Movie Review: “The Green Hornet”

Perhaps “The Green Hornet” is director Michel Gondry’s mocking wink at masked heroes-obsessed Hollywood and the fanboys who made it that way.

A violent, clumsy, jokey, badly-plotted and miscast mess, “Hornet” almost makes sense, taken on those terms. Gondry is, after all, the director of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” “Green Hornet” is certainly not like any other masked hero movie, unless you remember “The Spirit” or “Kick-Ass,” the good and sometimes very bad parts of both of those.

It has all the superhero movie ingredients — rich, bored crime-fighting anti-hero, his sidekick, a cooler-than-cool car, and a supposedly super villain. But Gondry, working from a miss or near miss script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, turns this film of the radio and then 1960s TV series into an epic miscalculation.

A slimmed-down Rogen stars as playboy Britt Reid, who tries to ignore everybody’s words of condolence at his crusading publisher dad’s funeral. “You have some mighty big shoes to fill.” Dad (Tom Wilkinson) was always a humorless martinet to Britt. “Trying doesn’t matter if you always fail,” that was his motto.

But Britt finds himself impressed by the chauffeur who makes his morning espresso, a gadget freak and martial arts master whose name he never learned. It’s Kato (Jay Chou), by the way.

“I was born in Shanghai,” Kato says through Chou’s nearly impenetrable accent.

Love Japan,” the big dumb lug Britt answers.

Kato gives Britt a sense of purpose. He customizes Britt’s father’s favorite old Chrysler into Black Beauty, an armed-and-pimped-to-the-max muscle car. They set out to play some superhero pranks, which Britt pushes the unhappy editor (Edward James Olmos) of dad’s old newspaper to publicize as the crimes of “The Green Hornet.” He’ll be not a hero, but a villain vying for control of the underworld. That’ll fool everybody. So will that little mask and fedora Britt dons. Kato will be his sidekick — “I’m Indy, you’re Shortround.”

Their foe? A crime lord, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), whose name is so unpronounceable that everyone (including James Franco, in a mildly amusing opening cameo) makes a joke of it.  Chudnofsky packs a double-barreled pistol which he uses with little provocation, and frets over the fact that he’s not scary enough.Waltz is so incompetent  that his Oscar is looking more “Inglourious” than ever.  He is Steven Seagal-bad in this part. Inept, tin-eared, lost.

Chou’s English is so tortured that when he tells Britt that his father was “a complex man,” it sounds like “compact man.” Slo-mo “bullet time” action beats during his fights make him come off better than most of his co-stars. The homoerotic Chou-Rogen buddy banter doesn’t put either of them in a good light.

Rogen is quick with the profane one-liner or the Kato compliments — “You’re a human Swiss Army knife!” He lands some laughs. His role in  botching this spins out of his limited vocabulary and even more limited skills as a screenwriter.

Cameron Diaz makes a glorified cameo as the office assistant who researches social ills the Hornet and Kato set out to solve. And look for Edward Furlong as a strung-out villainous underling. They, at least, have parts too small to share the blame that this soon-to-be-infamous flop will be warrant.


See for Yourself
“The Green Hornet”

Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Edward James Olmos, Cameron Diaz

Director: Michel Gondry

Running time:  1 hour 54 minutes

Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Movie Review: “The Green Hornet”

  1. Maureen says:

    I disagree with most of your points. I just finished watching this movie, and fully expected at least an 80% freshness rating, and can’t believe the terrible numbers I’m seeing, and your evaluation. First, I must address your take on Chudnofsky. I loved his character, and felt he played him perfectly: the crime boss who’s worked hard his entire life to only find that his persona doesn’t strike fear in
    the hearts of his enemies? The old lion taking
    all comers for lasting control of the pride?
    I’m sorry, but didn’t Waltz play the character given to him perfectly? Did he not look relatively harmless and reasonable, yet show his restlessness and worsening psychotic need to be feared and to control all he sees? And, I think we all know how chillingly evil and frightening he truly CAN be. If you’d like to criticize, the criticism lies with the screenwriters Rogen and Goldberg, who you DID criticize, but not specifically for that. If i was going to complain about Waltz, I’d as why a Russian or Slavic character (maybe) doesn’t have a clearly Eastern European accent. Even then, he could still be German, or from some unnamed European nation with a muddled, unfamiliar accent….I don’t know, I’m not sure why the decision was made, but I’m not sure it matters. IF I had a problem with him, it was the accent; again, not sure if that’s a director’s choice or what, but I’ve never heard Waltz do an accent, so perhaps he doesn’t have an ear for them. ::shrug::

