Green Hornet is an oddity of a film. It's most definitely a superhero tale, being an adaptation of the titular masked vigilante character created by George Trendle and Fran Striker back in the 1930s. And yet it's written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the duo behind Superbad and the stoner comedy Pineapple Express, quite possibly the last people you would think of when trying to revive a near-century old superhero. And yet here's Green Hornet, a mixture of two ways of life that by all means shouldn't work, but somehow finds a way.
In addition to co-writing the screenplay, Seth Rogen himself fills the shoes of the lead crimefighter and his true identity, Britt Reid. This is very much Rogen's Green Hornet; the man doesn't have a hell of a lot of range. That isn't to say he's a bad actor. His chops are of the comedy variety, but he can pull off the dramatic when it's required of him. Reid is a good deal more obnoxious and angry than Rogen's usual charming goofballs, and while this makes him a little hard to like at first, it eventually becomes clear that his anger comes from a place of self-loathing and wasted potential, something a lot of us can identify with. Still, he remains Seth Rogen, even when he goes by the name of Britt Reid.
Christoph Waltz, the Austrian/German actor who rose to American fame with his portrayal of Colonel Hans "Jew Hunter" Landa in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, plays Russian mobster Benjamin Chudnofsky, the film's primary antagonist. I've only seen Landa in Basterds, but he was by far the greatest part of that great film, so I expected the same here. While I wasn't let down, I did feel that he could've done more. It was undeniablely fun watching him struggle with his inability to terrify people, but given the film's lighthearted tone, he really could have gone much more over-the-top than he was and the results could've been something special. As it is, he's passable, and Waltz is better than that.
The real star here, appropriately enough, is Jay Chou as Kato, The Green Hornet's sidekick. In the 1960s television series, Bruce Lee's Kato greatly overshadowed Van Williams's Green Hornet, so much so that the show was renamed The Kato Show in Hong Kong. It's unlikely that Rogen and Goldberg intended for Chou to surpass everyone like he does, but it works out for the best, with Chou turning in the greatest performance in the film, despite his English skills being less than great.
I feel ashamed to write this, but I've only seen one other Michel Gondry film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I can't comment on whether or not he's operating to his usual standard, but I can say that Gondry knows when to keep it simple and when to take risks. Aside from a few dazzling fight scenes, there was nothing exceptionally fantastic about the directing, but he did nothing wrong, either. A competent job, and that isn't meant as a backhanded compliment.
Where The Green Hornet fails is uneven pacing that results in the middle dragging on far too long, unable to keep up the rapid-fire delivery of the first and third acts. I wouldn't go as far as to say it gets boring, but at its worst it's far from compelling cinema, especially given the ho-hum jobs done by Rogen and Waltz. However, the charisma of Jay Chou and the smart humor scattered throughout make it a fun, albeit bumpy, ride.
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