star of the film. Director Michel Gondry enhanced his martial arts skills with slow motion, freeze frames and camera rotations. It might be blasphemous to say, but with the right agent, Chou could inherit the Jackie Chan / Jet Li throne. His fighting style was very similar to Chan's—a mix of parkour and the use of random objects as weapons—and his acting style is similar to Li's—rigid line deliveries due to the language barrier and deadpan humor. But unlike those legendary Asian actors he doesn't shy away from romantic scenarios, which could lead to more romantic leads in the future. His character Kato adorably attempted to win the heart of Diaz's Lenore, immaturely competing against Britt.
Despite their romantic gestures, neither was very much of a Romeo. I'm not sure if it was the scene where Britt calls Lenore old or the fact that they were both acting like children, but a majority of the time it seemed like Diaz was babysitting two unruly teenagers. There's a point in the film when they realize they have no idea how to begin their crime-fighting career or how to take down the worst crime lord in the city, so they have newly-hired executive assistant Lenore do research, and ultimately declare her the mastermind of their crew. Without her they would literally be costumed idiots accidentally stumbling upon gangs and nearly dying. It's rare that the female lead isn't anything more than eye candy, so I was pleased to see that she could not only defend herself but be the brains of the operation.
That's not to say that Lenore was the only one churning out good ideas. Kato was like a cross between Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox (The Dark Knight) and John Cleese's Q (Die Another Day), inventing innovative gadgets and designing sick vehicles. A color-changing, camouflaging, bullet-proof, weaponized automobile known as The Black Beauty. It almost made up for how lame, obnoxious, and unlikeable Britt Reid turned out to be. Rogen should've taken notes from the Iron Man writing team on how to turn such a self-absorbed and neglected heir into a likable everyman who viewers could root for.

The final quibble I have with the film was Gondry's injection of surreal cinematography. There was a part of the film where he tries to explain a political conspiracy using cut-outs, animation, etc. in a style somewhat similar to his previous films, The Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. While I appreciate a fresh take on the superhero genre, I think maybe Gondry's vision was a little too indie artsy for the content that was being presented. It seemed out of place and didn't meld well with the rest of the film's style.

Final Verdict: On the comedic action superhero list, it rates lower than Kick-Ass, but higher than Fantastic Four. I'd recommend seeing it for the action scenes and the gadgets.

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