Sunday 16 January 2011

Review: The Green Hornet

Year: 2011
Director: Michel Gondry
Screenplay: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson

Synopsis is here

Can't you just feel it? January dumping ground, a production plagued with issues and Seth Rogen who to some may have peeked a while back. Here Rogen has not only starring credit, but also writing and production ones. That may mean nothing to some, frustration to others. To me it provides a certain amount of investment. Rogen is an actor I have sometime for and in most of this film I dug him. As a writer, I feel he relies too much on winging it as the improv really shows. As a executive producer? Well this may be in place because Rogen probably helped get this thing finally off the ground.

Despite this, for the most part I enjoyed the green hornet even though better reviewers and critics may try and make me feel like I shouldn't. The plot is a patchy mish mash of most superhero origins going and I will not lie to say that I was completely in love with the Rogen's script (dialogue wise to say it ain't Shakespeare is an insult to things that ain't Shakespeare). However Michel Gondry (Director behind the beautiful Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind) somehow manages to piece together a workable tone. The result is a film with enough knockabout fun to keep me interested and the right amount of nifty visuals (although this is toned down from what we usually see from him) to keep my eyes open.

One thing the film's screenplay manages to get right is playing with the idea of ego between hero, sidekick/partner and villian. Throughout the slapstick, farce and cgi action; the film throws an interesting power struggle and a underused but amusingly silly identity crisis into the superhero mix. Here we have an older gangster whose worried about not being scary enough, while we have a hero who gains the kudos but can't get the girl. Who does? Ask the nameless sidekick. This is not a film that wants to push any of these things truly into the forefront, but they build a rickety yet intriguing foundation for all the flash and gloss.

Gondry seems to know that this isn't really "his" film, and that a shame because when the man is unleashed he is something to behold. Here however, Gondry is happy to place together action set pieces that you can keep track of, silly slow motion moments and a general nuttiness to keep things ticking over. This added to when the actors improvisation actually hits home may not be as effectively subversive as Kick-Ass, but it does manage to remind one that superheroes films needn't have to be gritty.

Acting-wise this is a mixed bag indeed. Cameron Diaz and Tom Wilkinson are restricted to cameo performances, while Jay Chou shows that while it's tough having to act in a second language, it's even worse having to do it when your real job is a pop singer who has to improvise very other line. He is however a good sport and it shows as he comes across well enough. Christoph Waltz once again show that he is an actor of great presence, it's a pity that he could have done with a character that could match it. Then we come to Seth Rogen; who will not win over anyone new here, but will keep his core fans happy. He is playing himself but I enjoy him enough to to completely chastise him.

The Green Hornet would have been eaten alive if left on the summer release dates that it was originally given. You could say its January ghost town release is a saving grace, critics have begged to differ (despite being on target box office wise) as many have been savaging the flick. Me? Well I can't lie. By the time Britt Reid and Kato start wailing on each other in an OTT smackdown fight. I was giggling.

Additional note (16/1/11 - 23:40): Just after writing this. I discovered this link from the L.A times stating that it really may not have been Gondry's film.