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"Green Hornet" Movie: Step Above Usual Action-Movie Fare

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The Green Hornet is a somewhat strange comic/superhero mythology to begin with, and the curious infusion of both director Michel Gondry and actor Seth Rogen turns the story on its ear, though not necessarily with negative results. On the plus side of the whole affair, few are familiar enough with The Green Hornet to balk at the loose play with Britt Reid's persona. A slapsticky goof as Bruce Wayne might raise eyebrows, but since we're introducing Reid to 98% of the population, we might as well reinvent him.

Reid is the son of a newspaper man, and lives the good life as only a spoiled, useless rich kid can. He parties, blows money, and couldn't put together the requisite thought process to have a care in the world. When his father suddenly dies, he finds himself in charge of a newspaper, with no idea how to run it, and no desire to in any case.

He's handling things fairly well, but when his coffee isn't up to par, he blows a gasket. He learns that his father's man Friday, Kato (Jay Chou), has been in charge of coffee up to now, but Britt fired him in a mass housecleaning. We soon discover that Kato is a brilliant inventor, martial arts expert, and all around handy guy to have with you in a jam.

 

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The two bond in their pseudo-mourning, and when a drunken prank lands them in the midst of criminals, they come to the rescue of some hapless citizens. Britt goes with the idea, and decides that they should be crime fighters, only they'll go the smart way, by pretending they're criminals. It's an idea that made more sense in earlier incarnations, but it works well enough.

Given that the city's criminal element is run by one boss, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), it makes a certain sense to put forward the idea that they will play themselves up as criminals trying to take over, rather than as good guys. Britt's idea being that the bad guys can't use hostages and so forth against other bad guys, because bad guys wouldn't care.

Rounding out our cast is Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) who plays Britt's new secretary, and general warehouse of information on the criminal element. Britt and Kato use her knowledge for purposes of figuring out their next moves.

For all that this incarnation is perhaps one screwy too many, it's still a fun and entertaining effort. It's best quality is probably its determination to stick to the game it creates. Britt, newly fighting for the forces of good (or whatever he's doing), doesn't suddenly change character. In fact, most of the plot is generated by virtue of the fact that he's the same borderline buffoon he always was, just with a tricked out car, and a partner who saves his ass.

While there is little about the film that truly necessitates a viewing, it's a step up from many a thrown together action vehicle. I imagine the part was altered to fit the acquisition of now hot commodity Rogen, as opposed to finding him perfect for the role created, but such is life. It's all glossy caricature in the end, perhaps best demonstrated by Waltz' semi-ludicrous Chudnofsky/Bloodnofsky, but on the end of the spectrum that renders it "all in good fun." Jay Chou's Kato steals the show, which is only fair as he's given the best, and weirdest, things to do.

Gondry's hand is seen best in the sense in which the overall tone, though much changed from any other adaptation of The Green Hornet, pays a certain homage to radio's effort, when the main goal of the production (in fact, most all radio productions) was to make something ultimately a bit silly appear not to be so.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

 

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