The Green Hornet
Oddball auteur Michel Gondry has directed scramblers (Human Nature), flops (Be Kind Rewind), modern classics (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and even comedy shows (Dave Chapelle’s Block Party). But The Green Hornet is new turf: a crowd-pleaser. (And a fine one.) Gondry was writer-star Seth Rogen’s big push—they had to convince the studio that he wasn’t going to make a $120 million superhero flick out of cardboard and sequins. What the dynamic duo did was remind Sony Pictures—and us—that Gondry upended action movies before he ever made one: in 1998, he invented “bullet time” for a Smirnoff ad and then glowered as the Wachowski Brothers poached his brainstorm for The Matrix.
His Green Hornet is solid workmanship shot through with playful tricks. When Kato (Taiwanese megastar Jay Chou) throws a bad guy over a car hood, the force makes the car quadruple, sending the villain skittering across like a skipping stone. And Gondry’s perfectionism means that the post-converted 3D is truly gorgeous—a first—giving the industry a chance to apologize to audiences burned by Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender (assuming audiences are still willing to pony up for Hornet in 3D, which they should.)
The Green Hornet is one of the oldest and overlooked franchise heroes. He’s got 38 years on Wolverine and even three on Batman. In this updated origin myth, newspaper scion Britt Reid (Rogen) is Paris Hilton with a penis. When his estranged father dies, leaving him the Daily Sentinel, Reid sobers up enough to find out that his dad’s mechanic (Chou) can build a bulletproof car perfect for pranking Los Angeles’ street gangs. Why start a street war? Because therapy is expensive. The two ignite the wrath of über leader Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), an aging, ambitious thug who kills for the PR. The big twist is that Britt and Kato pose as criminals to buy them more time from the underworld (they came up with the idea while drunk.) The better twist is that Britt is outclassed by Kato, an effortlessly cool Chinese orphan who can play piano, make espresso, design weaponry and dropkick a goon as easily as a hacky sack. What Kato can’t do is speak English, but Chou phonetically powers through in a breakout performance—he’s cooler than cool, even if he can’t pronounce “hubcap.”
Rogen and Chou have breezy buddy-flick charm. When they clink beers, you wish you could invite yourself into their toast. And Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldstein’s script doesn’t shy away from their superior/salaryman dynamic. As Kato kicks ass, Reid demotes him from partner to sidekick, and writes him out of the headlines. Can a genius and an average Joe pair up and put egos aside to serve mindless adventure? Gondry and Rogen have. And their popcorn flick is pure, perfect entertainment.