Don’t worry baby, it only stings for a little bit…
****DISCLAIMER & SPOILER ALERT****
This review is for entertainment purposes only. Part of the reason I put this disclaimer up there is to cover my ass. So before you kill anyone or commit a heinous crime I highly recommend using a disclaimer beforehand. You’ll save thousands in court costs.
“The Green Hornet? With Seth Rogen?” Two questions uttered by millions after spitting out their mashed potatoes when they heard that the roly-poly jolly giant of Hollywood was taking a break from his giant bin of beer and weed to star in a big screen version of the classic super hero. This announcement sent thousands of Internet fanboys tripping over their bags of Hypocrisy flavored Doritos and Sprite soft drinks to get to their keyboards and cry foul because there’s no way, “Fatboy Seth Rogen and his fat ass could ever play a superhero, much less the Green Hornet!” My favorite comments were from fans of the original television show who angrily screamed that, “Sony will rape my childhood.” Which is funny to me because I’m betting their childhood was already filled with tons of rape from drunk uncles.
And so it was and so it has come to be. Seth Rogen is going to play the legendary Green Hornet and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do about it. After rumors of script issues between then attached director Stephen Chow (who was also set to play Kato), everyone immediately assumed this movie was doomed for Doomsville when Stephen left the project. But then Michel Gondry stepped in to direct and suddenly the World of Warcrafters put down their Toys ‘R’ Us lightsabers and wondered if perhaps this project could be saved. After all, Michel Gondry was highly respected in the world of cardboard boxes and independent films, so why not give him a shot? Seth even managed to somehow find another Asian actor to play Kato and the wheels of the Black Beauty were checked, kicked and given the go to start its engine and race onto the production track. (Holy crap, the way I’m writing this review is really annoying me. I can only imagine how painful it must be to read on your end.)
Today’s movie du jour is The Green Hornet starring Seth Rogen as Britt Reid, son and heir to his father’s huge newspaper fortune. After James Reid is killed, Britt comes to terms with the fact that his entire life has been a waste. He takes over his father’s paper but has no idea what to do with it and lets editor-in-chief Axford (Edward James Olmos) run the day-to-day operations. He then meets his father’s mechanic Kato and soon becomes the crime-fighting Green Hornet, ready to fight injustice with his souped up car and kung-fu sidekick. When criminal overlord Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) sees the Green Hornet as a threat to his empire, he does whatever he can to stop him. Almost forgot, Cameron Diaz is in the movie too, but who gives a shit.
I really enjoyed the first half of The Green Hornet. The movie kicks into gear right from the beginning with not a lot of filler. Characters are introduced quickly and in a way that lets the audience connect to them immediately. We learn that Britt is a spoiled brat, Kato is a badass, Benjamin is a true dastardly egomaniac, and that Cameron Diaz now looks like Seth Rogen. When Britt learns about all the things Kato is capable of he convinces him to become a crime fighting duo, using his newspaper to run stories about the mysterious Green Hornet and how he’s just as scary as the criminals he’s taking out. While all of this is happening, Benjamin Chudnofsky is doing his best to try and figure out who he is and put and end to his actions before he starts to damage his business.
Like I mentioned earlier, the first half of Green Hornet is a lot of fun, with some great scenes between Britt and Kato as they go out to try and stop crime. Only problem is Britt has no clue what he’s doing and it’s up to Kato to save his ass all the time with his exceptional martial arts skills. The fight scenes in Green Hornet drove me nuts. I don’t care who the director is, I cannot stand martial arts scenes done in slow motion with crazy editing and CGI effects. Not sure if Gondry did this for the purpose of 3D, because some scenes show objects pushing back into multiple copies of themselves to give it a real sense of depth. I saw the film in 2D and it doesn’t work as well as it probably would in 3D. I’m sure Jay Chou is a really talented martial artist but you wouldn’t know it the way the scenes are shot and edited. Please, please, please let me see the martial artists actually do martial arts. I’m tired of Mortal Kombat x-ray bone breaking scenes and slow motion Matrix like jumps through the air. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Michel’s work. I think he’s a wonderful and creative director but martial arts scenes aren’t really his territory. Neither is trying to shoot Cameron Diaz in a way that didn’t make her look like a melted Stretch Armstrong.
Green Hornet’s problems begin halfway through the second act and the script begins to takes a nosedive into “What the hell do we do now?” waters. Seth and his longtime writing partner Evan Goldberg start out strong but the story becomes a muddled and head scratching mess. It’s not a confusing story, it’s just the way it’s executed. The character of Britt is one even Seth can’t quite pin down, going from an eager crime fighter who wants to do right to a jealous bitter man that destroys his relationship with Kato over the attention of Cameron Diaz’s character. Britt and Kato argue so much about it they end of having a huge fight in Britt’s mansion, destroying every piece of furniture in the process. Even though it’s fun to watch, and the stuntmen probably had a great time shooting it, it left me wondering why in the hell these two were fighting in the first place. This isn’t a romantic comedy. I don’t need my two leads to split up halfway through the picture only to reconcile later. Shit, I was half expecting this thing to end at an airport.
Sometimes Seth is able to play Britt as an honorable character. Other times he’s just playing Seth Rogen. Do I want to see him and Kato singing Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise” in Black Beauty as they go out to fight crime? Not really. Sometimes I wonder what these guys are thinking when they write these scenes. The tone is all over the place. I know the intent is to make a fun, lighthearted buddy/buddy picture, but quit going from serious one second to Knocked Up super goof the next. Take some meds or something dude.
We also get a subplot involving D.A. Frank Scanlon (David Harbour) who used to use the newspaper as a way to gain favor with the public. When Britt tells him he won’t help him, he gets involved and there’s one more character we don’t need in the movie. Who is the other character we didn’t need? Cameron Diaz as Britt’s secretary. Not a knock on Cameron, I mean Vida Guerra could have played the role naked and it still wouldn’t have been necessary to have her in the picture. (Someone slap me for saying that.) It’s just that she really serves no purpose in the film other than as a love interest that isn’t lovable or interesting. Actually, I think I will blame it on Cameron. Ya, screw it. It’s Cameron’s fault.
What Seth and Evan did manage to get right on paper are the fun action scenes scattered throughout the picture. Gondry may have his head up his ass when it comes to shooting fight scenes but he does a great job at handling larger scale set pieces, especially the controlled anarchy that takes place in our final act. He’s also able to handle car chase scenes really well and anytime Green Hornet starts to pick things back up you’re going to have a smile on your face by the end of it. It’s over the top madness that makes this film a lot of fun to watch at times. I’m not sure what they were thinking during the fight scenes, but the editing team does deserve credit for putting together a coherent film that the script seemed to be trying to destroy.
The real highlight of the movie is Jay Chou as Kato. In fact, the movie should be called Kato guest starring The Green Hornet because his character is much more interesting a figure than our lead. Jay’s tone is consistent throughout and he steals every scene he’s in. If a sequel is made, just kill off Seth in the first ten minutes so I can watch Kato kick some ass. I think Jay is actually a better choice than Stephen Chow as Kato but I’m curious to see how the film would have turned out with Stephen in the director’s chair.
Don’t go into The Green Hornet expecting a masterpiece because you’re not gonna get one. What you will get is a super hero movie that’s 20 minutes too long but has some really great action scenes that make up for the mess of a story. Even though the script kept getting in the way, Gondry, Chou and Waltz managed to salvage what could have been a total train wreck. Is it worth spending your green on The Green Hornet? I say go for it. It doesn’t sting as bad as you think.