The Green Hornet
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I really didn't know what to expect when I heard Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) would be helming a sudo superhero movie based on a radio program that got its start back in the 30s. This was to be an action movie created by a director known for his heartfelt themes, creative handmade visuals, and unique story telling structures. Possibly even more strange to me was that this film was to star Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express, Knocked Up), today's leading stoner character actor. I certainly didn't expect this combo to play out as well as it has.
Rogen plays Britt Reid, the overindulgent man-child son of newspaper tycoon James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). James's untimely death leaves Britt the head of his father's media empire. Shortly after meeting Kato (Jay Chou), the man who makes his coffee every morning, they bond over their aversion of James, and shortly after Britt finds that his new friend is a mechanical genius and skilled ninja. They cruise the city in one of his Kato-tweaked rides and end up roughing up a group of criminals. The duo are enamored and decide to delve deeper into the world of crime fighting by creating The Green Hornet and his sidekick. Moving forward they want to remain morally ambiguous in the media to avoid superhero stereotypes. To unknowingly help research crime for them to fight, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) is hired as an assistant at the paper. Meanwhile, the local crime boss, Chudnofsky, played by a reposed Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), thinks that he may lose his power to The Green Hornet if he doesn't take action. He hires all the gangs within city lines to assassinate the Hornet. The results are a laugh out loud funny action flick that pays tribute to both its radio and comic book roots.
The Green Hornet is not Gondry's best film, but it is certainly a fun film none the less. It generally lacks his signature visual touches, except for a few scenes; one in particular in which news of the Hornet is being spread by word of mouth and the screen slickly splits until there are many different small stories taking place at the same time. It brought me back to some of his best music video creations where he got his start as a director. Glossy mansions and modern offices fill the screen most of the time, keeping Gondry from getting comfortable in his typical homey on-screen atmospheres.
Below the smartly written wisecracks and the comedically choreographed action sequences, The Green Hornet is about human relationships and our uncanny ability to misread them. Britt doesn't understand his father's interactions with him shortly before his death. The star duo quarrel over misunderstanding their relationships with Lenore and each other. Chudnofsky even misunderstands his relationship to The Green Hornet. Even under all the gloss and superficial characters, Gondry is able to work with a subject we can all relate to.
The director does a valiant job stepping out of his comfort zone to create this clever super hero adventure. Though Rogen stays well within his performance repertoire, his character fits the film well. With its strange amalgamation of stars and lineage, The Green Hornet wasn't guaranteed the success that many big budget films come with. I'm happy to say that the risk was well worth it.