The Green Hornet Review

Seth Rogen tries to punish criminals as a masked avenger in Michel Gondry’s action comedy.

The slightly podgy star of Knocked Up, Seth Rogen, is unlikely to be the first name that springs to mind when casting the lead role in a comic-book action hero adaptation, so you know right away that The Green Hornet is not going to be a gritty, angst-ridden trip to The Dark Knight territory. Nor should it have to be. Strictly speaking it’s not even a comic-book adaptation; The Green Hornet started life as a radio serial in 1936 before moving to the small screen in the Sixties in a series which made Bruce Lee’s name famous in the United States (and who makes a brief sort-of cameo appearance here). Its pulp origins – a masked hero meting out justice to the city’s criminal underworld – are more or less faithfully adhered to in Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg’s script, though now played more for laughs. The setting has also been updated to our postmodern times: as in last year’s Kick-Ass, the heroes here dress up in costumes to test out the theory that fictional masked avengers could successfully operate in the “real” world.

This would-be franchise’s first outing naturally explores the origins of the titular hero. Britt Reid (Rogen) is the son of newspaper publishing millionaire James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), enjoying the debauched lifestyle of a playboy wastrel while his chiding father looks on with anger. When Reid Sr suddenly dies of a bee sting, Britt inherits the family business, though he lets the staff get on with the work of reporting the news while he gets on with lounging by his mansion’s pool. A drunken misadventure leads him to discover the hidden talents of a former employee of his father’s, Kato, a chauffeur-cum-dogsbody who, it turns out, is also pretty adept in the kitchen, the garage workshop and at any martial arts you care to mention. After saving a couple during an attempted mugging, Britt and Kato team up to take on Los Angeles’ criminals, the ringleader of whom is the diminutive and slightly deranged Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz).

So far, so predictable. But there is a wildcard element here in the form of French director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), whose involvement was sure to result in a few wrinkles to the otherwise standard formula. Or so you might think. For better or worse, Gondry has done little to spice up the Green Hornet’s first feature adventure other than to add one or two visual quirks, such as a speeded-up snog-athon between Britt and a lady friend involving most of his father’s prized automobile collection. More often than not though, his direction is anonymous and fans of his previous work will surely come away disappointed. The Green Hornet really is standard issue Hollywood fare at its most predictable.

So perhaps the idea was for The Green Hornet to be a vehicle for Rogen, and rely on the star’s charisma and comic timing to carry the film, in much the same way that the later Pink Panther films were vehicles for Peter Sellers to cut loose (and which also featured a martial arts expert called Cato)? If so, the film falls flat on its face as Rogen simply isn’t funny enough. He is a likeable and energetic presence on the big screen, but there are precious few laughs to be found here. This is especially true of the third act, a loud and tiresome assault on the senses, with any charm the film had managed to muster soon dissipating in a never-ending series of fights, guns and car chases. Co-star Cameron Diaz’s secretary is saddled with a romantic sub-plot involving both Reid and Kato which gets old VERY quickly, while Waltz simply offers up a PG-rated version of Colonel Hans Landa.

There should be a law prohibiting the release of 3D action films that are inexcusably dull. If the 3D process can be used to make such a film more exciting or more dynamic, its transfer might be understandable, even welcomed. But a film that is as resolutely mediocre as The Green Hornet, which was converted during post-production and does nothing to justify its £D – sorry, 3D – premium, shouldn’t be allowed to rob us of whatever spare change we have left after buying a ticket and a bag of popcorn at the multiplex. The pop art-ish end credits are more fun and contain better 3D effects than the actual film. There will surely be worse movies released this year, but The Green Hornet will still go down as a disappointment.

Gavin Midgley

Updated: Jan 17, 2011

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