The first ten minutes of The Green Hornet contained a surprising mashup of Oscar-caliber actors, which made me think perhaps this movie might be a worthwhile piece of entertainment after all. Then most of them vanish never to reappear again, and we settled into the lower-rent rest of the movie.
I am not so much enamored of the Green Hornet premise, and while I do like Seth Rogen in the right part, I was never convinced that indeed he was in the right part here. Rogen plays a gadabout Peter Pan syndrome-afflicted rich playboy. His Seth Rogenness could only be offset for his ample harem of lady friends by his steaming bags of cash and cocky confidence. Who would I cast in his place? Someone funny and cute yet still believably slackerrific like his Freaks and Geeks costar who makes a too-short appearance in this film, James Franco.
So, the rich ginger ends up dependent on a former household servant, Kato (Jay Chou) who is of course the meat and potatoes of their ad hoc crime-fighting partnership. Everyone’s motives but Rogen’s are flimsy at best. Kato’s superhuman capacity for awesomeness repeatedly and annoyingly begs the question: why does he put up with Rogen at all? Even if Bruce Wayne acted like a complete putz, he still has good motives and does his own stunts.
It almost goes without saying that seeing this movie in 3-D adds nothing to the experience. The most in-your-face thing about the movie is the crippling insecurity of all the main players, which rendered it painfully difficult to care about them. The action is excitingly filmed and the car, the Black Beauty, is retro-cool and sexy. Kato’s fight scenes are fast and impressive but invalidated by director Michel Gondry’s GUI explanation of how the master warrior actually manages his badassery in his head.
Truly the reason to watch Green Hornet at all, besides Chou, is Christoph Waltz. As the mildly neurotic head of a petty local crime syndicate, Waltz brings his Inglourious Basterds’ character’s oily charm and a hefty dose of comedic potential. He juggles the responsibilities of simultaneously playing the heavy and the sole comic relief (strangely so in a Rogen vehicle), a difficult task to pull off with such aplomb, but there’s a reason he has so many trophies at home for acting. It was hard to root for the unlikeable antihero with such a deliciously enjoyable villain on the docket. The best film would have had Kato finally murdering Rogen’s character over something hilarious and joining forces with Waltz to open a nightclub.
Watch the Green Hornet on HBO for Waltz and Chou, and pray someone writes Waltz a funny starring vehicle and Chou a dramatic action franchise, soon.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 1/14/11
Time in minutes 108
Director Michel Gondry
Studio Sony Pictures