The Green Hornet Review

The journey that brought The Green Hornet to the big screen is long and littered with a very varied selection of actors. At various points in the project’s development The Green Hornet was set to be played by George Clooney, Greg Kinnear, Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Whalberg and almost filling the shoes once inhabited by Bruce Lee were Jason Scott Lee, Jet Li and Stephen Chow (who almost directed the film too).

Probably most famously a script by Kevin Smith was turned in and almost filmed but that project also fell apart (perhaps thankfully – the script wasn’t particularly good). Finally though The Green Hornet hits cinemas this week with Michel Gondry in the director’s chair and Seth Rogen and Jay Chou as the costumed crime-fighting duo.

The film opens with the introduction of the young Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) receiving a severe telling off by his newspaper magnate father James Reid (played with a stern authority by the ever reliable Tom Wilkinson). Cut forward a number of years and Britt is an arrogant brat, always partying and never doing anything ‘worthwhile’. Following the death of his father, Britt meeting the family’s mechanic/barista/martial artist/genius Kato (Jay Chou), and an accidental brush with heroism he decides to become a superhero but one that does so under the guise of criminality. Unwittingly providing advisement in the tricky art of becoming a criminal is Lenore (Cameron Diaz), Britt’s new assistant, and filling the role of the villainous nemesis is Chudofsky (Christoph Waltz).

Waltz is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a bit of a scene stealer in The Green Hornet with a comic menace that swings between scary and hilarious. The remainder of the supporting cast are for the most part perfect fits filled with a spread of well known actors and great but often under appreciated character actors. Although some roles are a little thankless (Lenore being one obvious example) the spot on nature of the casting means that the actors are perfectly placed to do exactly what they need to. Although Diaz may be in a sparsely written and somewhat sidelined role the choice of her as actress is an astute one as her innate nature fills in the blanks that the film does not have time to linger on. The same can certainly be said for Edward James Olmos as the acting editor of The Daily Sentinel, Axford, whose character appears to be older, wiser and a little world weary, all qualities Olmos exudes with every breath.

The choice of ‘lead actor’ Seth Rogen, who also wrote the script with Evan Goldberg, as the millionaire Britt Reid (aka The Green Hornet) is one that immediately raised a few hackles in various geek circles with concern mainly focused on a worry that Rogen would do ‘his usual shtick’ which would get old very quickly. Whilst it is true that the boorish, loud-mouth Britt Reid is not too far of a stretch away from characters that Rogen has played in the past there is some depth and subtlety to this role that Rogen manages to rise to and there are large portions of the film where Reid is not a likeable guy and his character arc is perhaps all the better served by an audience in agreement with this. Treading similar ground to Rogen and Goldberg’s Superbad the film though is in many ways a buddy film with the central relationship between Britt Reid and Kato at the heart of it. The chemistry between the two is fantastic and helps make a number of scenes between the two incredibly enjoyable to watch. It also helps detract, in an entirely pleasing way, from a couple of slightly awkward pieces of expositional dialogue.

Whilst Rogen might get top billing here and his character the title of the film, anyone watching The Green Hornet will probably be left in no doubt that, much like the television adaptation, the real star of the show is Kato, played here wonderfully by Taiwanese celebrity phenomenon Jay Chou. Chou is primarily known for his pop career but he has appeared in a number of feature films, including True Legend last year in which he played the God of Wushu, a role that gave him the opportunity to showcase some of his martial arts abilities. Aside from the snappy dialogue scenes (although the script doesn’t quite pop as much as it should at times) between the pair Chou also gets the chance to shine in a number of impressively staged and expertly executed action set pieces, augmented by ‘Kato-Vision’ in which Kato moves through the world at a faster pace and takes out threats with speed and precision. Reminiscent of video games (such as Fallout 3) and even a little of the boxing fight in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (although far better than this example) the Kato-Vision scenes are captivating to watch and Gondry’s direction throughout is near flawless.

The Kato-Vision scenes are also the sequences in which the 3D is most effectively utilised but sadly it is treated a little too much like a gimmick (albeit an enjoyable one) and there are also a number of other scenes in which the application of 3D is seemingly ignored. Whole sections are lacking stereoscopic consideration and some of the shot compositions don’t seem to take into account the 3D process (perhaps due to this not being a consideration whilst filming) and one’s eyes are drawn to the wrong part of the image. The technical viewing experience of the (post converted) 3D is well executed though with a clear picture and no confused perspectives. Despite the often underwhelming use of 3D, the way it is applied in the Kato-Vision scenes makes this entirely worth catching in 3D as the added impact to these already spectacular action scenes is a welcome one. Stick around for the closing credits too as the they are filled with exceedingly fun graphics, especially in 3D.

The action in The Green Hornet is gleefully entertaining with martial arts sequences that mix hyper-reality with a sense of real world threat and the film excels at car chases filled with ludicrous visual extravagance but meshed with impressive grounded stuntwork. The mix of CGI and physical effects is something that Gondry does exceptionally well and The Green Hornet is a thrilling and often beautiful example of this. Gondry is a director who so clearly knows what he’s doing, from the structure of his shot composition (the opening sequence provides many good examples of this) to the scenes of highly complex action. The swift and fluent editing from Michael Tronick also ensures that despite the pace of some of the action, the car chases for instance, nothing is lost in the mayhem on screen.

One of the most interesting qualities that Gondry’s individual approach brings to the film is the world that he creates. Although some of the details may have been in the original script it seems very uniquely Gondry-esque that The Green Hornet and Kato have touchscreens and USB drives but also a record player and a fax machine. The surrounding world is equally modern but filled with elements from decades past. At the centre of this is probably The Daily Sentinel, the newspaper giant that Reid inherits from his father and the battleground that provides the film with an interesting piece of social commentary in its jab at media bias.

Also mixing the old(er) with the new is the eclectic soundtrack and score that, although not always obvious in its choices for a high budget superhero film, works effectively and provides a few enjoyable moments of comedy. It again most likely speaks to Gondry’s sensibilities that millionaire playboys have Digital Underground on in their limos, superheros pretending to be criminals listen to Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise and villain’s hideouts have Anvil videos playing in the background.

This review was originally posted at HeyUGuys.