THE GREEN HORNET (2011)
Directed by Michel Gondry
Written by Seth Green and Evan Goldberg
Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz and Cameron Diaz
Every so often, there comes a movie that raises the bar. That manages to do something really special and is able to speak to people in a very personal way.
This is not one of those movies.
The film can best be summed up in Seth Rogen’s line to Cameron Diaz at the end, “we don’t know what we’re doing.” Yes Seth, we can see that. We don’t even have to do much thinking to come to that realization. It’s painfully obvious from the first frame of this absolute trainwreck of a movie.
For those who aren’t in the know, the Green Hornet is a pulp hero dating back to the 1930s. Originally created for radio, the Hornet has appeared in comics, film serials, prose and television. The television series from the 60s starring Van Williams is probably the most famous rendition of the character and is particularly notable for introducing the west to martial arts superstar Bruce Lee (who co-starred as Kato).
The Green Hornet is Britt Reid, a newspaper publisher by day and combats crime as vigilante Green Hornet by night. He’s accompanied by his partner and chauffeur, Kato. Thought to be a criminal himself, the Hornet uses this to his advantage to worm his way into the underworld and destroy it from the inside.
This is a great premise for a superhero film and something modern generations haven’t really seen. But somewhere in the long period of this film’s development, someone said, “hey, you know how superhero films like The Dark Knight and Iron Man, which offer serious takes on the characters and show a great amount of respect for the source material, are making a lot of money? How about we do the exact opposite of that?”
In this rendition, Rogen plays Britt Reid, who’s a spoiled brat and a real dick. Presumably because his father, James (Tom Wilkinson) is also a massive dick. In fact, the film goes out of the way to show us how much of a dick James is — our first introduction to him is chastising Britt as a child for getting into a fight with some kids who were bullying a young girl. And then, he takes young Britt’s favorite toy, a superhero, and breaks the head off. That’ll teach the kid to stand up for a defenseless girl!
James dies unexpectedly from an allergic reaction to a bee sting leaving Britt in charge of his newspaper, the Daily Sentinel. Soon after, Britt meets Kato (Chou), James’ personal mechanic who would also invent things for him. And some of the things James made him invent make you wonder if James just wanted to see if Kato was dumb enough to do it. After a few beers, and talking about how much of a dick James Reid was, Britt and Kato decide to do something stupid. They go put on masks and cut off the head of a statue erected in James’ honor. During this, Britt witnesses a crime in progress and tries to stop it. He immediately gets his ass kicked when Kato comes out and with what’s apparently “KatoVision” is able to target the criminals’ weapons and disable them in a split-second. The way Gondry decides to film this, in a slow-motion scene with a zoom-in red outline effect on the weapons makes it look like Kato’s got some sort of targeting vision. In fact, for a second I thought it was the goggles he was wearing.
Because it was “so awesome,” Britt says him and Kato should fight crime every night but make the criminals think they’re the bad guys so they can get inside their operations. Britt instructs the Sentinel to put out stories about a new criminal called the Green Bee (and in a meeting embarrassing his new friend, Kato suggests the Green Hornet instead). With the help of his new secretary, Lenore Case (Diaz), who also just happens to have a degree in criminology, they trick her into telling them what they should do next by having her speculate on what the Hornet’s next move would be.
Kato proceeds to build the Black Beauty, a hi-tech arsenal on wheels while Britt tries on some costumes. On their first night out, and in a show of how little respect this movie has for the source material, Reid plays Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio and he and Kato start grooving to the music and singing along. Then they stop when they realize they have no idea where to go. When they finally do figure out a destination, heading into the heart of South Central, they approach a Latin gang. Reid addresses one of them by saying, “Hola…I am the Green Hornet. I want to sit down with your boss.” This is followed by the banger putting his gun in the window and the Hornet screams like a little bitch until Kato steps into action.
And that’s basically par for the course. The Hornet cracks painfully unfunny jokes, showcases how completely inept he is, and Kato saves his ass every time. And that doesn’t stop Reid from being a complete and total dick to his supposed friend at every single turn. Just when you think Reid’s character is undergoing some kind of growth, he does something dickish for a cheap laugh (and the laugh never comes because the gag is always terrible). In fact, when Reid and Kato blow up at each other and Kato beats the shit out of Britt, you can’t help but cheer for Kato.
So far I haven’t even mentioned the villain yet, Chudnofsky (Waltz). It should be noted that this is the role Nicolas Cage turned down. That’s right — Nicolas Cage, who has never met a bad role he didn’t like, said “fuck no.” That should give you an inkling of how terrible this film is — Nic Cage turned it down. Chudnofsky is so concerned with appearances, constantly whining about how people aren’t as scared of him as they should be. Because of the Hornet, Chudnofsky decides to start calling himself Bludnofsky and even comes up with a speech to deliver right before he kills someone.
Obviously, if you have even the slightest bit of affection for the Green Hornet, you can see how this is a complete insult to the character’s very long legacy. The only person who is even remotely trying to play this role straight is Chou and I feel really bad for him. Had he been cast in a serious take on the Hornet, he could have made a great Kato.
Do yourself a favor and stay away from this terrible excuse for a film. Instead, stay home and watch a marathon of the 60s TV series.