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:: The Green Hornet

Originally a radio series in the 1930s, The Green Hornet lineage lived on as a series of comic books before evolving into a TV series in the 1960s that spawned Bruce Lee’s career. Moving away from the traditional mythology of the character, the latest entry into The Green Hornet franchise is a 3D action/comedy superhero spoof, surprisingly directed by Michel Gondry (of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep fame) who adds an interesting and unique visual aspect to the film amidst the sporadic humour.

Britt Reid (Seth Rogan) is the son of media heavyweight, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), adrift in a directionless, carefree existence of parties, alcohol and women. However, after the death of his father and the inheritance of his media empire, an air of ‘responsibility’ soon overcomes him. Teaming up with one of his father’s employees, Kato (Jay Chou), who happens to be incredibly gifted in mechanics, weapon manufacturing and martial arts, the duo decide to do something meaningful with their lives. Their plan is to fight crime by posing as criminals, essentially protecting the law by breaking it, serving justice through vigilantism… A bit of a contradiction in logic, but hey, I forgave it and went along for the ride anyway.

The main character, the (super?) hero, and perhaps the main comedic attraction of the film, is Seth Rogan. Not being a great fan – his career supporting as many hits as misses – he wasn’t too bad in this. Saying that, he wasn’t great, either. But besides one or two cocksure advances on his secretary (Cameron Diaz) that can be described in no better way than sexual harassment, most of his jokes hit home and mercifully, despite convention, Diaz does not succumb to his perverse passes. Furthermore, while contemporaries such as Will Ferrell may be able to pull off humour surrounding the blatant, with obvious statements of fact, Rogan overplays this tact, a few are funny, even if they aren’t delivered with the ridiculousness of Ferrell, but after a while it becomes repetitive and lazy, leaving a hushed audience, an embarrassed movie screen; click click click goes the slow, shameful clap of the projector…

Far more interesting than Rogan’s Britt is his nameless sidekick, Kato, played by Jay Chou. Chou exhibits a good balance of kicking arse and one-liners making him a superior asset as both a crime-fighter/public menace and screen presence (the funnier parts of the film play off this unconventional hero-sidekick dynamic). Academy Award winner Christopher Waltz’s performance as Chudnofsky is also worthy of mention. His image-conscious crime boss offers a self-reflexive element to the film as he struggles to modernise his criminal persona; his trademark dual barreled pistol is no longer enough to be hip and scary. Waltz and Chou do an excellent job in their supporting roles, superior to their more inconsistent lead.

Adding another strong layer to the film is director Michel Gondry. Gondry imbues his own visual style, where this mainstream action-comedy, at times, becomes cinematically very interesting and even artistic. This is particularly true in Kato’s fight scenes where a concomitant fast-motion, slow-motion technique is used, time being warped and bent under Gondry’s spell once Kato’s heart starts to pound (called Kato-vision by the creators). There is also a Science of Sleep-like scene, too, for the fan-boys and girls (even if it is a bit out of place).

The crime-fighting duo of The Green Hornet and Kato, dance and stumble a fine line between justice and reckless, destructive vigilantism. As expected, they do eradicate a lot of crime, but they destroy a lot of property and injure – kill? – a lot of cops doing it. But hey, the ends justify the means, right? The morality of the film may be a bit mixed up, but on the whole it’s a mildly enjoyable, occasionally entertaining affair, light, with moments of innovative action and glimpses of Gondry’s own unique signature.