When most people think of The Green Hornet, most remember Van Williams as the Green Hornet and the legendary Bruce Lee as Kato. Despite the series lasting only one season (26 episodes) the two actors left an indelible impression. Van Williams portrayed Britt Reid as a suave, cool playboy and Bruce Lee was, well, Bruce Lee. More than 40 years later The Green Hornet has finally arrived on the big screen and the logical choice to play the title character is ... um ... Seth Rogen?
I know, I know, I gasped in disbelief, too, when I learned Rogen was writing the script and casting himself in the title role. Rogen has made a career of playing smug, earnest slackers. Rogen has put his own spin on the character and portrayed him as a smug, earnest slacker. But surprisingly, that approach actually works in this movie, at least initially. Upon learning of the death of his father, newspaper magnate James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) Britt is unwillingly thrust into a position of authority at his father's newspaper. Initially, he has no intention of taking on the role, until he meets one of his father's employees, Kato (Jay Chou) who displays some unique talents. The two of them bond rather quickly and Kato reveals a few secrets to Britt. It is at this point when Seth Rogen's slacker, everyman approach works. He marvels with awe at the gadgets and car modifications shown to him by Kato and this sense of awe comes across as genuine since any "normal" guy would be impressed with these cool toys and Kato's skills. After a few drinks, Britt and Kato agree to do something crazy and it's during their antics they find themselves in a situation that demonstrates Kato's true abilities. He's a martial arts master with a Terminator-like ability to disarm and cripple his opponents. It's during this fight scene that the 3-D effects really floored me. It was a spectacular display of choreography and effects that actually gave me goose bumps.
After the encounter, Britt convinces Kato they should do this on a regular basis and there are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments as the duo come up with their alter egos. Soon, the duo gets noticed by a crime lord, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), who apparently has a hand in every crime, no matter how big or small, that takes place in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Waltz, who was so incredibly brilliant in Inglourious Basterds, isn't given much to do as the villain other than offing his henchmen when they disagree with him.
The OTHER star of the movie, the 1965 Chrysler Imperial known as The Black Beauty has some fine moments on screen. The car (or should I say the FLEET of cars) displays an overwhelming arsenal of weapons that would make James Bond or Batman cringe.
Soon, as with many stories, the second act takes a dark turn. Britt gets more arrogant as the movie progresses and a feud develops between he and Kato, and it's at this point the move ceases to be fun. I kept hoping Seth Rogen's Britt Reid would grow up at some point. I kept wishing he would take his new role and responsibilities more seriously; I wanted him to learn to appreciate Kato and acknowledge his contributions to the team. Instead, Britt continues to be a buffoon, never growing, never changing. To get me to care about a character that character needs to learn from his mistakes, develop, grow and mature. Unfortunately, Britt Reid is a one-note character, only conceding Kato's abilities when his life is on the line and Kato is there to save him, yet again. The movie quickly ejects whatever storyline was being developed to quickly spiral into a mishmash of anarchy and mayhem. At times I found it difficult to decipher what exactly was going on. As the credits rolled (which displayed the first impressive 3-D effects since the earlier fight scene) I appreciated the movie for its fun moments, but lamented the fact that the movie could've been so much more.
Rating: TWO AND A HALF BONES
Release Date: January 14th, 2011
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz, and Tom Wilkinson
Director: Michel Gondry
Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Fran Striker, and George W. Trendle