Friday, January 14, 2011

Movie with Abe: Green Hornet

Green Hornet
Directed by Michel Gondry
Released January 14, 2011

There are a number of expectations that come into play when viewing and digesting a superhero movie. In many cases, there are origin stories, multiple iterations and countless reimaginings, and then the matter of who will actually play the hero in question, as well as all the other characters in the film. Without having any frame of reference for the character and the mythology, this reviewer can only take “The Green Hornet” at face value, considering similar superhero movies as a means of comparison. In that light, “The Green Hornet” is a fervently entertaining, ultimately underwhelming experience that functions much better as an action comedy than it does as a superhero flick.

“The Green Hornet” can definitely be classified as an origin story, charting the path of Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) from playboy partier to still unserious masked crime fighter. Reid’s transformation isn’t so much his own doing as it is a combination of his father’s untimely death and the convenient tutelage of the more together and impressive Kato, formerly his father’s mechanic. It’s hardly a believable and coherent narrative, though that’s hardly the point. This film is about explosions and cool tricks, and in that area, it excels. Even if the events in the script don’t make much sense, the dialogue is rather funny. The film does try to go a bit too broad, and that relates in a major way to the casting.

Star Seth Rogen is best when he’s relegated to contained craziness, like in his role as a maniacal cop in “Superbad.” Giving him free reign to act as he pleases and speak as loudly and uncontrollably as he wants enables his character to dominate too much of this film (though fortunately the results are much more positive than in the horrendous “Observe and Report”). In stark contrast to Rogen’s boisterous nature, Jay Chou takes a subtler approach to playing his far more subdued companion, the martial arts-trained Kato. While Rogen might be a bigger name and have the film’s title role, Chou is far more sympathetic and engaging than his costar. Additionally, it’s bittersweet to see Christoph Waltz follow up his Oscar-winning turn in “Inglourious Basterds” with his portrayal of cartoonish villain Chudnofsky, because he delivers the best performance of the film, but in a role that really doesn’t demand much. Waltz’s situation is applicable to the film itself: it’s a fine enough effort, but it could have been so much better.


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