The Green Hornet
|UK Release Date||2011|
|Starring||Seth, Christoph and Diaz|
|Reviewed||16th June 2014|
At first glance Michel Gondry’s gonzo adaptation of The Green Hornet is the perfect blend of style over substance-the camp riposte to the heavy weight Dark Knight and the monumental Watchmen. What better example of the new journalism is there than having the proprietor of The Daily Sentinel dress up as vigilante, pretend to be the new lord of the underworld and get his rag to sensationalise the story? Or, on reflection is there a more intriguing movie behind the mask?
Seth Rogan plays millionaire slacker Britt Reid as the bastard love child of Hunter S. Thompson and Quentin Tarantino. He’s a hedonistic, earnest fool, frisky like a handbag dog, with a head for zany ideas. The son of James Reid a respected Press Baron, Britt is a disappointment to his father both as an overweight child and as an overindulged man-child. Only when his father dies of an allergic reaction to a bee sting does Britt take notice of the newspaper.
Britt is a dreamer, a childish visionary, high-concept with no concept of the real world. He could only exist in L.A. where the Hollywood razzle-dazzle is just around the corner, bright and shiny and sprinkled with neon star dust. Dark and brooding is for Gotham City and Batman, leave the method for the East Coast, West Coast superheroes need to put the show into business.
His lofty idea of crime fighting need practical realisation and his father’s mechanic Kato is just the man to help. He’s a whiz with a spanner and mean with a wrench, pimping out rides like a Chinese B.A. Baracus and putting the slap down on muggers with his supernatural martial arts skills. Jay Chou’s Kato has the street smarts growing up as an orphan in Shanghai the very antithesis of his good-for-nothing boss.
Kato’s relationship with his master could be the physical embodiment of China propping up America’s flabby, decadent economy. More cynically is their partnership the continuation of Western wish fulfilment that serves at best; Oriental stereotypes and at worst old colonial racism apparent in the master/servant interaction in movies like The Pink Panther series and the James Bond franchise?
This line of enquiry seems even stronger when Cameron Diaz’s underdeveloped secretary/criminologist Lenore Case spurns both Reid’s and Kato’s advances but her rejection of Kato certainly seems the harshest. It’s fascinating that a bilingual renaissance man, a scientific genius, adapt at playing the piano, and fighting multiple douche-bags all at once still only draws with a boorish, unskilled Western dufus who happens to own a newspaper.
However in Christoph Waltz’s Russian villain Chudnofsky, Gondry seems to redress the cultural balance. Chudnofsky is a career criminal, a hardworking hood who has been at the top for 25 years. No gimmicks, no costumes just a smart, ruthless customer who has flown under the police radar. Yet when he puts the screws on rival Danny ‘Crystal’ Clear (James Franco in a movie stealing cameo) he doubts his own abilities as a gangster-that and the total inability of any American pronouncing his name correctly.
Danny is a punk, an all American brat playing at being a meth dealer, “Check out my kick-ass hangout here. I got shit loads of glass everywhere. I got a see-through piano. Look at my boys. They're pimped out. We got Gucci, Armani, another Gucci, tailor-made. This is what you need to get to the top today. Not hard work.” It’s as if prolonged contact with America eventually drains all sense out of any foreigners drawn to the land of opportunity and adventure. Throughout the rest of the film Chudnofsky begins to take on the mantle of a super villain: costume, catchphrase, the works-totally counter intuitive to over two decades of his success in keeping anonymous.
Perhaps Gondry’s point is that if we stay long enough in L.A. or just glued to our screens devouring American culture we all become glamoured like Kato and Chudnofsky eventually. Still, vague racial commentary aside The Green Hornet is a slam-dunk movie with Gondry’s tricked out direction matching Kato’s kick-ass gadgets pound for pound. Rogen’s script is brilliantly off-kilter, side swiping a genre that like the graphic novel market in the 80s has begun to take itself far too seriously.
Check out the trailer here.