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  Green Hornet, The The Hero And The Zero
Year: 2011
Director: Michel Gondry
Stars: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz, Tom Wilkinson, David Harbour, Edward James Olmos, Jamie Harris, Chad Coleman, Edward Furlong, Jill Remez, Joe O'Connor, Morgan Rusler, Joshua Erenberg, Analeigh Tipton, James Franco
Genre: Comedy, Action, Thriller, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: When heir Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) was a boy, he suffered pretty stern treatment from his father (Tom Wilkinson) who had little time for his antics other than to punish him when his attempts at doing good went wrong. Now he is grown, Britt lives off his father's money in a playboy lifestyle, much to his parent's disdain, but one day something he did not expect occurs: his father dies from a bee sting in a freak accident. Now Britt has his business empire at his disposal, though in truth has very little idea of what to do with it - then he wakes up the morning after the funeral to a terrible cup of coffee...

That's because he sacked most of the staff, including the chap who made such great coffee for him before, that chap being Kato (Jay Chou), who also tended Reid Senior's garage. When The Green Hornet arrived in cinemas, it received at best a lukewarm reaction: although a fair few people went to see it, complaints were many from the grumblers: it was too stupid, it should have been a straightforward superhero movie, it was director Michel Gondry's most anonymous work, who thought Seth Rogen was anyone's idea of a superhero anyway? That sort of thing. As with many misunderstood, would-be populist efforts, there was far more to this than met the critics' eyes.

For a start the person who thought Seth Rogen would make a good superhero was, naturally, Mr Rogen himself, but he was well aware that nobody would accept him as a Christian Bale type. This means that his Green Hornet was a bumbler, whose ambition to save the day was well ahead of his actual skills for the vigilante job, so instead the real hero was Kato. This appeared to be inspired by the section in the biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story where the movie legend took the Kato role in the sixties TV show and far outshone his co-star, along with a hefty dose of The Pink Panther series, as if Burt Kwouk's Cato joined Clouseau on the front lines of crime.

Which is, of course, a great idea, and it played very well here with Rogen and his co-writer Evan Goldberg tailoring the laughs and the action to the star, aware of his limitations and strengths; naysayers might call it a vanity project for a fresh face who had made the big time, but Rogen proved he knew what he was doing here. His Reid is a buffoon, and much of the humour stems from his crass and less than adequate tries at filling his fantasy role, but generously the Kato role was just as well developed. Kato, in spite of being a genius who makes all the gadgets and kicks ass as the martial arts expert, must play second fiddle to the Hornet because everyone sees him as the sidekick, and Chou was ideal as he tried to keep his partner in step while ignoring that Reid wasn't up to the task.

Also along for the ride were Cameron Diaz as Reid's hired on the spot secretary, gamely enduring idiotic observations about her age from her new boss, and Christoph Waltz as the chief villain, a crime lord who owns Los Angeles but has a weakness in his self-image, believing he's not scary enough. The film was full of character touches like that, illustrating that no matter what was the received wisdom about Gondry being a director for hire, this was far from the truth: his idosyncrasies emerged fully-formed and more opaquely in the hardware and the sympathetic sense of humour on display. Take the scene where Reid and Kato inevitably fall out and Kato is trying to write his C.V., finding that being a genius and an expert fighter is no use when you're looking for a job to pay the bills - it's funny and sweet, a nice contrast to the more typical action, which while well staged, still felt like a sop to the blockbuster genre. In its mighty endeavours to say something new about superheroes, it didn't quite achieve its goal, but was a lot of fun nevertheless. Music by James Newton Howard.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Michel Gondry  (1964 - )

French musician-turned-film-maker who made his name directing innovative videos for the likes of Bjork, Massive Attack and The White Stripes, as well as a variety of TV commercials. His first feature film was 2001's surreal comedy Human Nature, written by Charlie Kaufman. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, co-written with Kaufman and starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, was his next project, a success that was not matched by The Science of Sleep which Gondry wrote himself. Be Kind Rewind was a charming comedy that only won cult acclaim, but superhero spoof The Green Hornet was a surprise hit in light of the grumpy reaction it received. Adaptation of cult novel Mood Indigo proved more difficult to find its audience, though coming of age yarn Microbe & Gasoline was more conventional.

 
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