This post is the unedited (and slightly updated) version of the review published in our film review column Animadversion, in iMAGES on Sunday (Dawn Newspaper). The link of the one published can be found at the end of the post.
Green and Mean, for No Reason at All
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
Coming from archaic roots of radio, then a black and white film series that ran in cinemas (a lost trend from the 1940’s predating television), an off-again on-again burst of comics and – perhaps the most easily identifiable – the limited series of ‘66 featuring Bruce Lee and Van Williams, The Green Hornet has a few straight facts attached to its premise: Brett Reid is the owner of the unflinching newspaper The Daily Sentinel. He has a kick-ass Asian manservant, Kato. In his alter ego, he dons a Chesterfield coat, fedora, a stick-on plastic mask (Kato has an all-black chauffeurs body-suit) and rides the night in the black, weapon-laden, Chrysler Imperial Crown (aka The Black Beauty) as the vigilante crime fighter The Green Hornet.
From memory (and Youtube), I remember Brett as a resourceful, intelligent crime-fighter who mixed better than the long-running parody of the 60’s Batman series. Fancy, Seth Rogen and Michel Goudry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind, Rewind), to mash the franchise into fractured, witless entertainment.
As a first-off movie, Mr. Rogen, also the writer of the movie with Evan Goldberg, updates himself as Brett Reid, who is a playboy whimpering with daddy issues – a versatile chestnut that aptly changes form in many superhero movies.
Brett’s daddy is a gruff Tom Wilkinson, the multimillionaire publisher of the Daily Sentinel, who needs no reason to be consistently grumpy.
Mr. Wilkinson, before his demise by a hornet’s sting and an allergic reaction, comes off as a more demanding villain than Chudnofsky (nearly wasted Christoph Waltz), a city controlling mob-boss with a flinching attitude about his public image (he wants people to think he’s a dread-inducing figure. He’s not sure how, though).
Mr. Rogen writes himself as an invariable looser. He lacks smarts, instinct, resourcefulness or a plan of attack; and his fighting skill is limited to that of a kindergarten brawler. The film thus brings us Kato (Jay Chou), a genius coffee-maker with an aptitude for modding vehicles with guns and bullet-proof armor. If that wasn’t enough, Kato suspends time (well, not literary), locks gaze into the villain’s weak-points and drop-kicks them in unbelievable action choreography (the filmmakers give a half-boiled explanation for this rush, though).
As evident from the awkward pairing, the skewed-up formula scarcely works. Mr. Chou barely speaks fluent English, but is fittingly highlighted as an engaging lead (after all he is the one doing everything). Mr. Rogen, even when danger calls, sparks up dumb plans of action, that routinely end with drab, anarchic, car chases or smashed buildings.
The Green Hornet also introduces, in minor significance, Edward James Olmos, as the editor of the Daily Sentinel; David Harbor as the district attorney–cum–co-villain; Cameron Diaz is Reid’s 30-something secretary – a blond with brains, who sparks up a small war between Kato and Reid. Their war, like everything else in the film, is futile and rickety.
Mr. Rogen and Mr. Goudry – who is all but invisible – try to marry the inelegant with the whimsy and end up with pot-luck Gumbo. The recipe looks weirder than the broth it makes.
Released by Columbia, The Green Hornet is rated PG-13. Violence and death is almost marginal to the headache it induces.
By Farheen Jawaid
The Green Hornet is not an easy mix of action/comedy/buddy-buddy/vigilante-heroism to digest. What makes it even more aggravating to watch is the sheer carelessness the story is dealt with.
The Green Hornet had many scattered avatars, first as radio show, T.V shows and then comics. From all, the most famous in pop culture was its 60’s T.V show because of legendary Bruce Lee’s depiction of Kato, the black chauffeur-suit wearing, martial arts serving sidekick to playboy/vigilante Brett Reid/Green Hornet. Made on the popularity of the 60’s Batman television series, its highlight was Bruce Lee…being Bruce Lee.
This Hornet has no stings, and director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) looks out of his whimsical element, however, the majority of Hornet’s blame should be put on Seth Rogen who plays the lead, and is the co-writer with Evan Goldberg (both have written Superbad and Pineapple Express). Here the plot is virtually non-existent. Scenes often use fillings of make-shift comedy that points to pointless chases and dialogues (mostly delivered by Mr. Rogen), which, if but were funny, could have made the Hornet a better misadventure.
Kato played by Taiwanese pop-star/actor Jay Chou, who I remember from Curse of the Golden Flower, is awkwardly cute as he stumbles on his English. As he’s no Bruce Lee, a plot device is introduced: Kato starts to see in slow-motion, as his adrenaline is pumped-up in moments of danger. As a reaction, he moves in lightening speed, which is a fodder for fascinating action sequences that are handled well in postproduction.
As one of lesser known franchise material, The Green Hornet could have been interpreted in completely new and funny ways (if that was how it was to be re-imagined). As it stands, it is messy and lethargic with a lot of wasted material.
The version published: