January 17, 2011

Movie Review: Green Hornet (2011)

Green Hornet has had quite a ride back to the big screen. The property was originally in the hands of Kevin Smith, who wrote a couple of drafts but eventually left the project. Steven Chow, following the success of Kung Fu Hustle, took the reigns and was also set to co-star as Kato but he left after having some creative differences. Finally, Michel Gondry signed up to direct from a script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (as their follow up to Pineapple Express). Now the film is here and seems to have split audiences with its level of success (or lack thereof).

I am only slightly familiar with the character. He was originally a radio character alongside Buck Rogers and The Lone Ranger. There were a couple of serials in the 1940's that were also edited into feature films, and a television series in the late 1960's. The series co-starred Bruce Lee as Kato. This new film is the first time the character has gotten the proper feature film treatment. The problem is that it is also something of an interpretation. Fortunately, I went in pretty fresh with my lack of background.

The Green Hornet is an action comedy with a little bit of substance, a little visual flair, and a heavy dose of fun. There is something about the way this movie unfolds, the bits and pieces of other heroes (either inspired by or did the inspiring, I am not sure which) blended with chunks of absurdity and a plot that doesn't really make much sense.

Seth Rogen is Britt Reid, a spoiled rich kid whose father (Tom Wilkinson) runs a major newspaper. Britt loves his party lifestyle, not a care in the world but then his father is murdered and he is left to pick up the pieces. He is left in charge of the newspaper and nagging questions about his chosen life path. To help him break of his childish ways he bonds with Kato (Jay Chou), the senior Reid's auto mechanic and coffee maker. Meanwhile, there is the bad guy played by Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds). His name is Chudnofsky and he has a hangup about being considered scary as the town's top crime boss.

Back at the Reid mansion, Britt has decided that he wants to get a little revenge on the underworld for the death of his father. He and martial arts expert Kato don masks, hop in a weapons outfitted 1966 Imperial and take to the streets. Chudnofsky gets word that a new guy is in town and decides to put a stop to this potential criminal competitor.

There is also a DA, a temp secretary played by Charlize Theron, corruption, some car chases, fist fights, a few jokes, and a quick tying together of plot threads as the finale draws near. When you stop to think about the plot, it does raise a lot of questions. The bit that makes it personal comes up awfully quick, you'd think somebody would have guessed the identity of the Green Hornet, you would suspect that Britt would recognize he was not the brains of the operation, and more. Fortunately for me, that did not matter much while I was in the moment of the film. That's what the movie seems to be about, the moment. Sometimes that sort of thing works. This is an example of that.

The movie has a blend of Batman and Spiderman elements, a dash of style with the costume and the awesome car and some exciting action bits. I also think that while the plot may be a bit lacking and scatteshot in execution, I like some of the character stuff. I like Britt's angle on his relationship with his father and how his attitude changes. I liked wondering why Kato did what he did, why he stayed. I also liked the bad guy and his seeming need for a shrink.

Michel Gondry does a fine job in his most mainstream movie yet. The man knows how to blend story with great visuals, and while I felt he was a bit restrained there were still plenty of sequences that felt distinctly Gondry.

I think I am feeling a little defensive about the movie as there seems to be a lot of hate flying around for it. I can understand someone not liking it, but I don't understand the level of hate as if it were an offense to cinema. Makes me wonder if we saw the same movie. Strange. The movie I saw was fun, had some nicely shot action, some good character bits, some good laughs, and was a flat out good time.

I recommend you get out there and see it. Yes, Seth Rogen seems like an odd choice to play a comic boo hero, but I like what he does here. Is it a little over the top? Sure, but so what? It is a fun interpretation that feels like a live action comic that is disconnected from anything resembling a real world.

The Green Hornet is a winner, a flawed winner, but a winner nonetheless.

Highly Recommended.

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