Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Saw...The Green Hornet

Well, through good fortune and my wife's ability to find free stuff online, we got a chance to see The Green Hornet tonight, before it opened to the general public, in 3D no less.  I'd never been to one of these early premieres, but it's actually pretty intense security.  No cell phones or other recording devices allowed in (lest it show up on The Pirate Bay a full two hours before it is actually released...egad).  They were even wanding people with a metal detector.  So no bootleg footage...but they didn't say anything about no wordsmithin'!  So I thought I'd review it before the release date, just like the professional cynical critics out there!

So, you're asking in a now-bored inner voice, how was it?  Fun, but definitely a mixed bag.

The plot centers around Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), n'er-do-well playboy son of L.A. media mogul James Reid (played all too briefly by the always excellent Tom Wilkinson).  When the elder Reid unexpectedly dies from a reaction to a bee sting, his media empire falls to Britt, who has no idea what to do with it and even less ambition to learn.  He soon meets one of his father's secret weapons, as it were, in Kato, personal mechanic and baristo.  Kato is played by Jay Chou, a Taiwanese actor, martial artist and, of all things, pop singer who is making his Hollywood debut here.  When a drunken pity-party leads the two of them to do something rash to a monument honoring Reid's memory, they manage to stop a violent mugging in progress.  This awakens a sense of purpose in them--to fight crime, while appearing to be criminal masterminds themselves.  Using Britt's wealth and influence at the large newspaper his father passed him, and Kato's genius ability to design and build weaponry, they arm themselves with a badass 1966 Imperial named Black Beauty, and set out to take down the city's gang-driven crime as The Green Hornet and his unnamed partner/sidekick.  So far, so good.

The mastermind behind, incredibly, the entire city's crime is Chudnofsky (Inglourious Basterds' Christoph Waltz).  When Britt and Kato begin to make significant dents in his criminal empire (aided unwittingly by criminologist Cameron Diaz), Chudnofsky predictably pushes back.  But the real danger to Britt is one foreshadowed early in the film, which doesn't become obvious (at least to the chief characters) until much later.

The Green Hornet has its problems.  Maybe I'm alone here, but I'm still waiting for Seth Rogen to play another character--this man-child thing he's got going on should be coming to an end here someday, preferably before he becomes eligible for Social Security.  To be fair, he plays Seth Rogen here superbly, but come on.  Chou was pretty good considering, but his scenes were usually overshadowed by Rogen's circus act.  And the overarching plot is a bit of an untidy mess, though I'm not sure that a tightly wrapped mystery story is all that important here.

Lest you think I'm a Negative Nancy, I did have a great time watching the film.  While Rogen's shtick is getting tired, it's still good for several good belly-laughs.  Diaz actually got to play her age for once, and pulled off attractive smart love interest quite well.  The film featured great cameos by James Franco and Edward Furlong (you may remember him as John Connor in T2, who later made fame locally here by trying to free the lobsters in a Northern Kentucky supermarket and getting arrested for his troubles), and Waltz' performance was a little work of art.  The man plays bad guys so...gently.  I mean, to paraphrase Franco's character, he looks like "my Uncle Greg.  He's a nice guy, but he's a dentist...not scary."  And yet he conveys this cold, calm menace in everything he says and does, that it would be terrifying to be in the room with him.  Definitely a high point of the movie.

All in all, The Green Hornet was probably just what the January movie desert needed.  It's a fun, action-packed romp that never takes itself too seriously.  The 3D was not a distraction at all, and probably did enhance the viewing experience in the way the technology is supposed to (it was shot in 3D, not Frankensteined later).  Definitely a good way to waste two hours on a Thursday for free.

Grade:  3/5 Stars

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