The Green Hornet was a fast-paced, entertaining and certainly unconventional action hero tale of two men whose lives are in flux. Brought to you by some of the men of the Superbad and Pineapple Express: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg (writer), James Franco, Michael Gondry (director), etc. Britt Reid (Rogen) inherits his father’s business after his death and it happens to be Los Angeles’ largest and most influential newspaper. With this new-found insight into the underground crime world in the gritty city, Reid decides to take matters into his own hands … or at least the hand’s of his sidekick.
Kato (Jay Chou) is definitely Hollywood’s up-and-coming fill-in for the John Cho-type characters (Harold & Kumar). And I’m okay with that, because he rocked as the brains and might of the Green Hornet and nameless sidekick duo. He’s a mechanic’s wet dream and created some badass vehicles for maximum ass-kicking.
Eric Robinette agrees, saying, “Rogen’s shtick of a rowdy layabout has worn out its welcome and become grating. So it’s a good thing that Jay Chou mitigates Rogen with a fun turn as Kato, the role made famous by Bruce Lee.”
That said, it was sometimes hard to watch the ‘friendship’ between Reid and Chou develop because I felt pity for Chou. He was mistreated by the selfish Reid who’s been spoiled his whole life. Reid was constantly putting down Chou and taking credit for everything. Reid never really developed an appreciation and thankfulness to Chou. Even by the film’s end, any kindness Reid gave to Chou was minimal. But at the same time, Chou rarely displayed anything resembling a backbone. He should have stood up for himself and let Reid fall on his face … at least once, just to teach him a lesson.
The film’s action scenes were highly scripted but in an interesting way. Chou’s supreme mental and fighting skills were so good and the viewer got a little glimpse into how his mind worked. But the scenes were just over-the-top in a way that I absolutely hate. Hence, why I rarely see action films — I have little to no suspension of disbelief. I saw the film in IMAX 3-D which really heightened the action scenes but otherwise was not noticeable.
Robinette liked the action, saying, “Director Michel Gondry certainly isn’t working on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind level here, but he’s clearly having fun with visual devices like split screens, and he stages the action well.”
The supporting cast was huge. And all fairly good. Reid’s father, and newspaperman, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) didn’t have a lot of screen time but his character was very important to the plot. He was a moral man but was still susceptible to the bribes and desires of the society we live in, which made him almost the most relateable character of the film. Cameron Diaz plays young Reid’s ‘hot’ assistant but she seems to have lost just a slight bit of her spark since the good days of There’s Something About Mary and Charlie’s Angels. It was nice though to see Diaz playing an intelligent character. Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) supplied the viewer with good comedic relief as Chudnofsky, a fledgling villain losing his footing as L.A.’s prime drug lord. Also notable was Edward James Olmos as a newspaper editor.
The Dilemma was another enjoyable comedy that covered dramatic themes not usually broached in lighter films. Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Kevin James) are BFFs and business partners in an auto company. They strike up a deal with Chrysler and are finally getting their big break for a new idea. As the pressure builds with that, timing couldn’t be worse for Ronny to find out Nick’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) is cheating with a young musician (Channing Tatum).
But like all things, nothing meets the eye and Ronny finds that out as he ‘investigates’ more into the lives of his good friends. At the same time, Ronny is struggling to find the right timing for proposing to his own girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly). But all this drama was balanced fairly well with the comedic moments. It was refreshing to have a “serious comedy.” There aren’t too many of them around. It makes the drama easier to handle and the silly moments more tangible.
Robinette didn’t like this switch from serious to funny, “The ads sell the movie as a comedy, but it’s only comedic in spurts. Long stretches of it are actually serious and sobering. The storyline in and of itself isn’t the problem, it’s the shifts in tone around it.”
James and Vaughn made a great duo. They are absolutely hilarious together and play off each other well. But James definitely shines a little brighter than Vaughn in this film. It’s been a couple years since we’ve seen Vaughn in anything — Couples Retreat in 2009 and Four Christmases in 2008 — and his character was kind of same-old-same-old.
Winona Ryder was good in the film and is definitely making a bit of a comeback, with Black Swan as well — whether I like it or not. She does play bitch well. The under-developed role Jennifer Connelly got stuck with did her absolutely no justice. Her character was weak, and Connelly can be such a strong actress. The aforementioned Tatum was notable as Geneva’s side piece. And Queen Latifah was definitely note-worthy as a Chrysler business partner. Ron Howard as the film’s director was kind of average. He’s definitely performed better (A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon).
Robinette ends with, “The movie as a whole manages to feel overdone and half baked at the same time. As written by Allan Loeb, the drama is too intense, and the comedy isn’t funny enough to alleviate it.” Read his full reviews here.