I don’t think this film deserves the ire it’s getting from Ebert an others. Does the film have problems? Obviously. The whole thing is uneven, there are plot holes big enough to lose a city block in, and Jay Chou’s accent may be too strong for some people to handle. And yet besides getting me to laugh a lot, this film is just plain fun.
Please don’t mistake me for some Seth Rogen fanboy here when I say this, either. This is his best acting work since Knocked Up, and I found him to be very charming as millionaire playboy Britt Reid, who is basically a dumbed-down Tony Stark. Compare this to Pineapple Express, a film that many people praised at the time of its release. That movie felt like an action movie about stoners written for stoners. I felt it was slow and dumb, and I actually couldn’t bring myself to even finish watching it. However, I feel that The Green Hornet fulfills the promise of Pineapple Express in that it is a funny action movie thought up by people who smoke pot.
Maybe that’s the difference that director Michael Gondry makes here. Noted for his visual flare, Gondry elevates the look of this film above that of a generic action film or Judd Apatow-esque comedy. However, it is important to note this is a very mainstream looking Gondry here, like the difference between Joe Carnahan directing Smokin’ Aces and The A-Team. The action sequences are a joy to watch, as long you remain in the film and don’t stop to think about the plausibility of the situations (again, not unlike The A-Team).
Besides what I said above about Seth Rogen, Jay Chou’s Kato is really the star of the film. His action sequences are the best parts of the film, and “Kato vision” is one of the few times I’ve felt that video game mentality has transferred well to film. Chou’s sense of comedic timing is also excellent, and he seems at ease in the role of the straight man. This may be the first superhero bromance film, and it is better for it. Britt Reid is a lonely socialite, until he makes his first real friend in Kato. Seeing his brilliance, Reid is the one who decides to become the Hornet, and brings Kato along for the crazy adventures to follow.
Cameron Diaz, on the other hand, is completely underused in this film. I was almost annoyed that she was even in this movie, because I felt she added nothing to Britt Reid’s storyline except a manufactured fight with Kato. However, her character was redeemed while interacting with Britt as the Hornet. She really seemed to shine there, and I can only wish for a sequel we’ll probably never get.
There’s not much I can say about Christoph Waltz, except that he does a fun riff on Hans Landa by way of Hans Gruber. He’s a “fashionable” Euro-gangster who lightly banter. His scene with a cameoing James Franco is a great start to the film, and you can tell he is enjoying himself.
Overall, while not a complete success, I would still recommend this film to fans of Rogen, or if you’re looking for some fun spectacle. Also, I would lie to note that the scenes involving the Green Hornet’s car, The Black Beauty, are some of the best action scenes involving a car this side of Blues Brothers. And damn if I don’t want Kato’s coffee maker.