Before watching this movie, I knew next to nothing about the origins of the Green Hornet. I don’t know much now, really, about what makes him tick, although I think he’s still a bit of a pretentious jerk. Who’s a vigilante. Which makes me think he’s like Bruce Wayne, only not as rich and less brooding. To me, the Green Hornet movie is a loud, overproduced, effects-laden stumble that does offer some vibrant, well-choreographed fight scenes but skimps on such niceties as charactization, plot, and motivations.
Britt Reid (Seth Rogan) is the playboy son of the publisher of the city’s biggest newspaper. When his dad dies from an allergic reaction to a bee sting, Reid must assume control of the paper. But then he discovers that his dad’s chauffeur, Kato (Jay Chou) can make a mean cup of coffee and is a whiz at inventing things, and he instead decides to become a masked vigilante to help clean up the city, with Kato as his sidekick.
Meanwhile, the film’s big villain (Christoph Waltz from Inglourious Basterds) pretty much has the run of the city. When the Green Hornet kicks the collective butt of one of his lesser gangs, Chudnofsky – seemingly unbothered by the fact that his name references an 80s low-budget horror movie – hardly bats an eye, opting to kill his subordinates in favor of going after the Green Hornet himself, for some reason. Then again, it wouldn’t be much a movie if he and Reid didn’t lock horns during the movie’s denouement, rather than along the way.
Also thrown into the mix is Reid’s new secretary, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), who studied criminal justice and journalism and has noticed a shift in the paper’s crime coverage over the past few years. Of course she has, and of course she does. And because Reid’s still an incorrigible playboy, he can’t help but sexually harass Case on a regular basis. He tries hard to get on her Case, in other words.
It’s hard to know what to make of the Green Hornet. We get that he’s supposed to be a good guy, but for all his intentions, a lot of innocent people seem to get mowed down whenever he’s around – including quite a few policemen. A lot of property damage, too. Reid’s ulterior motive is that he’ll push his paper to cover the Hornet’s escapades, thus driving up revenue for the flagging company. But for some reason he chooses to have his alter ego portrayed as a bad guy, even though he and Kato are thwarting crime, something about getting close to the bad guys. Getting close to the bad guys? I wasn’t sure why this was such a concern, since the duo spends much of the movie racing around the city in a souped-up, heavily armed Chrysler Imperial, known as Black Beauty. Stealthy, these guys ain’t.
For this movie to really work, I think Reid should have undergone more of a moral transformation. Oh, sure, he gets the responsibility bug some time after assuming control of the paper, and he does decide to be a do-gooder with Kato’s gadgetry and fighting skills, but he’s still essentially the same egotistical jackass he was before donning the mask. He treats everyone pretty badly, all things considered; he even fires both Kato and Lenore after a perceived slight. This makes it more than a little tough to sympathize with him, and I think that lack of appeal hurts the movie quite a bit.
Aside from all of that, the plot itself is pretty standard. There’s a revenge motif, there’s a bad guy, a second bad guy whom is supposed to be a surprise to everyone but isn’t really, and a climax-after-the-climax that’s wildly predictable. There isn’t much unique or intriguing about the movie other than the effects, which are often pretty cool – just not electrifying. I expect electrifying effects.
It’s also a shame that Rogan is clearly outacted by Chou, who’s a huge pop star in Taiwan; Chou has charisma, and even when his Kato is being a bit of a bastard, he’s still appealing. That’s acting. Reid, on the other hand, comes off as just an overprivileged manchild with daddy issues. You can blame Rogan for part of this – perhaps he should stick to comedy – but one should also blame the screenwriters. Oh, wait, Rogan was one of the screenwriters, along with longtime partner Evan Goldberg. Hmm. Those two should probably keep away from future action movies.
The Green Hornet: **1/2