Fight Film Friday: The Green Hornet

Posted: January 14, 2011 in fight film friday
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The Green Hornet
USA, 2011
Genre: Action, Superhero
119 minutes

Seth Rogen stars as the Green Hornet, a masked vigilante who takes to the streets after the untimely death of his father.

In this reboot of the franchise made famous by Bruce Lee, the classic pulp detective has been updated for the modern world. Written by Rogen and close friend Evan Goldberg, the titular character hasn’t changed much from his radio drama days, maintaining the ruse of a rival criminal in the underworld while clearing out the streets. The team’s story is simple and predictable, even explicitly using a character within the film to lay out the next plot points. Despite coming in at just under two hours, there was so much the story and characters that was left unexplored, much to the detriment of the finished piece. The dialogue is clunky and stiff at best, with the exception of Rogen’s trademark adlibbing, which is sprinkled throughout the movie for better or worse. Still, it’s clear that the cast is having fun with the script, milking the lines as much as they can. Christoph Waltz’s obsessive villain is hilarious from start to finish, and Rogen’s hero is as much of a ridiculous slacker boy as he is in any of his other films. Whether this is your cup of tea or not is up to you. Jay Chou makes his Hollywood debut as Kato, the role first popularized by Bruce Lee in the 60s. Chou and Rogen play off each other well, adding a much more interesting buddy film dynamic to the story that wasn’t present in the original incarnations.

Director Michel Gondry’s vision of a truly modern superhero adventure does come through, but just barely. The biggest failing of the movie is the inability to maintain a coherent tone through the narrative, hobbled further by the rough editing and the poor transitions between moods. As a result, the energy level bounces up and down between unabashed fun and awkward humor and heavy tension and everything in between. Visually the shots are rather bold and ambitious, with some genuinely impressive moments of filmmaking. However, there is such a reliance on visual effects and cheap editing tricks that it really takes away from the actual cinematography on screen.

The one shining achievement of Gondry’s take on this classic hero is that he didn’t skimp on the action. Every sequence goes completely all out, with massive explosions, exhilarating car chases, and yet still managing to embrace the levity that makes action films fun to watch. Chou’s fight scenes are above average for an American film, although the aforementioned visual effects are completely unnecessary and hamper the experience. Every other aspect of the stunt work, on the other hand, is stunning to behold, and would have improved the film by at least tenfold if the same sense of excitement and abandon carried on through the whole movie. While The Green Hornet is definitely worth watching, I can’t help but feel like it could have been so much more.

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