Movie Review: The Green Hornet
By Matthew Huntley
January 26, 2011
At the tail end of The Green Hornet, the title character says to his sidekick, “Kato, everything we’ve done up till now has been complete and utter crap.” He couldn’t be more right, because up until the credits roll, the entire movie has been complete and utter crap. The good news: it’s January, and with The Green Hornet being so abominable, odds are any other movie that comes in 2011 will be better. It has to be.
Watching The Green Hornet is like being in the same room with an incompatible couple who only scream at each other, and who aren’t afraid to do it in public. It’s also like watching a hyperactive kid run around and break things without his parents telling him to stop. Any way you look at it, it makes you irritable and uncomfortable.
Yes, a lot of things break in this movie. The violence is epileptic and out-of-control, but none of it’s harnessed effectively or made entertaining. The star and co-writer, Seth Rogen, who’s usually funny and likable, proves here he can also be one of the most obnoxious people on-screen. He plays Britt Reid, the spoiled son of a media mogul (Tom Wilkinson) who owns the only non-corporate newspaper in Los Angeles. When Britt’s father mysteriously dies after a bee sting (he was allergic), Britt takes over his empire, including the editor-in-chief position of the paper. Naturally, he no idea what he’s doing, which is obvious to his father’s longtime friend, Mike (Edward James Olmos).
Britt finds greater purpose in the crime fighting industry. One random night, he partners up with his father’s mechanic/butler, Kato (Jay Chou), and says to him, “Let’s go find some justice.” Their motivation is that Britt’s dad was sometimes a hard-a*s and they feel the need to vent. So they take out one of the old man’s souped-up, expensive cars, which they name Black Beauty, and saw the head off Britt’s father’s dedication statue. Incidentally, Britt discovers Kato is a martial arts master when he rescues him from a band of muggers and proceeds to show off Black Beauty’s hidden accessories, like its Ben-Hur-type spikes that extend from the wheels. The car has other cool gadgets too, but nothing we haven’t already seen on the Batmobile.
Fresh off the adrenaline rush, Britt decides from there on out he and Kato will team up as the city’s new anti-heroes, posing as criminals who actually help people. Britt becomes the Green Hornet and Kato remains his trusted sidekick, even though he’s really the muscle of the operation. Their chief nemesis is a Russian mobster named Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), who dreams of being the number one crime lord in L.A. by taking over all the city’s gangs. Cameron Diaz has the thankless role of playing Lenore, Britt’s new secretary and the default hot girl who’s smarter than she seems.
Where the movie goes from here doesn’t take a genius to figure out. What is hard to figure out is how the movie could be so bizarrely awful. From beginning to end, it is non-stop loud, boisterous and just plain unpleasant. Rogen is so agitating as the hero that I wasn’t rooting for him in the slightest; I just wanted him to shut up. He has presence and distinction, but they don’t work in his favor this time. He and Chou have no chemistry together and they mostly argue like some old married couple.
Chou doesn’t add much to the mix, either. He’s not a very good actor, although, to be fair, the screenplay doesn’t go out of its way to make his character all that interesting. His superpowers (he has the ability to sum up a situation and precisely calculate how to thwart multiple people and weapons at once) are neat but they go unexplained. Does his mind actually function like that of a terminator, where he can gauge things like a computer? Has he ever told anyone about this ability? How does it make him feel?
Such questions go unanswered and the movie merely seems like it’s on a sugar high the whole time. Eventually, it drained me. When the credits finally rolled, I was surprised to learn it was directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). He brings a style to the picture, but it’s all a mess and the action scenes are chaotic and incomprehensible. It’s just yelling, smashing and breaking, followed by more breaking, smashing and yelling.
What went wrong here? There were rumors of production troubles, re-shoots and a burgeoning budget, but what was the inherent problem? Superhero movies are a dime a dozen these days and you’d think one as straightforward as The Green Hornet, based on the 1930s radio program and the 1960s television series, could at least be competent. Was Rogen, as writer, executive producer and star, given too much power? Does he know what he’s doing?
Seeing this movie made me think of all the money that burned while making it. It angers me to think so many resources were wasted on such a disordered product. I can’t even call it junk food, because junk food is something you enjoy eating before feeling lousy and guilty afterward. This movie cuts out the enjoyment factor and jumps right to the feeling lousy and guilty part.