Sony // 2011 // 119 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // May 9th, 2011
Breaking the law to protect it.
A slick and agreeably goofy origin story, The Green Hornet definitely marked an above average start for the blockbusting calendar of 2011. Directed by critical darling Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and with a script courtesy of Pineapple Express scribes Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, it's a rather refreshing commodity in this era of superhero overload. The picture is far from perfect (its action beats are substantially less impressive than the comic elements), but overall The Green Hornet satisfies because it delivers a healthy dollop of undiluted fun.
A lazy and over privileged party boy, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen, Observe and Report) is rendered stunned when his media mogul father (Tom Wilkinson, Batman Begins) is killed via an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Left to run an empire he has no interest in, Britt turns to his father's mechanic Kato (Jay Chou, Curse of the Golden Flower) for advice, the pair inexplicably making headlines after some intentional vandalism and accidental heroism gets them spotted by the local authorities. Narrowly escaping, the duo decides to team-up, taking the false form of villains so they can secretly act as heroes. Using Kato's arsenal of gadgets and his intensive martial arts knowhow, the pair become renowned on the streets, Britt branding his vigilante alter ego as the Green Hornet. However local crime boss Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds) isn't content with Britt and Kato moving in on his turf, feelings that quickly lead him to place a hefty bounty on the Green Hornet's head.
Under Gondry's supervision, The Green Hornet is less deliberately quirky than expected, the French filmmaker handling the material in a rather conventional fashion. What actually distinguishes this entry from the dozens of other superhero flicks is the screenplay, which literally oozes Seth Rogen's writing style with every line. Goldberg and Rogen have collaborated to create an amusing script, not particularly ambitious from a storytelling standpoint, but definitely an original in terms of dialogue and characterization. There's a lot of funny stuff on show here, the writers balancing the laughs between spectacularly silly slapstick and numerous witty exchanges. Of course there's a fair amount of crude humor (in a PG-13 sort of way, we're not talking Superbad here), but it's of a moderately high quality. Overblown and heavily budgeted studio comedies rarely work, but The Green Hornet marks a pleasing exception.
Rogen and Chou's performances are deserving of praise, the pair making for a sparkly and likable onscreen couple. Rogen manages to once again make an asshole of a character rather engaging (mostly through sheer silliness), and Chou deadpans beautifully to compliment the leading man's frequent idiocy. Physically both actors also give the film their best shot, Chou in particular deploying some mightily impressive athleticism to lend the hand to hand combat sequences a touch of added class. Christoph Waltz is clearly having a blast as a campy mobster with an inferiority complex, aiming for chuckles rather than any proper semblance of threat. As the love interest, Cameron Diaz (portraying Britt's highly educated secretary) is mostly wasted, the actress's innate charm only able to shine through during a select few moments.
Gondry is able to infuse the movie with a few striking visual tics, but for the most part the film is optically a rather ordinary affair; albeit the production values are of a rather rich standard. The action sequences in the movie don't strive too hard, most of the set-pieces involving slow-mo fistfights or high speed car chases. It's all shot with a gracious amount of energy and kinetic force, but on the whole none of it really registers as particularly memorable. It's acceptable, just not very special. The violence utilized is definitely more intense and graphic than that found in most family friendly pictures, but The Green Hornet is far from a gritty affair. Indeed much of the bloodshed is carried out in the spirit of laughter; the level of testicle trauma on show here is proof enough of the film's comedic conviction. However the production is at its sharpest when focusing on Britt and Kato's wacky interplay; when Gondry moves the film onto a grander blockbusting plateau its entertainment value dips notably.
It's also worth noting that the film holds up well on repeat viewings -- I enjoyed The Green Hornet as much here as I did during my theatrical experience in January.
Sony has put together a mighty Hi-Def disc for the film, the video and audio quality superb throughout. The audio is particularly immense, lending the action sequences an oomph that's almost unparalleled in the home entertainment arena. The picture is also extremely sharp, especially the numerous segments set during the night, but honestly, it's the audio capability that rocks hardest here. The Blu-Ray comes with a great commentary, director, star, producers and writers all sit down to discuss the film amusingly, but even more importantly honestly. Rogen dominates the discussion, throwing out anecdotes and production stories rapidly, covering ground that includes Nicolas Cage's almost involvement with the project, Stephen Chow's brief and troubled stint as director, and the open artistic arguments had among all the contributors. It's obvious that Gondry and Rogen may not have shared identical takes on the material, but it's interesting to hear the pair debate their personal opinions, all the while maintaining a friendly and boisterous tone. It's a fascinating feature, almost trumping the movie itself as a reason to check out this release. The rest of the disc comprises mostly of shorter featurettes that cover much of the same stuff mentioned in the commentary. They also feel considerably more artificial, lacking the truthfulness that makes the talk track so valuable. Deleted scenes and a gag reel are also onboard, as is something called The Cutting Room, in which viewers can edit and reconfigure scenes from the film. It's pretty pointless, but acts as an intriguing look at what we can expect from the format in the future.
As bubblegum escapism, The Green Hornet is a nifty accomplishment. It's unlikely to be regarded as the most viscerally rewarding slice of Hollywood bombast you'll see this year, but it certainly brings giddy laughs with aplomb. At 119 minutes things perhaps go on for a little too long (I'll reiterate that the central plot is totally run of the mill), but as a cheeky and cheerful romp it represents a jovial watch. Sony's work on the Blu-Ray is strong.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Cutting Room
* Cinema Verdict Review