The Green Hornet lacks sting

Oh sweet, sweet January.  As December 31st represents the cutoff date for films to be eligible for Oscar consideration, the first few months of the year usher in a flood of films the studios unceremoniously dump into cinemas to fulfill contractual obligations. The Green Hornet is no exception to the rule.

Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the rich playboy Bruce Wayne pretends to be, throwing wild parties to spite his abrasive father, a newspaper mogul.  When Reid Sr. dies Britt ascends the unwanted throne, which he exploits to promote his late night activities with new employee/friend Kato (Jay Chou).

Many expressed dismay that Seth Rogen, known for being a tubby, awkward, joker, would play lead hero in The Green Hornet.  What seems confounding in gossip circles works within the film’s universe; The Green Hornet is a closer relative to Kick-Ass than to the traditional, tights-and-capes hero flicks of the last decade.  Just like Kick-Ass lead Dave Lizewski, Britt is a bumbling buffoon bereft of any superpowers other than stubborn idiocy (with sidekick Kato filling the analogous roles of Big Daddy and Hit Girl).  Other than this kinship, that’s about as interesting as the film gets.

The only time you will hear someone mention the editor of a film is if they did some fancy cutting or non-linear editing (Memento) or because they botched the job.  Which is why I’m going to call out Hornet‘s editor, Michael Tronick, for failing to give scenes smooth coherency and especially for indulging Rogen with too much screen time.  I did not approach Hornet with an aversion to Rogen, but in this case his rambling awkward everyman schtick shackles the film from taking off. The big problem could be the script (co-written by Rogen), poor editing choices, or both.  The latter seems more likely, since several scenes seem pasted to fit narrative gaps* and the whole story is bogged down by sub-plots.

Granted, there is some good to be found in this film.  It’s funny when it isn’t struggling just to keep moving, and there’s a parade of practical special effects as things go BOOM! with semi-regularity.**  Ultimately the best part of the film is Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) as the insecure crime boss Chudnofsky.  But considering the rest of the film, you just want to airlift the guy out of the picture and into something more befitting his talent (along with Admiral Adama Edward James Olmos as the gruff newspaper editor).

It’s too easy to write off The Green Hornet as a mess, which doesn’t quite encapsulate its issues.  It’s more like a set of loose lugnuts on your right rear tire: It will get you around, but after a while you’re going to have an accident.  The Green Hornet is the first draft of what could be a much better film.

*Britt and Kato immediately becoming buddies; their commiserating-session about Britt’s father was a particularly strained scene.

**Though hand-t0-hand combat is sullied by messy special effects during what I call the “Kato Cam” moments.

One response to “The Green Hornet lacks sting

  1. From my pokings around, it appears that this movie was slated to come out closer to Tron as a December blockbuster. Apparently it was delayed to both avoid competition with Tron and to add 3D post-production.

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