a critiQal film review The Green Hornet (2011)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Britt Reid (Rogen) is a bored playboy whose life is changed forever when he inherits his father's crusading newspaper, The Daily Sentinel. At the paper he meets Kato (Chou), who becomes Britt's closest ally - and transforms Britt's car into the supercharged Black Beauty, which gives them an edge in their new crusade against crime.

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When I first heard Seth Rogen was going to be playing a superhero, I couldn’t quite believe my ears. It sounded like the most outrageous thing I’d heard since the rumor about Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen playing Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on the big screen. (thankfully, that film seems to be in permanent hiatus since the success of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s portrayals in Sherlock Holmes (2009)).

So, when The Green Hornet proved the Rogen-as-superhero rumors were true, I wasn’t exactly standing in line to get a glimpse. It did have what seemed to be a decent supporting cast, including Cameron Diaz and Jay Chou, but I just couldn’t get past Seth Rogen in superhero mode, so I decided to give it a pass.

After hearing some positive things, however, I decided to give The Green Hornet a shot on DVD. Would Seth manage to shock the world and turn in a fun performance for once? Or was it just another in an ever-increasing line-up of films that makes the viewer wonder one thing: why is this man still working?

With most superheroes, once they put on the mask, their viewpoints become more pronounced. It’s like they shed their false bravado and confidence that they show to the everyday world, and are freed to become the lightning bolts of truth and justice they were meant to be. Unfortunately, that isn’t true for Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet. Billionaire’s son-turned-slacker by day, his Britt Reid seems a perfect fit for the underachieving goofball he’s known for. But, when his mask goes on…he stays exactly the same. The viewer knows he’s just playing at being a superhero, unconcerned with the fact his stupidity will more than likely get him killed.

Thankfully, he has a co-hort in this mad scheme, in the form of Kato (Jay Chou), who manages to both protect The Green Hornet and stroke Seth’s/Britt’s massive ego all at the same time. Jay Chou is impressive both in his fighting sequences and with his mask off – creating a character the viewers will actually enjoy. Unfortunately, he’s so overshadowed by the bumbling Rogen it’s hard for the viewers to get past Seth’s blunderings to focus on the real star, Jay.

Cameron Diaz also outshines Rogen, but that’s not surprising. In her much smaller role, she leads moron Rogen around by his nose, unwittingly directing his madcap schemes while continuously fighting off his goofball advances. Another victim of Seth’s/Britt’s ego, she still helps him out when the chips are down, a cliched inexplainability that occurs quite frequently in film.

Christoph Waltz, who turned in such an impressive performance in Inglourious Basterds (2009), spoofs that character as the villain in The Green Hornet. His villainous Col. Hans Landa was all about keeping his exterior looks deceptively benign, only to unleash evil on his victim without warning. By contrast, Waltz’s Chudnofsky in The Green Hornet spends most of the film pondering how to be flashier and frightening on the outside. When his big plan ends up including donning a gas mask and changing his moniker to Bloodnofsky, he becomes nothing more than a lame joke gone wrong.

Based on the comic book of the same name, The Green Hornet has a solid – if a bit familiar – back story to it. After the death of his father, billionaire-slacker-son tries to mend his ways and fight crime. Worried about villains drawing him out if they realize his true nature as a superhero, he pretends to be a new gangster fighting for control of the crime in his city. Thanks to his sidekick – and martial arts guru – Kato, the two of them turn into a rather effective team, becoming quite the thorn in the side of the current top gangster.

The story does move along smoothly, but the viewer never quite gets why Rogen’s character Britt is there at all. With Kato having to pull his fat from the fire on every occasion, the only reason it seems that Kato doesn’t venture onto his own is for fear of losing Britt’s monetary backing of the enterprise. Who wants to watch a billionaire slacker playing a new game of superhero – thus inflating his own ego – if he’s not actually any good at it?

Jay is fun as sidekick Kato, but he – and the rest of cast, including Diaz, an incredibly underused Edward James Olmos, Waltz, and a surprise appearance by Edward Furlong (Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), are overshadowed by Rogen’s massive ego. Their characters are shunted into the background again and again while Rogen once again fails to inspire viewers with his performance.

The Green Hornet has flashy equipment, lots of gunfire, car chases and a kickin’ sidekick. It’s also got some interesting fighting sequences, probably born from the mind of off-kilter director Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind (2008)). Unfortunately, it also has Rogen’s ego, and viewers will spend much of their time trying to see around that, instead of actually enjoying the film.

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