If you put all the superheroes out there together, they could populate an area the size of Wales. If this trend continues, there’s going to be more masked crime fighters out there than regular people.
The Green Hornet was a 1960s TV show that was little bit like a less camp version of Adam West’s Batman which notably featured Bruce Lee as his sidekick Kato. So with superheroes soon to have their own civic district, can The Green Hornet create any buzz (sorry) amongst the masses?
When his newspaper magnate father (Tom Wilkinson) dies, playboy layabout Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) inherits his business and, desperate to find meaning in his life, teams up with mechanic / martial arts expert Kato (Jay Chou) to become The Green Hornet, a masked vigilante who fights crime. Unfortunately, his forays into crime-prevention attract the attention of crime lord Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) who doesn’t take kindly to Britt cramping his style.
Seth Rogen initially seems like an odd choice for the role of a superhero but the casting works mainly because it’s played for laughs. Britt is a bumbling, ineffectual twerp who thinks more highly of his contribution to the crime-fighting duo than is actually the case. Rogen has good chemistry with Jay Chou, whose world-weary sighing, technical ingenuity and martial arts prowess are a good foil to his ineptitude.
While the two leads gel believably, The Green Hornet is hamstrung by a nonsensical plot and a complete lack of motivation. At one point, Kato turns to Britt and asks “Where are we going?” The reply comes “I have no idea, I thought you knew” which could be used as an accurate description of the script.
The supporting cast are woefully underwritten. Cameron Diaz plays Reid’s secretary but she’s swiftly relegated to eye-candy for him to perve over. Similarly Christoph Waltz, although hamming it up spectacularly (think Colonel Lander from Inglourious Basterds amplified a thousand times), is never really given anything to do. He doesn’t have a grand scheme or plan and without that, he’s just a man in a suit with a few corny lines.
Gondry’s trademark directing style works for the fights scenes – Kato Vision makes the world appear slow motion and enables Kato to identify threats in red and zip around at triple speed – but Gondy’s quirky flair is for the most part unused, a real shame considering its potential in a comic book movie.
Away from the action, actors are often left flailing, seemingly unsure of what to do. Sometimes it’s as if Seth Rogen’s playing a game of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, where the instruction is “You’re a bumbling superhero – go!” with Gondry filming the result and it quickly becomes tiresome, especially with the driving force of a decent narrative.
Despite its attempts to subvert comic book tropes – Britt is an idiot not a hero; his sidekick is smarter, faster and stronger than he is; he’s not out to fight crime for justice, merely for something to do; The Green Hornet has little of the charm, spirit and most importantly fun of its closest relative, Kick-Ass. Rent that instead.