Directed by: Michel Gondry
Starring: Seth Rogan, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christof Waltz
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content.
“The Green Hornet” is a summer action flick if ever I’ve seen one. It’s silly and lighthearted, has great fight scenes and a rather sweet buddy storyline, and while its pacing isn’t the most even, it has a lot going for it. Seth Rogan co-wrote, co-produced, and co-stars in it, and it has the feel of a labor of love.
The story has a fair amount of distracting exposition and political finagling in it, but the basics are these: party-hard rich boy Britt Reed (Seth Rogan) finds himself inheriting his difficult father’s highly successful newspaper when the old man dies suddenly. After an outing to blow off some steam with his late dad’s mechanic-slash-barrista, Kato (Jay Chou), turns into saving a couple from muggers, he develops a taste for the heroic stuff. Kato enjoyed it too, so they team up. The town is overrun with organized crime, so Britt uses his resources at the paper to figure out a course of action to take down the top guy in town, Chudnofsky (Christof Waltz). Having learned from watching superhero movies that being known as a good guy is something of a weakness, he and Kato play themselves off as criminals and go to work.
Britt is a spoiled, self-centered rich kid, but he means well and his consistent optimism and boyish excitement make him almost impossible to dislike. Kato is the level-headed, competent one, and as soon as they bond over their mutual aggravation with Britt’s father, it’s obvious this is going to be a buddy flick at its heart. Britt’s new secretary, Lenore (Cameron Diaz) provides a little love-triangle tension, but manages not to be a stereotypical action-flick heroine in any other way. She’s pretty and smart, but also able to hold her own when her home is invaded. When it turns out to just be Britt and Kato on the run from the cops, she pepper-sprays them anyway, on principle. She’s no shrieking, helpless girl who needs rescuing.
Unsurprisingly (at least to anyone who saw “Inglourious Basterds”), Waltz steals almost every scene he’s in as the uber-villain Chudnofsky — and he does it by underplaying the lunatic crime boss. It’s a wonderful, strange performance that is even funnier for its lack of scenery-chewing. His initial scene opposite an uncredited James Franco is hilarious even as it establishes him as a villain to be reckoned with.
“The Green Hornet” is not a great film, by any measure. It feels like it was written by a handful of guys sitting around a table trying to crack each other up rather than tell a coherent story. It is, however, a great deal of fun if you don’t expect too much of it. It also has a number of moments where it doesn’t go in the direction you’d expect from a movie about masked heroes. As someone who has seen one heck of a lot of masked hero movies, I found that rather refreshing. For one thing, although it’s left open for sequels, it stands alone quite happily and the ending doesn’t have that “LOOK! AN OPENING FOR A SEQUEL!” feel to it.
If there’s any justice, though, there will be another “Green Hornet” film. This isn’t a perfect flick but it’s a fun action film that doesn’t try to be all gritty and unpleasant, and that’s a rare commodity in Hollywood these days. We can always use more movies that are both exciting and light-hearted.