Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Green Hornet: a Colossal Disappointment

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The Green HornetDirector Michael Gondry’s The Green Hornet is a prime example of what happens when a director has a lot of money with which to work but minimal substance on which to stand. While it’s evident that effort was involved in making the film, particularly as it pertains to the action scenes, it is an overall disappointment.

Britt Reid (Seth Rogan) is a notorious party-animal whose antics often tarnish the front page of his father’s (Tom Wilkinson) reputable newspaper, The Daily Sentinel. Britt has been a constant disappointment to his father from a very young age, and it’s entirely clear that the damaged relationship between Britt and his father resonates in every decision Britt makes.

When Britt’s father dies unexpectedly, Britt is angered by the public’s positive perception of his father, a man whom Britt believes to be rotten. He is also daunted by the fact that he is left with his father’s journalistic empire.

Intimidated by the notion that Britt will have to live up to the standards his father has set — those comprised of dignity and integrity — Britt makes a rather unusual choice. He opts to team up with his father’s assistant Kato (Jay Chou) to become a masked crime fighting team and use the Daily Sentinel as a means to help generate publicity for the dynamic duo’s stunts.

Since the Green Hornet and his accomplice are treated as villains as well as heroes, the duo dangerously infringes upon the criminal territory of criminal mastermind Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), whose Napolean/Hitler complex proves to provide a bit of levity to an otherwise dull film.

If the film’s plot seems intriguing, don’t be fooled. The Green Hornet is confusing on a number of levels.

First, it’s rather hard to distinguish whether the Green Hornet and his partner are villains or heroes. While they take pride in rescuing those in danger, and in their methods of vigilante justice, they also refer to the police as “pigs” and engage the cops in dangerous high-speed chases that often result in police injuries. They also tout their ability to skew the lines between villain and hero as a successful endeavor.

Next, Britt’s partner Kato has an inexplicable knowledge of technology that allows him to create ridiculous weaponry and vehicles that would make the Batmobile appear outdated. Kato tells Britt early in the film that he was hired by Britt’s father to use his creative genius to produce such things as well as for his exceptional coffee-making skills. In the former case, however, it’s never clear why.

There is also something to be said about the absurdity of the plot’s transition. One evening, while Britt and Kato were gallivanting around town, they come to the aid of a young couple who is being intimidated by some neighborhood thugs. Later, they are so giddy over the way they handled the situation that they decide to become a superhero team. However, neither character made mention of superherodom prior to their split-second decision. Nor did either character indicate a preference or a fondness for superheroes of any variety. In the film, the idea’s inception appears totally out of the blue, and just plain ridiculous.

And yet despite all of this, The Green Hornet is at times just plain boring.

What’s worse is that while the film seems long-winded at times, barely capable of maintaining the attention of its viewers, it seemingly devotes very little time to develop any area of its plot.

For example, the friendship between the Green Hornet and his unnamed accomplice is scarcely believable as it seems to have bloomed rather suddenly and is devoid of any foundation that could explain its sustenance except for their shared lunacy.

Likewise, the character Lenore Case, played by Cameron Diaz, appears by all angles to be an after-thought on the part of the writers to provide viewers with a strong female character. Her presence is rarely if ever necessary and eventually becomes so minimal that one wonders what she was doing in the film in the first place.

Similarly, not enough time is appropriated to explain what appears to be an irrational and inexplicable transition from party boy to superhero/villain.

Overall, a number of different storylines appear to be running at the same time, and not enough attention is devoted to anyone in particular.

Additionally, the action scenes, though visually stimulating, are entirely over the top for this film. Once the Green Hornet’s vehicle, Black Beauty, found its way into the offices of the Daily Sentinel and made its way up an elevator and through the various corridors wreaking millions of dollars in damage, I felt it the appropriate time to step away for a snack.

Similarly over the top were the performances of Seth Green and Jay Chou. Whether or not it’s intentional is uncertain, but both men appear to be a bit too silly in their roles. While the characters they depict are clearly immature (the understatement of a century), their performances in those roles mirrored those of first-year acting students.

The Green Hornet is one film I would recommend saving for the DVD player, if that. Those who pride themselves on being intelligent will likely find it difficult sitting through the entire film. Further, the presence of violence and foul language removes the possibility of appealing to a young audience, one that would likely have been able to look past the film’s plaguing issues.

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