The Green Hornet

Film Review by Thom Atkinson | 19 Jan 2011
  • The Green Hornet
Film title: The Green Hornet
Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson
Release date: 14 Jan
Certificate: 12A

During the 1930s families would gather round their crackling wireless to hear the radio adventures of a playboy billionaire turned crime fighter, but this was no Dark Knight rising. Battling bad guys and ne’er-do-wells with a trusty sidekick and introducing a gadget laden car well before the Batmobile, The Green Hornet was the costumed crime fighter of choice. As alter ego Britt Reid, publisher of The Daily Sentinel, he was in the loop long before Clarke Kent on The Daily Planet or Peter Parker on The Daily Bugle. So where has he been since?

While Superman and Spider-Man went on to become icons, The Hornet became somewhat anonymous, a second tier everyman with few remembering he was actually the grand-nephew of The Lone Ranger. The Green Hornet was even second fiddle in his own show, regularly upstaged by his right hand man, Kato. The role was immortalised by Bruce Lee in the 60s TV series which saw his legend begin, whereas Van Williams, who took the lead, never graduated past TV guest spots

Over the last decade a big screen version of The Green Hornet lacked one thing, a green light. Filtering through the hands of directors such as Kevin Smith and with A-list actors like George Clooney briefly attached, the script finally landed in the unlikely hands of Seth Rogen and his Superbad writing partner Evan Goldberg. In the director’s chair, meanwhile, was rogue eccentric Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind), a man not unfamiliar with The Hornet as the project had circled past him several years previously. This superhero film was never going to be by the book.

Proceedings seemingly begin with a classic origin story as the party boy slacker, Reid (a lean Rogen), must sober up upon the death of his media mogul father (Tom Wilkinson). Quickly introduced to his coffee making man-about-house Kato (Jay Chou), who has sideline expertise in martial arts and Q-like weapons augmentations, the pair bond over their disaffection for the departed and an accidental crime intervention sees the birth of a new dynamic duo. There is no grand sense of justice or even vengeance driving The Green Hornet; it is just that kicking ass might be fun, and it turns out it is.

This is a knowing look at the superhero genre, with a fine line between itself and reality. Reid is a man out of his depth, but Rogen is a man in his element, his bumbling frat house humour and off screen asides delivering a comedy turn of the highest calibre. The chemistry with his straight talking sidekick provides a stable core to the movie as the two cruise the streets looking for trouble with no real sense of direction, haphazardly arriving upon crime – mainly as the result of research by Reid’s newspaper.

The introduction of Cameron Diaz as secretary and shared object of affection is unfortunately a sad regression in her career, showing little evolution from her eye candy debut in The Mask. Christoph Waltz, however, as the unmemorably named neurotic villain Chudnofsky, cruises effortlessly as the insecure crime boss delivering his musings of self doubt with a reversal of the gravitas he carried in Inglorious Basterds. Although almost everyone is schooled by a sublime opening cameo by the blisteringly on form James Franco as upstart villain ‘Crystal’ Clear.

The Green Hornet delivers a comic revamp a million miles from the ‘darker’ edge of today’s heroes. Gondry has a clear affection for the crime fighter, bringing his flaws and offbeat charm to the forefront, and by the end of the film it’s hard not to be enamoured with our eponymous hero.