Friday, January 14, 2011

The Green Hornet - Theatrical Review

Release Date: January 14, 2010

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC 12 at Downtown Disney
Time: 12:01 am January 14, 201
Projector Type: Digital 2D

Likes: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Michel Gondry, Super Hero movies
Neutral: Movie remakes of old TV shows
Hates: Cameron Diaz

My expectations for this film, a remake of the original 1966 TV series featuring a then unknown Bruce Lee, were pretty darn low. It had a lot going against it, Director Michel Gondry had up until this point only dealt with dramatic and/or off beat films which contained zero action. Seth Rogen had done mostly comedic roles with very little to no dramatic or action based features. The man taking over the pivotal and iconic role as Kato was a virtual unknown over here in the states. And finally, the television show didn't really have anyone out there clamoring for any type of a reboot or remake. To say this film had a lot stacked against it would be a slight understatement. However, to my surprise and astonishment, that strange mixture of talent came together and provided me with one hell of a fun time at the movies.

Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is that stereotypical rich boy brat. He parties all night and sleeps all day. His only worries in the world are what woman he hooks up with each night and that he has his special cup of coffee with that little leaf on it in the morning. This is all in stark contradiction to how his father, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), runs his life and newspaper business The Daily Sentinel. His father looks at Britt and sees so much wasted potential. He tries as hard as he can to get him motivated but to no avail. It isn't until the untimely death of his father that Britt finally has to stand up and claim his birth rite. Although he isn't very good at running a large newspaper, he leaves that mostly to his father's friend and colleague Axford (Edward James Olmos), he does have a propensity of getting himself into trouble which he turns around to become an asset as he becomes the first real super hero of Los Angeles, The Green Hornet.

Britt is enamored with his new temp secretary.

Britt is kind of an idiot though and there is no way in hell he could pull off such a lofty lifestyle change as that on his own. That is where his father's mechanic/coffee maker Kato (Jay Chou) comes into play. Kato is the ultimate sidekick, he has a seemingly unparalleled amount of knowledge and skill when it comes to realizing and creating the gadgets they use. When in danger he gets what I call "Kato Vision", where time slows down to a crawl for him as he locks on to any danger around him, marks it, and then in one swift motion proceeds to disable/kill/pummel anything or anyone that gets in his way. Oh, and he makes one hell of a cup of coffee as well. Britt and Kato come together and form this unlikely allegiance to take down L.A.'s crime syndicate for a strange mixture of reasons.

While it would be easy to say they do it in honor of Britt's father since he was such a big advocate for taking crime lords head on with his newspaper, that isn't why Britt and Kato begin fighting crime. Their passion to go out and kick some ass comes from them wanting to help people while also having a good time. Britt is amazed at how Kato can lay out six bad guys in a matter of seconds and quickly suggests that the two of them team up and kick ass together, even though Britt is more or less useless in a fight. They decide to not follow the normal path a super hero takes because at some point or another their is some innocent person that is used as leverage to bring them to their knees. In order to render that moot they plan to infiltrate the crime syndicate by posing as criminals themselves and take it down from within. This is when I realized this was not your typical super hero film and that I was in store for something unusual.

Kato is a strange fellow who's motivations are a little unclear.

I found the personalities of both Britt and Kato to be kind of fascinating. They aren't really out to rid the city of crime, at least not in the sense that they are truly trying to save people. Britt seems to be into it because his father denied him the opportunities of living that super hero dream as a child and now that his father is gone it is the perfect rebellious thing to do, plus he gets to play around with all the cool gadgets Kato makes. Kato seems to be a little more level headed, he likes using his skills to help people and he seems to like the fact that he gets to finally do more than just work on cars and make coffee every day. They both seem to be mentally unstable in an odd sort of way. I suppose they are sort of like kids that finally have the house all to themselves for the weekend with the parents out of town.

Those kids get themselves in deeper than they would have liked though when they start tampering with L.A. crime boss number one Chudnofsky's (Christoph Waltz) territories and businesses. Chud, as I will refer to him as from this point forward, is not a very nice guy but he has a hard time coming across as scary. An early scene shows him meeting a new drug dealer that has moved into town by the name of "Crystal" Clear, played by a hilarious James Franco, where he is being ridiculed and talked down to in a very unfriendly manner. After being accused of "not being scary enough", Chud whips out a custom dual barrel desert eagle handgun and wipes Clear's posse out in an instant. He may not come off as scary or original but according to him he IS scary AND original "I have a handgun with two barrels...isn't that original?" he asks. Yes, he is most definitely original, but not too scary in my opinion. So when the Green Hornet and his "sidekick" Kato hit the streets and start taking down his thugs it eventually leads to a full on war between the three men.

Running the newspaper allows Britt to control the news flow on his late night antics.

