Friday, 21 October 2011

Film review: The Green Hornet


I can't honestly say why I put this on our Lovefilm list... I think it was a 'recent release' and, since I like superhero movies as a genre, I thought I'd put it on the list and give it a try.  Partly that, and partly that the list was getting a bit low and needing topping up.  Consequently, I had no idea of the Green Hornet's back story, and part way through the film, came to the conclusion that the whole thing was a parody of Batman (rich young bachelor with more money decides to fight crime with the aid of his trusty sidekick and some incredible gadgets).  It is only today, a couple of days after seeing the film, that I've just seen an episode of the 1960s Batman TV series and realised that the Green Hornet really is a genuine 'superhero' character.

In his appearance in the TV series, the Green Hornet appears to act as a supervillian, while acting secretly as a crime-fighter.  They've managed to carry this into the movie adaptation:  he's pretending to be a villian, while actually working to fight crime.  It's easier to see than to explain, but the Green Hornet decides to take over Los Angeles' criminal operations, with the aim of bringing them down in an illegal manner:  cue lots of shooting, explosions and so on, all done in true comic-book style.  Consequently, as his partner points out, they have the police AND the criminals chasing after them.

As complete novices in the criminal and crime-fighting worlds, the Green Hornet and Kato realise that they need help, advice and basically to be told what to do.  This comes in the form of Britt Reid's newly-hired personal assistant, Lenore Case, played by Cameron Diaz, an expert criminologist.  The would-be love triangle between Brett, Kato and Lenore is played for some very amusing scenes, and becomes a point of conflict between the would-be heroes.

Starting with the comical concept of pretending to be criminals, but working to fight crime, this film has some extremely amusing points, interspersed with some very funny scenes, and there were various points that had me laughing out loud.  There are plenty of gadgets - I'm sure many of these are based on the Green Hornet's history, so I apologise that I've no idea how relevant they are - there's the heroes' ineptitude played for laughs (in fact, a lengthy fight scene between Kato and Britt is filmed in madcap slapstick style - there's no missing what the directors were going for); and there's an extremely long car chase, involving a car getting stuck in a printing press and subsequently being driven around and office... minus its rear wheels.

There's the obligatory scene where Britt realises that his workaholic, distant father was actually a good man, working to expose a devious plot between criminals and politicians, and subsequently acts to restore his father's good name (and put the head back on his statue, but that's a whole other story), but it's deliberately played down as a serious emotional scene and is kept in line with the pacey comedy of the rest of the film.  To be honest, the whole film really does play as a parody of Batman, so I can't comment on how accurate it is to the original TV or radio series.

I'd like to discuss the final scene in the film, but I can't in too much detail (it would truly spoil the ending) but it involves Britt requiring treatment for a gunshot wound... except he's in too much pain to think rationally.  The ending is entirely in keeping with the story, and also opens the way for a possible sequel.

There are plenty of high-profile actors in supporting roles, which works well as I can't say I've ever seen the lead actors Seth Rogen (Britt Reid) and Jay Chou (Kato) in anything before.  James Franco (Harry Osborn in the Spiderman films) has a short role as a would-be crime boss, Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama from Battlestar Galactica) features as the editor of Reid's newspaper, the Sentinel, and Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins, Duplicity, The Full Monty) plays Reid's father.  As I mentioned, Cameron Diaz stars as Reid's personal assistant, and her experience playing comedy definitely helps here.  Everything is comic-book larger-than-life, but somehow it avoids being excessive and while completely unrealistic, manages to carry enough realism (just) to be very funny and engaging as a story.  I like.

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