The Green Hornet is a character unbeknownst to most people. Starting as an obscure radio series by George W. Trendle, “The Green Hornet” became a fan-favorite for those enjoying “pulp-heroes” at the time. So it comes as no surprise that some poor sap (most likely an intern) working in Hollywood was forced to dig up the series for the higher-ups who are constantly looking out for potentially profitable ideas. This time the idea was pitched to Stephen Chow, however, because of creative differences, the responsibility was placed on Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) to direct The Green Hornet, which finally releases this weekend.
Britt Reid’s (played by Seth Rogen) life revolves around three things: Fast cars, bottles of Cristal, and women. Living the high life, Britt is oblivious to the widespread corruption plaguing Los Angeles, whose underworld is dominated by the ruthless albeit insecure Mr. Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) — the very same criminal organization that his father, James (Tom Wilkinson), dedicated his life to uncovering when he became head of the “Daily Sentinel,” a publication that has skyrocketed James’ journalistic prestige and provided the funding for Britt’s grandiose pastimes. But when his father is found dead — the cause of a bee sting (to which James was allergic to) — Britt has an epiphany, leaving him with the urge to do something more with his life. Thus he hires Kato (Asian pop-star Jay Chou), James’ old mechanic, who also makes a potent cup of Joe, and together, they make a pact to stop crime. Mixed in with Reid’s power over the ‘Sentinel,’ which he uses to boost his alter-ego’s infamy and Kato’s overall ingenuity when it comes to weaponry and martial arts, the “Green Hornet” is born.
But what separates the duo from other masked vigilantes is the fact that under the mask, Reid is to be considered a felon. Their plan? Pose as crooks so that they can easily worm their way into the syndicate, and then destroy it from the inside. And that’s one thing that the screenplay (penned by Rogen himself alongside Evan Goldberg) does well. By being set in a world that is conscious of comic-books and the clichés that accompany them, The Green Hornet instantaneously becomes more realistic. This decision also personally affects Rogen’s character via an introductory scene that showcases a young Britt, who playing with a Superman doll, is scolded by his father for a fight that happened at school, which the youngster claims was in order to protect one of his schoolmates. From this, it becomes easy to infer that even as a child, Britt was inspired by his favorite comic-book heroes, who ultimately become the basis for his methods. But unfortunately, the rest of Gondry’s latest isn’t quite as inspired, and Rogen, who drops the ball, makes it impossible to believe that there is any intricacy to the character. This, in turn, doesn’t allow audience members to look beyond the surface, where Britt isn’t just an entitled underachiever who has a lust for violence.
And though there is a certain childish thrill that comes from watching someone cause millions of dollars in damage — especially if said individual is using a reinforced sports car, nicknamed ‘The Black Beauty,’ that is decked out with missiles, Gatling guns, and even a personal fax machine, to orchestrate the chaos — The Green Hornet flops when its protagonists aren’t raiding drug dens or in the middle of high-speed chases. This is due to a rotten screenplay that fails on almost every level, save for this antecedent tidbit: Characters that are unlikable, seemingly marinating in their own stupidity, and obnoxious dialogue being just some of its problems.
So it comes as no surprise that when Cameron Diaz is introduced as Lenore Case, Britt’s blond bombshell of a secretary and the most level-headed of the cast, the character despises those surrounding her. Reid’s idiocy being bad enough, but when combined with Kato’s thirst to be the leader, and Chudnofsky’s need to be the only villain in town, this leads to a never-ending chess game between seasoned egomaniacs. But this shouldn’t be misinterpreted as praise for the actress who predictably lends another wooden performance. However this time, she has an entire cast to soften her fall.
As admirable as Seth Rogen finally trying to break out of type-casting is, there is no way to sugar-coat his work on The Green Hornet. It may be a film meant to slowly ease him into playing more complex characters but instead it makes it painfully clear as to why he’s in such a position in the first place: He struggles with anything outside the realm of drunken frat boys, where surprisingly, Rogen is the most charismatic. Shockingly, Waltz, who just earned an Oscar for playing Hans Lander in Inglorious Basterds, is also mediocre, lending nothing new to his character, partially because Chudnofsky is already so poorly crafted. Lastly, there’s Chou, who very quickly becomes one-note. Needless to say, it’s unfair to blame these actors for their work, especially knowing that the script is responsible for a good 90% of the film’s turbulence. Even Gondry’s distinct direction, which cleverly utilizes slow-motion action sequences, cannot give the film enough sting. This makes The Green Hornet one of those films that you try to love but end up hating — another utter disappointment this season.