Review: ‘The Green Hornet’ (2011)

Two accidental superheroes meet over the perfect cup of coffee (then proceed to blow stuff up real good.)

Following the death of a dedicated newspaper man, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), his slacker son, Britt (Seth Rogen), is left with millions of dollars and a total lack of direction in life. After meeting his dad’s car (and coffee) guy, Kato (Jay Chou), the two form a bond initially based on what a jerk James was until they interrupt a random crime. Suddenly, their path becomes clear: posing as bad guys to get close to criminals and take them down. Meanwhile, local crime lord Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) is considering doing something drastic with his persona to instill fear in people who says he just isn’t scary anymore.

Modernized and removed from its 1936 radio show beginnings, Seth Rogen has re-imagined Britt Reid as a man of means with no direction (in modern terms, a slacker.) He bonds with the only person that ever did anything he actually respected: whoever made and left that perfect cup of coffee. After bonding with Kato realistically, the rest of the film is as much of a buddy movie as it is a superhero film, including a knock-down, drag-out fight over a girl (Cameron Diaz, who amazingly wasn’t a waste of time as the trailer made her out to be.) Add in the third dimension of Waltz as a middle-aged mobster having a mid-life criminal identity crisis, what’s not to love?

While it looked like it may have been an idea for the 3D conversion (which neither adds nor detracts), the filmmakers introduce “Kato-vision,” a slow-motion targeting effect that resembles a computer choosing targets. Once he envisions his goals, Kato leaps into action, moving fluidly until all goals are accomplished. Ingeniously, Rogen’s Hornet attempts to do the same thing, at first too slow but with good results, then again later and a bit faster with mixed results (but implying that “mixed” was the intended result.) Even the addition of the gas-pellet gun adds to the buddy bonding. The Black Beauty (in all her incarnations throughout the movie) is a thing of wonder to behold for James Bond fans and car enthusiasts alike.

Like all previous re-imaginings (and possibly more so), Kato is the man (bringing the inventions, the fighting, and the driving) while Britt is the face (plus you can understand him when he speaks English) as well as the financier. Between the buddy elements, the gadgets, and the gratuitous destruction, The Green Hornet is what every fan boy with money and heart aspires to be (brains are mostly optional.) Fun, full of action, and just serious enough to work without becoming ridiculous.

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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