    Speaking of accents, how uncharitable to call Chou’s “impenetrable.” I think you should hop
    onto YouTube and take a listen to the
    legendary (and I love him) Bruce Lee. He had
    a very pronounced accent, but he was
    AWESOME, so who cares? Chou’s accent was
    fine for me, but I live near a big city and we
    have immigrants from all over here, so I don’t
    know, watch some Hong Kong cinema and
    train your ears, I guess. I really thought
    “complex” was totally understandable. The
    hyperbole was unnecessary and
    off-base…”impenetrable”…..sad face, man, sad

    NB: I also feel that “Asswipe” is a much
    better insult when said with an accent.

    I really liked Rogen as the Green Hornet, because he seemed like a real person, and I
    liked the origin story. The only problem was,
    he should have been more manicured. Rich
    boys, no matter how puffy they get from
    drugs, drinking, and general partying, keep
    their skin and other manscaping in check
    (See Brody Jenner). Then again, it’s not a prerequisite, it just would have shown his commitment to partying and wasting his life and his father’s money.

    Honestly, this movie was refreshing to me, and at the end, I wanted to know more about the people who made it, I wanted to write them fan

    • Maureen says:

      Sorry! Writing this on a phone! Anyway, I wanted to write them fan mail, I wanted to learn more about the filmmakers, and I wanted a sequel. I liked the cool cars, Rogen’s Everyman quality, Chou’s cool delivery and assertiveness, and Kato’s general awesomeness. I liked that the bad guy was villainous. I liked Waltz, of course Edward James Olmos is always a pleasure (played his part well, but what a waste of talent in a way!), and I liked Diaz, and I don’t always like her.

      Admittedly, I haven’t seen much of the original series, never heard the radio show or anything. I just saw it today, two years after its release, so in a bit of a vacuum. I said on Superbowl Sunday that I’d rather make out with Seth Rogen than Paul Rudd. So, maybe you don’t like Rogen, maybe the Dark Knight trilogy ruined comic book/hero movies for you, or competing movies were better, or you’re a hardcore Green Hornet fan and it’s way too different (as I said, I am not in a position to judge). I thought it was funny, I liked the natural dialogue and human characters, I thought Kato was unbelievably cool, Rogen made sense, and can’t figure out what people didn’t like. It’s sad, something that I felt was at times joyous and celebratory fell flat for so many. I went into it with zero expectations; my husband put on a movie at dinner (a trick that I can’t stand–I have stuff to do) and I fully planned to bail after I finished eating, but I really enjoyed the movie. I think you were all looking for something grittier, perhaps. Maybe it’s a chick thing, but I liked watching the characters grow closer to each other and work out their emotional problems, and find meaning for their lives. Look how underdeveloped Kato, Britt, and Lenore’s lives were. I’m 33, they’re like everyone I know, including myself. I am Lenore! It spoke to me, it had a beating heart.

      Maybe try watching again? Everyone?

      • I don’t even know where to begin with these massive missives. Maybe “everyone” is the apt word. The rest of the world saw zero chemistry between the male and female leads, even less between Seth and Kato.
        And that was for starters. Bad movie. Zero fun.

  2. Lars says:

    Sorry Maureen. There was nothing about Rogen that made him seem like a real person, least of all the son of a millionaire tycoon, presumably highly educated. His character was a complete buffoon, nothing to add to the “superhero mission” whatsoever. He should have just paid Kato to do it all himself and stayed home. He was essentially Chris Farley in Tommy Boy, wearing a mask.
    The plot was ridiculous. They caused more carnage than they prevented in their first rescue/crime prevention and were oblivious to it.
    Almost completely unwatchable. Cameron Diaz part was poorly written and went nowhere. Just the obligatory unobtainable hot girl who’s all business.

    nowhere near the presence or depth of KickAss.

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