Rogen and Chou make a really good pairing, especially with how Chou gives as much as he receives when it comes to belting out the insults. Rogen doesn't stray too far from his past performances but puts in a rather surprising turn as a believable, if goofy, super hero. Like I said though, the real highlight is the both of them together, they have a real good chemistry and every scene with the two of them just slinging dialogue back and forth had me completely engaged. Sure, a lot of it was humorous but when they are out fighting crime it often times got real serious as well. Much of that credit goes to Chou (and Rogen, especially as one of the films writers), I wasn't sure exactly how good an actor he was and in the initial trailers he seemed kind of one note and set up as a stereotype. But he somehow over came all that baggage (especially that of being a musician) and gave Rogen a run for the money as far as who the funniest guy on screen was.

Part of the charm and charisma of his Kato is there in the fight choreography and how the character generally handles himself. While Britt is mostly a bumbling buffoon through most of the film, Kato helps offer up some pretty interesting fight sequences that are enhanced by some pretty trippy effects. I already mentioned the Kato Vision, but there is another effect that accompanies that. As he runs, kicks, and hits his enemies it looks as though there are multiple layers or echoes of his movements. It is a strange effect that honestly left me a little more confused than excited, but it sure did look cool! There is another contribution from Kato though that completely won me over by the end of the film. His four wheeled creation...the Black Beauty.

Call him...Bludnofsky...cause it's scary.

This car has got enough gadgets and guns on it to blow both James Bond and Rambo away. To quote Britt "You're like a human swiss army knife, just when you think you have seen everything out pops something else that is really cool!". He is talking about Kato there but that line also describes the car. I wasn't too thrilled with the Black Beauty at first, it seemed pretty run of the mill with it's guns and missiles as far as super hero cars go. It was when I realized the car was an extension of Kato himself, that it didn't work properly unless he was behind the wheel (When Britt tried it was always a miserable failure). There was that and the amount of punishment that thing takes...I mean my god. During the final "chase" scene that lasted for what seemed like forever (in a good way mind you) I started wondering what else they could possibly do to it while making it believable that the dam thing could still run. The car ended up being a huge highlight for me and only helped give Kato even more dimensions to his character.

There were, inevitably I suppose, some issues I had with the film that thankfully didn't detract from the fun and energy it generated too much. I have to go on record and say that I really didn't care for the main villian. I liked where it was going with Chud's character, making him seem meek and "not scary" but I think they were a little too successful with that aspect. His double barreled handgun, his only true defining feature mind you, was cool enough and I liked how such a small guy was carrying that thing around in his pants somehow. But other than doing the typical boss of the bad guys thing by killing anybody in his crew that disagrees with him (he killed Edward Furlong....Nooooo!) he came off as just a crazy guy that got control of the L.A. drug trade somehow. His name change near the end of the film was pretty dam funny, especially his reasoning for it (he was finally starting to become a real villian) but I unfortunately chalk that up as too little too late.

The Green Hornet and Kato are ready to kick some ass.

This next thing I will fully admit is just something I cannot stand personally. I can't hold it against the film itself because I know there are those people out there that like her (you people are insane), but for the love of god what is Cameron Diaz doing in this thing? She plays Lenore, the temp secretary for Britt at the newspaper. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with her character, I love the fact that she was the criminal mastermind behind the Green Hornet's crime escapades and never knew it, but every time I saw that face I just wanted to punch it. It's not like me to hate on an actor, and this isn't even about her acting, but for some reason I just cannot stand to watch her on screen or hear her talk. It is a testament to how fun this film is that I was able to look past her few scenes in it.

And yes this is a very fun film. The jokes, the dialogue, and the action all combine to make the perfect film to start off the new year with. While it probably won't be winning any awards or having its own booth at any geek conventions out there, it is still a very enjoyable ride that is exactly what it sold itself as. The history it carries from the television show which is mostly due to Bruce Lee (love that quick shot of him in Kato's sketch book) is mostly successfully modernized I think. While I have never sat down and watched an entire episode of The Green Hornet television show, I can at least say that the film makers appeared to handle the property in an honorable fashion and Jay Chou fills those hefty shoes well. Here's hoping that Michel Gondry gives us some more of the Hornet in the near future.

Imagine what that would look like in 2D...?

Before we end here I have to vent quickly about one thing. When I sought this film out the other night for one of its many midnight screenings I was shocked to find that all but one theater in my city was playing it ONLY in 3D. I like 3D as much as the next guy but I do not like to be forced to watch it. What the hell is happening out there in cinema-land? And to top it off I saw a trailer for a film whoms name escapes me at the moment but at the end it said "IN 3D!....2D in select theaters", what the hell!?! Since when has 2D become obsolete? I'm sorry, but if this trend continues I might have to start doing some kind of protest because this is just getting out of hand. Have your 3D if you want it, just don't take away my 2D. OK, end of rant, go see the film. Buuuuttttt........



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