Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'I'll Have the Sidekick' Movie Review: The Green Hornet

Last evening we were privileged to witness the unveiling of the most recent superhero film that I know about: The Green Hornet.

Now I don't know anything about the character of the Green Hornet as traditionally presented, so perhaps someday someone can advise me: was it part of his deal to be super annoying?

Because I found Britt Reid, as played by Seth Rogen, intermittently amusing but mostly extremely irritating. I will state right now that my favorite part of the movie was Britt Reid getting beaten up by Kato.

Kato, Britt Reid/the Green Hornet's nimble partner, is played by Jay Chou. Kato is a martial arts expert and does most of the duo's actual fighting. Also the design and building of their heavily armed and armored car. Also the generally being cool.

Britt Reid is actually kind of a doofus. He may or may not have a good heart (he kind of lost points in that regard when we learn that he fired everyone who worked in his father's vast mansion, for no apparent reason), but he can't fight, he claims credit for Kato's ass-kicking, and he acts like a jerk to Lenore Case, his secretary (played by Cameron Diaz).

Again, I have no idea if this doofus-ness was the Green Hornet's thing all along, or if that's just this movie's take on it.

Let's just accept that in this incarnation, Kato is much cooler than the Green Hornet.

Which brings me to the fact that the movie does a somewhat interesting thing where it plays a bit with the whole idea of who gets to be a superhero and who's a sidekick, in a masked-hero-inhabited world.

Kato, who was Reid's father's mechanic and coffee brewmaster, essentially works for Reid. He drives the car, and sort of follows along with Reid's plans. So he's in the official sidekick position.

But he's so much cooler that this seems a little unlikely, and the movie suggests that Britt Reid pretty much knows that logically he is not the hero in their dynamic. Still, he clings to the 'hero' title rather than just saying "OK, we'll be equal partners," because...he has the money, I guess.

Possibly also because he's a white dude. White dude with money = main character: you can't argue with that.

Anyway, I'm not sure if this movie intended to raise thought-provoking questions about the nature of heroics and the inability of moneyed white dudes to share superhero status with Chinese dudes who work on their cars, but let's give it credit for having a little bit of something going on there.

Even if it doesn't do a whole lot with it, beyond making it clear that both Britt Reid and Kato are aware that Kato is awesome and Britt Reid is a doofus, but they're both just playing along with Britt Reid's need to feel superior.

The story: legendary newspaper owner/editor dies, leaving lackadaisical underachieving son to take over news empire. Son wants coffee, implausibly strikes up semi-friendship with genius mechanic/coffee brewmaster/martial artist from Shanghai.

While son is committing vandalism in a cemetery, he and genius stumble into saving a couple from robbery and assault. Son hits on brilliant idea of fighting crime as a masked vigilante while pretending to be a criminal himself, so that he can get closer to criminals and...fight them from close. Also, if bad guys think he's also a bad guy, they won't try that stunt where they threaten some innocents to make the good guys surrender.


Anyway, this conveniently allows the Green Hornet to wreck up the city, run cop cars off the road, etc., as part of his clever cover, rather than just because superheroes are horribly dangerous to have around, which is usually the lesson one might take from the numerous demolished buildings and traffic pileups that fill these movies in the wake of the dramatic fights.

Christopher Waltz is kind of fun as LA's main crime lord, demonstrating a sort of understated, almost self-deprecating blood lust. Edward James Olmos is also here for some reason, as a trusted elder statesman of the newspaper.

And then there's Lenore Case, who's apparently very smart and could totally be a journalist herself, but, for reasons she states she doesn't want to talk about (and which the movie, respecting her privacy, never explains), is working as a temp until Britt Reid hires her to be his full time secretary.

Actually, this is probably just a symptom of the horrible state of newspapers and journalism these days. I'll imagine she lost her job as a hotshot investigative reporter due to brutal downsizing in the industry.

Also, don't we say administrative assistant these days? Who's actually a secretary anymore? Aside from the Secretary of Defense. But whatever.

Both Britt Reid and Kato develop powerful crushes on Lenore Case, leading to many opportunities for them (mostly Britt Reid) to act like asses.

And then there's a District Attorney. There's usually a District Attorney. (I think he was a DA, anyway. Somebody running for office on an "I reduced crime in Los Angeles" platform.)

And there's a big plot involving Truth and News and so forth, and lots of fighting and car crashes.

Nobody visits a library onscreen, although Lenore Case provides the results of detailed research that may have involved one at some point, and one scene does prominently feature giant rolls of paper. There's the health issue of severe allergy to bee venom, and there's a USB drive and some mentions of the internet to represent technology.

The movie has its amusing bits, I won't deny that, and if you like Seth Rogen a lot, you may find the Britt Reid character less grating than I did. Jay Chou is fun to watch, and you get the sense that some of the people in the supporting roles (some of the criminals, particularly) were having fun doing it.

There are also stretches that just felt kind of dull to me, though. I didn't care enough about the larger story to have much interest in how it worked out, and watching the destruction of an entire office building, while entertaining, only goes so far.

It had moments, but personally, if I were contemplating paying for this one, I would probably just wait for video.


1 comment:

brian said...

too bad when they try to do these movies from classic tv shows. The Green Hornet was on for only one or two seasons, but Brit Reid was actually pretty cool, and Bruce Lee as Kato kicked butt! Lots of fun gadgets on that show too.