‘The Green Hornet’ was one of those 1960’s American TV series that we only heard of here in the UK as, somehow, it failed to make the leap across the pond to become regular Saturday night viewing. We’d heard tell of the masked man and his legendary Martial Arts expert sidekick Kato, played by the equally legendary Bruce Lee. We’d seen pictures of their cool car, the Black Beauty – but never actually had the chance to see how good the series was for ourselves. Well, that could be seen as a good thing and a bad thing. Good because we have nothing to compare any big screen adaptation with and bad because, after seeing ‘The Green Hornet’ movie we might think that the original TV series was just as awful – but then, surely it couldn’t possibly be. Courtesy of the recently released UK Region free (non 3D) Blu-ray we now get the chance to find out what it was all about. Or do we?
‘The Green Hornet’ starring Seth Rogen and Jay Chou is another example of just how today’s ‘creative’ writers and producers can make a total mess of something that was a big success on TV (so we’re told). I shudder to think what would have happened if they’d got their hands on the first Tim Burton ‘Batman’ movie. There’s actually more of a comparison here than you might think. Michael Keaton – an American comedy star was chosen to play ‘Batman’ and Seth Rogen, also an American (well Canadian, but that’s close enough) comedy actor somehow became star, co-writer and executive producer of ‘The Green Hornet’. The difference being that too much control (or lack of) was given to one person. Another difference was that while ‘Batman’ was played straight, ‘The Green Hornet’ was played for laughs – and it just didn’t work. There was nobody in a position of power with enough common sense and experience to bang a few heads together and say “Call yourselves writers? This is complete and utter trash. You’re fired!”
I hope you'll forgive this venting of spleen, this vitriol, this spitting of fire gentle reader but maybe it’s time that we as the viewing audience said “Enough is enough!” Imagine how you would have felt if you’d forked out £20 for two people to see it at the cinema. Totally ripped off is how – and it’s time that it stopped.
But anyway, here’s the storyline. Spoilt brat, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) has been brought up badly by Newspaper tycoon James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) and so becomes a total waster with a silver spoon in his mouth. Things change when his Dad is found dead and Britt inherits the family business but, more to the point, after he’s fired the domestic servants he discovers that there’s nobody left to make him a nice cup of coffee in the morning. On rehiring Kato (Jay Chou), he discovers that there’s much more to this guy than just beverage preparation. Holy smoke - the guy’s a mechanic, driver, inventor, martial arts expert...the list goes on. After they get drunk together, they discover that neither liked Britt’s Dad, so as payback (and I found this scene thoroughly distasteful) they visit the cemetery and cut the head off a statue of his father. Whilst doing so they interrupt the mugging of a young couple and chase off the bad guys. So now Britt has a brain flash. Why not become superheroes? Aha, but no ordinary superheroes. They’ll be heroes posing as villains. This is as good as it gets, folks.
So they set out to take on local bad guy Chudnovsky played by Christoph Waltz , who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2009 for his turn as the evil Nazi Hans Landa in Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’ - although he’s sadly misdirected here by Michel Gondry. So who wins? Does Chudnovsky destroy them or is it the other way round? Who knows, who cares? To find out you’ll have to watch the movie, but if you’ll take my advice you’ll watch something else.
Right, so what’s so wrong with all this. Well, first of all there’s a comedic bickering between Britt and Kato that makes them look like an old married couple. This develops into a fight that was reminiscent of the Inspector Clouseau and Kato fights from the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies. In ‘The Green Hornet’, the sidekick is the brains of the outfit and the boss guy is a clown – although sans red nose. You just cannot take this pair seriously and the same criticism can be levelled at the whole movie. Cameron Diaz appears as Lenore (blimey, fabric conditioner product placement in character names – whatever next?) who unwittingly helps the duo choose their next caper and also is the source of petty jealousy between them.
The biggest travesty of all was to not allow Christoph Waltz to play Chudnovsky in a way that made him terrifying. Instead he’s an insecure, small man who, although he backs up his threats with violence, is just not scary at all. He wants to be feared and politely thanks people who give him some insight into the reasons for his failure in this area – before shooting them. The movie started off well with a scene depicting Chudnovsky taking on a roomful of competitors that involved some amazing gunplay and a room shaking explosion – but it all went downhill from there.
On the plus side, the Special Effects are impressive. The gadgets on Black Beauty (the car, folks) put James Bond to shame. The car chases, gunfights and stunts are well staged but we’ve mostly seen it all before. We also get treated to the old slo-mo fight sequences on a few occasions and it just takes any excitement out of them. The lighting and camerawork looks good as befitting a big blockbuster movie. Basically, the technical side is fine.
Now, I thought it was just me but having checked with others I find that I’m not in the minority. Seth Rogen is completely unlikeable. He reminds me of Vince Vaughn is a way – but at least Vince has moments when you warm to him. Seth, just has to shout all his lines in an aggressively threatening way. I’m sure he believes this is called acting. Jay Chou was pretty good as Kato, when you could work out what he was saying. A dialogue coach would have helped here.
It would have been nice to report that ‘The Green Hornet’ was exciting, enthralling, exhilarating and many other descriptive terms beginning with the letter ‘e’, but it’s not. The only word I can think of is a derogatory one and begins with the letter ‘p’. Come to think of it, there’s another one beginning with an ’s’. Oh, and another starting with ‘c’. Its tag line should have been ‘The Green Hornet – you’ll know you’ve been stung!’ There’s a 3D version available too as the movie was shot flat then converted to 3D, but I doubt if it’ll make the movie any better. What’s that phrase about polishing something beginning with the letter ‘t’?
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