Our heroes!

Before we get too far underway it will be important for you to know that The Green Hornet is a fucking mess.

It’s not a bad movie. It isn’t unwatchable by any stretch. It’s actually kind of interesting, and it’s very funny when it wants to be. Mostly, though, it’s too tonally bipolar and thrown together to really make much of an impact. Sometimes it seems like it wants to be something of a subversive send-up of standard supehero fare, and I’ve seen people saying that in reviews, but I don’t think it succeeds here. Britt never really rises to a point where he levels off into a hero we can root for. At the end of the film he is still a barely likable oaf who takes credit for other peoples’ work. This could be intentional and related to how the movie seems to know (so Rogen and Goldberg knew) that Kato is the real hero here, a kind of slacker superhero who is completely unpretentious about his gifts.

Ultimately it’s hard to tell what is going on underneath the colorful antics. It’s definitely not an honest attempt at a superhero story, though, because The Green Hornet fails in that capacity. Britt and Kato have no compelling reason to become their alter-egos, they simply can and it kind of fits awkwardly with Kato’s skillset and Britt’s repressed urge to “help people”. In the end, Britt always seems to really be helping himself and as we watch these two sow destruction across L.A. and even get innocent people killed, a bad taste starts to develop as little responsibility is taken for these acts an the movie does not pause to dwell on consequences.

There seems to have been a little thought behind the use of rubber bullets and gas-guns; it looks like Britt and Kato were meant to be non-lethal vigilantes. That the over-the-top violence of Chudnofsky and his cronies forces them to go lethal is something that should have been a bit more fleshed out as opposed to glossed over. This is a missed opportunity as it definitely feels like the film is hinting toward the ridiculousness of battling armed criminals with gadgets and fisticuffs (ie: if they shoot, better shoot back). Kick-Ass handled this point organically, without trying to instruct the audience that comic book hero protocol is mostly stupid if applied to real-world scenarios. The Green Hornet could have followed suit but it seems like the heroes have guns eventually because they just do, no time is given to really getting into the logic behind what Kato and Reid create. We get a montage of Britt partying while rattling off progressively stupider ideas to a guy who can apparently build a weaponized batmobile every few days.

So the actual superhero stuff is kind of disappointing. I did like “Kato vision” effect in itself, but it had no place in this movie and is being oversold when it only really features once except when Reid inexplicably develops the same adrenalized super-power Kato has.

If the superhero stuff is kind of lame… what isn’t?

Well, to start with, the comedy elements mostly work.

The bromance between Kato and Reid has many excellent bits. The “Gangster’s Paradise” part is especially hilarious and almost didn’t make into the movie. Their overlong They Live fight scene is also great. Jay Chou’s mastery of English leaves a little to be desired, but Rogen improvises around it playing a total dickwad who doesn’t deserve this guy as a friend. It isn’t even that Kato is such a great guy, but he’s definitely not as much of an asshole as Britt. The way these two play off each other is usually good but also recalls better team-ups Rogen had with Bill Hader or James Franco (who gets one awesome cameo in this movie).

Christoph Waltz playing the insecure villain Chudnofsky is kind of awesome. Some of his bits work really well and others fall a bit flat. Mostly the funny is to be found in his perplexed reactions to what other people think of him and his increasingly crazy outbursts. By the end, though, he’s just a gun-toting Final Boss who is easily dispatched. I think the cool bad-guy death the other guy got should have been reserved for Chudnofsky.

My favorite bit of casting had to be Edward Furlong’s small part as a Meth kingpin. It was great to see him again and especially in such a self-aware role. I think he will earn some brownie points for it. It was also nice to see Edward James Olmos on screen again (looking more and more like a grim and weathered statue of manliness), even though he had barely anything to do. Tom Wilkinson just comes in and gets a paycheck so there’s not much to say about him.

As for Rogen, he’s always good. This is a guy who is really smart but happens to like doing different spins on the same sort of guy. Britt Reid is probably his most honestly unlikable character, though. That includes his turn in Observe and Report, by the way. Britt is a total asshole who never really learns to not be an asshole, he reacts to the harsh consequences of his stupidity like a kid who’s only moral intelligence is in not trying to do shit that it becomes apparent isn’t worth the aftermath. I kind of wanted him to become a more rounded guy by the end, but that is sort of a programmed response to the superhero story. I wanted Britt to be Tony Stark a little and I think Rogen knew what he was doing when he twisted that expectation into what the character ultimately is. I don’t think the film fully supports the twisted approach many have mentioned, it is hodgepodge to coalesce into the biting negation of the trendy and predictable Hollywood superhero movie that it seems to want to be.

Now there was a lot of good stuff in the cast, but then there’s this:

Cameron Diaz is so out of place in this movie that you flinch and any part she’s in is a waste of the movie’s running time. It’s not that she’s bad, it’s just that the role they have her in is not good for her and a bad idea on a conceptual level. She basically operates as a mouthpiece who gives the boys all their criminalistic ideas even though she’s just a secretary (in spite of her convenient education and background). She seems like she’s supposed to be a romantic interest and although both guys try, she offers mixed signals and then outright rejection. Maybe this is set up for an uneasy triple alliance if this (yeah right) went franchise but it all feels poorly conceived and executed.

Ultimately The Green Hornet is a bit confusing. I kind of think it’s trying to Coen us a bit. By which I mean take us in a bit with the familiar concepts and then twist them to expose and satirize exactly what makes such concepts appealing to people. That said, there’s just not enough follow through if that was indeed the intention. Too much is left hanging for the film to have much narrative force, emphasizing the next set-piece or joke encounter over the core integrity of concept and story direction that would have supported extreme left turns from what the audience might have expected.

Also, the 3D is just unnecessary. See it in 2D if you can.