Review: THE GREEN HORNET (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Friday, 21 January 2011

Review: THE GREEN HORNET (2011)


Based on the characters created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, THE GREEN HORNET originally began life as a radio show in the 1930s before eventually being adapted into two movie serials in the 1940s. But it's not until the arrival of TV's short-lived series (which sadly lasted only one season) of the same name, which starred Van Williams as both the Green Hornet and Britt Reid, and then-unknown Bruce Lee as Kato, has gained mass attraction.

During the 1990s, a much-anticipated big screen version is being greenlit with then-music video director Michel Gondry is hired to make his feature movie directorial debut. At that time, George Clooney and Jason Scott Lee are slated to star as both the Green Hornet and Kato but the proposed movie underwent numerous re-writes (which involves screenwriters Chuck Pfarrer, Rich Wilkes and Edward Neumeier). The movie was then eventually languished in development hell, and Gondry left the project while Clooney dropped out to star the much-maligned BATMAN AND ROBIN in December 1995.

Then in April 2000, Universal tries to revive the movie again by roping Jet Li to star as Kato, and Christopher McQuarrie is hired to write a script. Unfortunately none of them really materialized and Jet Li ended up working on THE ONE (2001). By November 2001, Jet Li and the producers (Charles Gordon, Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin) were no longer involved after Universal have spent about $10 million in development since 1992.

In February 2004, Miramax president Harvey Weinstein roped in Kevin Smith to write and direct the movie. Smith was very interested to helm a superhero genre, especially after he failed his writing gig on the equally development hell project, SUPERMAN LIVES. He approached Jake Gyllenhaal for the lead role in March 2004, and he managed to write several script treatment. But after few creative differences, Kevin Smith eventually left the project but instead went on to write the Dynamite Entertainment's 11-issues comic-book series in the late 2010.

Three years later, as in March 2007, producer Neal H. Moritz acquired the movie rights and Seth Rogen is hired to star and co-write the script with frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg. By then, Columbia Pictures is taken over the movie and Rogen was also hired as an executive producer. But up to that time, Rogen had not begun writing the script yet even though he's been hinting that the tone would be something out of a buddy action movie in the vein of 48 HRS (1982) and LETHAL WEAPON (1987). With Rogen's vision still hanging in limbo, Columbia Pictures eventually hired Hong Kong superstar Stephen Chow to star as Kato and direct his first Hollywood feature as well. It was an exciting news for most of the fans around the world, but Chow dropped out as director due to creative differences. Michel Gondry is brought back to direct the movie, on which Chow had remained his role as Kato. Still Chow also dropped out as Kato in July 2009 over scheduling conflicts of other projects. By this time the release date had been pushed to July 9, 2010. Chow was eventually replaced with Taiwanese singer-actor Jay Chou, and the studio negotiated Nicolas Cage to play the gangster villain. Cage rejected the offer to play the role of Benjamin Chudnofsky because he's not interested to portray a straightforward bad guy (the role which eventually went to Christoph Waltz).

Despite the eventual completion of the movie, THE GREEN HORNET was slated for mid-summer release in 2010. But the movie still underwent numerous release date shuffles until the studio pushed it all the way forward to the dumping month of January 2011, cited more post-production tinkering to convert it into 3D. As history known that a long-in-development movie underwent series of troubled productions, it's no surprise that the much-awaited THE GREEN HORNET is overall a major disappointment. The movie has a few entertaining moments, but for a supposedly ambitious project with the caliber of Seth Rogen and visionary director Michel Gondry on the helm, it should have been something a little more extraordinary. Instead what we have here is a typical would-be $100 million action comedy extravaganza disguised as potential summer tentpole release.

Ever since a kid, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is an irresponsible and no-good slacker who spends most of his time partying and sleeping with girls. When his father, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), media mogul of The Daily Sentinel, dies from a hornet sting, Britt is shocked to learn the truth and he is the sole heir to inherit the family business. But he knows nothing about running the media empire, until he comes up a radical idea with his late father's handyman, Kato (Jay Chou) to moonlight as masked crime fighters to battle against the city's most high-powered criminals. Armed with their indestructible and weapon-heavy, custom-made car called The Black Beauty, the masked duo named themselves as The Green Hornet and Kato. It doesn't take long before the public grows very interested with these mysterious crime fighters, while Britt's The Daily Sentinel is increasingly popular with their action's front-page headline. Then along came a resourceful new secretary named Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), who helps them gathering all sorts of intelligence that will help them take down notorious underworld kingpin Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), a crazed criminal who is hell-bent to rule the entire city. When Chudnofsky is getting annoyed with their crime-fighting antics, he hatches a diabolical plan to take them down at all cost.

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's screenplay harked back the good old-fashioned formula of buddy action-comedy genre, which is not surprisingly, pretty much uninspired and glaringly shopworn. The middle part is especially draggy and underwhelming, while the introduction of Cameron Diaz's Lenore Case and the love triangle subplot involving her, Britt and Kato is awfully pedestrian. In the meantime, Michel Gondry's direction is surprisingly subdued, considered his visionary body of work (e.g. 2004's ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF A SPOTLESS MIND) in the past. Still, in his first big-budget feature, he manages to deliver some worthy action set-pieces. Among them are the "Kato-Vision", where the suspended-motion fight scene involving Kato detect every possible threats from his opponents before proceeding into necessary course of action. The other one is of course the explosive, action-packed and (surprisingly violent) finale where all-hell-breaks-loose between the masked duo and Chudnofsky's heavily-armed gang.

The cast are a mixed bag, with Seth Rogen (who sheds 30-pounds for a leaner look) is pretty much the same old Seth Rogen we often seen him in the past. He's funny in some of the scenes but he is overall badly miscast as a rich slacker. As Kato, Jay Chou's Hollywood acting debut is surprisingly admirable, considering his lackluster acting skill evidently seen in his Asian movies. He's certainly playful for the part and does show some convincingly nifty moves during the movie's many hand-to-hand combats. But Christoph Waltz, fresh off from winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his memorable portrayal as Col. Hans Landa in 2008's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, hams up his Chudnofsky role to the fullest until his character becomes so cartoonish he's more of an overgrown laughing stock than a compellingly scary villain he supposed to be. Case in point: the climactic scene where Chudnofsky grows tired of being a so-called ordinary villain and decides to re-branding himself as "Bloodnofsky", a supervillain who wears a gas mask and a red jacket (no, I kid you not). The less said about Cameron Diaz the better. In fact, her role is pretty much thankless and frankly, a burden to the overall plot. And of all the actors, James Franco particularly steals the limelight from everyone in an unbilled cameo as a smart-talking club owner-cum-drug dealer. In the movie's first five memorable minutes, his verbal insult against Chudnofsky is so full of wits and energy that it'll be more fun if the director didn't choose to kill off his character too fast.

Overall THE GREEN HORNET is a huge, missed opportunity that does little justice to the source material.

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