The Green Hornet

Movie Review: The Green Hornet (2011)
Following the death of his father, Britt Reid teams up with his late dad’s assistant Kato to become a masked crime fighting team.
Spoilers: none

Seth Rogan, Jay Chou, and Cameron Diaz star in the 2011 remake of George Trendle's 1960s television series The Green Hornet. As a mixture of martial arts, guns, techno-gadgetry, and nostalgia, this amply entertaining film, directed by Michel Gondry, makes good on its promise to start the year off on a powerfully entertaining note.

When his father and owner of the acclaimed newspaper The Daily Sentinel passes away, Britt Reid (Rogan) finds himself at the head of his father’s company, but ill-prepared to handle the job. It isn’t until meeting Kato (Jay Chou), his father’s former mechanic, that the two cross brains and come up with the crazy idea to put to use the old man’s wealth to be good guy vigilantes while posing as the bad guys.

Fashioning himself as “The Green Hornet” and making waves in the crime-ridden streets of Los Angeles, it isn’t long until the inept Hornet – with his more-than-competent Asian sidekick to pick up the slack – are getting the attention of Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), a Russian crime-lord and meth producer who sets out to literally bury them. Reporter Lenore Case (Diaz) finds herself in on the action when she is taken on by Reid for her crime analyst skills to assist them in their secretive vigilante ambitions—this is aside from her being at the heart of both Reid’s and Kato’s affections.

The Green Hornet is not an instant sale. It takes quite some time to drag itself up from the grave it digs for itself early on in a badly acted opening that is, thankfully, only a stage-setter for what becomes an entertaining film with a pleasingly thought-out story—generic in its details, embellished in its dialog, and showy in disposition.

The acting, accents, attitudes, and attempts at humor are well received only in a few places. When they are not, we get a feeling of awkwardness and some action sequences that raise eyebrows before entertaining. Watching Rogan and Chou take their characters in the direction of several runts of a litter of undeserving heirs to-be of a fortune is somehow still entertaining, despite non-complimentary energy between the two.

The weird hero theme comes into play early on and shouldn’t expect to be greeted with a warm welcome. Reid and Kato are intentionally portrayed as disappointed with the direction their lives are heading. Why not make some changes, fight the system, and get ahead? It’s the new old tale of great men and the sons who choose to walk a different path when they take the reins.

Our over-the-top antagonist, Chudnofsky, has some of the most “cookie cutter” villain ambitions as any you'll find. The character is intentionally set up to fail to make an impression. This causes him to want to assume a new identity also, establishing this flawed but entertaining film as a bypassing parody of superhero movie vigilantes/villains. Chudnofsky is even more of a self-parody than Hornet or Kato, but this reeling reinvention seldom does what parodies are supposed to do: be funny.

But in The Green Hornet, few will deny that Rogan gives it his all with his come-to-be-loved dry humor. Sadly, neither he, nor Diaz can add much flair to this effort over and above what it has to offer in the vein of a non-serious movie involving over-the-top king pin crime-lords and a rich kid’s gadgets put to good use to oppose them.

That this is a remake should be evident (ambitious crime bosses and attacking street thugs fit the profiles of previous decades). The project itself, which makes quite a few changes from the original series, tells us, in its similarities to Batman, that this unremarkable but passably entertaining work might well be saved for a rainy day.


Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13 (for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality, and drug content)
Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Seth Rogen "Britt Reid / The Green Hornet," Jay Chou "Kato," Cameron Diaz "Lenore Case," Tom Wilkinson "James Reid," Christoph Waltz "Chudnofsky," David Harbour "Scanlon," Edward James Olmos "Mike Axford"
Genre: Action / Comedy / Crime