The Green Hornet (2011)
★★ / ★★★★
Ever since he was a child, Britt (Seth Rogen) always felt that his father, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), editor-in-chief of the influential newspaper called the “Daily Sentinel,” prioritized his job over his son. When the media mogul passes away due to an allergic reaction from a bee sting, Britt, along with Kato (Jay Chou), the Reid household’s brilliant mechanic and martial arts expert, decide to decapitate the statue of the deceased.
The duo come across a girl being terrorized by a neighborhood gang. They rescue her before things get really bad. Britt and Kato feel good about saving the girl and beating up some hoodlums, so they put on the shoes of atypical superheroes. In order to really make a difference in the Los Angeles crime scene, they pretend to be criminals in order to get close to the city’s crime lords.
“The Green Hornet,” based on the radio series by George W. Trendle and directed Michel Gondry, manages to pull off a rather entertaining and funny story of regular folks wanting to become something more than they are, something extraordinary. The events that lead up to why the characters believe that superhero-ism is the answer to their problems has a lot of implications in relation to their difficult childhood and how they are perceived by society as adults. Unfortunately, once Kato and Britt finish preparing their masks, weapons, and impressive black car, the story fails to go anywhere remotely interesting.
It settles on being cartoonish. For instance, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) is a crime boss who is deeply offended when people tell him that he is not scary. In order to be “scary,” he kills those who do not approve of his designer suits. While somewhat amusing on the surface, the character might have worked as a villain–menacing but tragic, narcissistic but exudes cool–if there had been something more to him beyond his conceit. The most interesting superhero movies consist of a hero and a villain complementing each other. They may lie on opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of their morality–or lack thereof–but their similarities are not easy to overlook. Chudnofsky is not given a proper backstory so he comes off silly and foolish.
The filmmakers, accidental or otherwise, pull off something a bit unexpected. They make the sidekick more interesting than his counterpart. Kato’s more dramatic scenes hold some weight. When he worked for Britt’s father, he was often reminded that he was less than. Working for Britt, since they are similar in age, Kato hopes that he will finally be treated as an equal. But some things never change. He remains to be perceived as an orphan. That stigma he carries around like a grudge made me want to get to know him more. Meanwhile, I watched Britt in disbelief as he lugs himself around as if he were drunk 24/7.
“The Green Hornet” delivers good, sometimes choppy but consistently energetic, action sequences. What it needs is a focused exploration of the characters’ motivations after they put on their masks. As a result, when the funny gags are thrown at us, we can laugh with our heroes rather than at them.