The Green Hornet has appeared in books, a television series, and perhaps in its most famous form, as a radio series. Adapting a superhero to the big screen is not without its share of challenges. For every Batman and Spiderman that sets box office records there are several that fail miserably, such as Daredevil, Elektra, The Phantom, The Shadow, and the first Hulk movie.
When it was first announced that Seth Rogen would star as the title character many people were first skeptical that a chubby comedian would be able to pull off the part. While the Green Hornet is not as iconic as Batman, the casting did bring to mind the controversy of casting Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight for Tim Burton’s take on the Caped Crusader.
Further complicating matters were the delays and in the announcement that the film would be converted to 3-D in postproduction even though it was shot in 2-D. When the film failed to meet its anticipated holiday debut there were those that had wondered if the film would fail to meet even modest expectations as January certainly isn’t the time of year that action films, especially those based on a superhero, are released.
Thankfully the film is an extremely pleasant surprise that deftly mixes comedy and action with smart pacing in a winning formula. The film tells the story of Britt Reid (Rogen), the son of a wealthy newspaper owner who, despite his best efforts, always disappoints his father who never runs out of ways to criticize his only child. Britt, to his father’s dismay, has no ambition in his life and is content to live in the guesthouse of his father’s mansion, womanizing and embracing the party scene.
When his father dies unexpectedly, Britt is forced to take control of the newspaper, a job for which he is woefully unqualified. It is at this time that Britt meets Kato (Jay Chou), his father’s long-time employee, responsible for taking care of the elder Reid’s very impressive fleet of cars.
One evening in an act of rebellion against the benevolent image of his father, Britt and Kato intervene to stop a crime. Motivated by their success and by Kato’s amazing ability to invent technology and modify vehicles, as well as his superb martial arts abilities, the duo set out to make a name for themselves by taking on the city’s criminal element.
While it first appears that Britt sees this as just some grand adventure, he soon becomes dedicated to the cause and sets upon a path to use his newspaper to play up his newly created hero. The plan is to make the Green Hornet appear to be a bad guy when in reality he is fighting to end crime. The convoluted idea has some initial success despite Britt’s lack of fighting ability. Britt and Kato soon begin to make a name for themselves in the local underworld as well is dominate the media.
At this time a young assistant named Lenora case (Cameron Diaz), comes to work for Britt. Britt and Kato are both captivated by Lenora and use her knowledge of criminal psychology to detail their plan of action for their alter egos. While Britt and Kato are buoyed by their initial success they soon find themselves under the scrutiny of the local crime boss Chudnofsky (Christopher Waltz), an insecure criminal who believes people don’t think he is scary enough or stylish enough.
Finding them an annoyance, Chudnofsky decides to wage all-out war on the Green Hornet and Kato and will rest at nothing to see them dead. As if this was not bad enough, Britt and Kato find themselves in a jealous rivalry over Lenora as well as their roles. Britt sees himself as the real hero and Kato as merely his sidekick. Kato naturally takes umbrage with this being not only the one who develops all of their gadgets, including the awesome black beauty equipped with bulletproof glass, machine guns, rocket launcher and a flamethrower, but also the one with the amazing fighting skills.
What follows is a hilarious and action packed film that is one of the most satisfying action-buddy-comedies ever made. Rogen is in his element cleverly playing Britt as an everyman who, despite having all the advantages of wealth, is still very much a kid playing superhero who has to learn about the important things in life .
The action sequences are fresh and entertaining and both Rogen and Chao pull off their roles very convincingly. While the plot is not overly complex it serves its point and propels the characters along without getting bogged down or becoming too ridiculous. Director Michel Gondry keeps the film moving at a steady pace without overstaying its welcome and does not allow the action to overtake the characters.
The supporting cast is very strong and the only real issue I had with the film was the converted 3-D that was totally unnecessary and did little to enhance the film. Very few sequence appeared to benefit from it. That being said I had a fantastic time at this film and I surely hope that we’ll be seeing other films in the series in the not too distant future.
4 stars out of 5
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