The Green Hornet * *

Genre: Action Comedy

Director: Michel Gondry

Writers: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, based on the radio series by George W. Trendle

Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Christoph Waltz

Running Length: 119 minutes

Synopsis: Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the son of a wealthy and recently deceased media mogul who seems to be the epitome of badly behaving moneyed offspring. However, Britt and his sidekick Kato (Jay Chou) transform into masked superheroes at night, posing as criminals and pitting themselves against corrupt District Attorney Scanlon (David Harbour) and crime lord Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). However, because they are pretending to be criminals, the police are also hot on the masked duo’s trail. Apart from Kato, Reid’s only other ally is his personal assistant Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz). Eventually, the conflict between Reid and Chudnofsky come to a head, and a battle of wits and brute force (more of the latter, though) ensues.  

Review: Other than a number of sequels, the past couple of years have been pretty quiet for the superhero movie genre. This is set to change in 2011 with a deluge of superhero movies, and the first salvo is that of Michel Gondry’s re-imagining of The Green Hornet. Given the unconventional release date of January, it’s quite obvious that this particular superhero movie doesn’t pack big guns. And while that is true, The Green Hornet still offers up some decent entertainment, but suffers from an overlong running time and a lack of focus.  

Unsurprisingly, The Green Hornet will be viewed very differently in Hollywood compared to here in Asia – after all, Jay Chou can be considered one of the most well-known celebrities in this part of the world, and The Green Hornet will very much be seen as a star vehicle for him. This actually bodes well for the film because Jay Chou is the best thing in the movie. Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet is simply put, Seth Rogen wearing a mask, and as a central protagonist he is so annoying at times that I occasionally found myself rooting for the villains. This allows Jay Chou’s Kato to stand out as the more sympathetic character, and simply put, Jay Chou just does more with his role and characterization, poor English enunciation notwithstanding.

The biggest issue with The Green Hornet is that it’s just too unfocused throughout its too-long 2 hour running time. The screenplay cannot decide if it wants to be a superhero movie or a spoof of a superhero movie. While it’s not necessarily a negative to have a little bit of everything, this is only true when the proceedings are interesting. This could be one of the most boring superhero origins stories of all time (basically it’s two people deciding to put on costumes while performing vigilante work), and to spend almost half of the movie on this aspect doesn’t work.

It’s also a pity that the usually visually inventive Michel Gondry limited himself to just a couple of sequences – there is an absolutely brilliant telephone montage that employed split screens like I’ve never seen before.  However, the usage of 3D in the film (apart from the end credits) is very minimal, and Gondry, who is an expert in employing visual tricks, does not make use of the third dimension at all.  There is a good possibility that if given freer rein and a tighter script, The Green Hornet could have been a good, if not great, superhero movie, but now it’s merely passable entertainment, especially so for fans of Jay Chou. 

Rating: * * (out of four stars)

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