Mind-bending indie director Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep) proves so capable at crafting crackling action sequences in the $120 million big-screen version of The Green Hornet that it’s a shame star Seth Rogen had to go and ruin the rest of the movie.
As in the ‘30s radio serial, and ‘60s TV series featuring Bruce Lee, it centers on newspaper publisher Britt Reid (Rogen) and his confidant, Kato (Jay Chou), who moonlight as masked crime fighters posing as criminals in order to infiltrate the criminal underworld. Here they try to stop a Russian mobster (Christoph Waltz) from uniting Los Angeles’ crime families.
The movie as a whole is meant to be a lark, I guess, but it still would have helped to have a main character to root for. We don’t get that with Rogen, who helped write the thing. He plays the same old slacker man-child he always does, albeit a rich one. So instead of a hero who takes getting shot at seriously, we get a boorish frat boy who thinks it’s cool to go after gun-toting bad guys. He’s what Batman would be if Bruce Wayne were full of himself.
As well Rogen doesn’t act so much as goof his way through his lines, which results in some pretty awful scenes, like when he interviews Cameron Diaz to be his new secretary. Scowling is about the extent of his actual emoting. None of this would matter, of course, had there been someone to pick up his slack. Diaz has little to do besides spraying Rogen with mace, Chou looks the part but lacks Lee’s charisma, and Oscar-winner Waltz tries hard to be funny but somehow falls flat (though he does get the world’s coolest gun).
The numerous action scenes are what make the film watchable. For sure Gondry’s good with massive explosions–the bulldozer getting blown into the air is especially cool–but he also gives the shootouts, car chases and Chou’s martial arts brawls an entertainingly off-kilter energy. Watch how, when Chou jumps over a car’s hood to get at some thugs, the car suddenly looks like it’s being reflected in a slew of mirrors. Or how Chou pops into a bad-guy SUV and takes out the thugs inside.
I almost forgot about Black Beauty, the duo’s sleek supercar that’s one of the sweetest-looking set of superhero wheels around, decked out as it is with green headlights, ejector seats, rocket launchers, side-door machine guns, wheel saws and, for our more enlightened era, a bean bag launcher. During the action-crazy finale, Rogen and Chou are still able to drive around in its front half after it gets cut in half going up in an elevator. That ability alone makes it more of a star than the humans around it.- [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 5/6/11