Unlike most of the current superhero film adaptations, The Green Hornet originated on the radio, created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, in the 1930s. Trendle made a series that strived to “show that a political system could be riddled with corruption and that one man could successfully combat this white-collar lawlessness,” and it would be interesting to see how Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (writers and producers) were to interpret this – serious action drama or comedy, like the TV series.
The film follows Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), the begrudging son of a newspaper tycoon, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), who plays by the book and isn’t afraid to print real news. James dies from an allergic reaction to a bee sting, leaving his son to run his newspaper empire. Britt impulsively fires everyone that worked for his father except the guy that makes the coffee, Kato (Jay Chou), who is a genius inventor, valet and James Reid’s personal ‘ride-pimper’. The two men bond over many drinks and their mutual dislike for James and drunkenly hatch a plan to decapitate his statue as a final act of vengeance. However, when Britt comes across a couple being mugged and unsuccessfully attempts to save them, Kato comes to his boss’s rescue, using his super analyzing powers and martial arts to vanquish the group of ruffians. The two friends then decide to become heroes, masquerading as vigilantes, because they think it would be ‘fun’. And so the Green Hornet is born. Britt hires new secretary, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), whose qualification in criminal law results in her unwittingly masterminding their whole operation, and they soon draw the attention of Chudnofsky/ Bloodnofsky (Christoph Waltz), the king pin boss of the city who is obsessed with appearing scary.
This film is terrible and not one of those ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ jobbies. The entire script was confused, trying to be serious while at the same time spoofing the action hero genre. It’s unoriginal, acted badly by almost everyone and tries too hard to be funny. It fails at every hurdle, giving us characters that were grating and highly unlikable; I genuinely found myself rooting for Chudnofsky and his double barreled hand gun. The subtle and quirky directing style of Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is completely lost and replaced by decadent amounts of destruction, including half a car going up a glass elevator.
There aren’t very many positives, but the film’s best assets are Oscar-winning Christoph Waltz, who makes the best of a bad situation by mimicking his performance in Inglourious Basterds, being charmingly funny yet unsettling. James Franco, as Danny Crystal Cleer, is equally charismatic and Jay Chou provides some great fight scenes and can make one damn fine looking cup of coffee. But, ultimately, like the coffee, The Green Hornet is a case of all style and no substance.
Good: Waltz, Franco and Chou give good performances.
Bad: Everything else, especially Seth Rogen.