Seth Rogen may well be the luckiest guy in Hollywood. That’s not to say that he isn’t a likeable screen presence, but considering his not particularly versatile acting style and fairly average looks, not to mention the fact that his biggest hit was largely sold on its writer-director rather than him, it’s somewhat mind boggling that the still twenty-something star has been given the opportunity to not only star, but co-write this latest attempt to launch a new action franchise. To be fair, The Green Hornet is not one of the more beloved of pulp characters – it’s hard to imagine Rogen being let lose on more enduring characters of the same vintage like Batman (the comparison to the Dark Knight being a telling one as this version of playboy vigilante Britt Reid has also been provided with an origin story very similar to that of Bruce Wayne, presumably to remind the audience of the more-beloved hero while, thankfully, skirting the dark tone of that franchise). Yet, while it looked like Rogen’s luck may well have been about to run out, what with The Green Hornet’s difficult conception, peppered with numerous stories of delays and reshoots, he may well have just scraped by yet again (especially when taking the respectable box office figures for the film’s opening into account).
Like Rogen’s other writing credits, The Green Hornet isn’t exactly a ‘good’ film, but it does have a sort of scruffy charm about it. The extremely loose, meandering writing style of Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg is visible all over the film (an impressive feat for a film subject to so much studio interference), which may make for a rather limp and unexciting action flick (although the action scenes aren’t too bad – Rogen’s well publicised pre-filming fitness regime may not have visibly slimmed him too much, but does mean that he can pull off a few fight sequences), but results in moments of pleasantly Apatow-esque bromance between Reid and his valet/sidekick/brains behind the operation Kato.
The non-Rogen parts of The Green Hornet are a lot more frustrating. It was a wise move on Sony’s part to partner him with seasoned, distinctive talents, but sadly none are really given a chance to shine. Tom Wilkinson turns up in essentially an extended cameo as a fairly standard tyrannical father-figure, while Cameron Diaz’s secretary/love-interest is a role that she could turn in in her sleep – its sometimes hard to remember what a great comedic actress she can be, and she’s barely given any opportunities here to remind us of that (not that surprising as like all women in the bromance genre she’s more of an afterthought than a character in her own right, with a fairly paltry amount of screen time). The foreign-language speakers imported by the studio also have somewhat mixed fortunes. Taiwanese pop singer Jay Chou may clearly not be an actor, or even someone who understands much English, but he does have a physical gift for both comedy and action. Inglorious Bastards’ breakout star Christoph Waltz has proved in the past to be both an unnerving and amusing actor and he manages to bring both qualities to his scenes here, but sadly he’s barely in the film. Possibly most hard done by is director Michel Gondry who is reduced from mad genius to anonymous hand for hire. Although the few moments where he tries to put his distinctive visual style on proceedings feel forced, his technical skills are put to use in less obvious areas – for one the film’s soundtrack is well chosen, taking in Johnny Cash and The White Stripes amongst others, and the film’s 3D is surprisingly effective, considering it was converted in post-production rather than shot in the format. The 3D is of course, still rather unnecessary – the film’s goofy tone would suit candy-coloured and bright visuals rather than the gloom bestowed on it by the dark glasses – but the effects are at least noticeable.
While there are many things wrong with The Green Hornet, the things that are right about it just about manage to keep the interest throughout the lengthy running time. Although should the film prove successful enough to warrant a sequel, hopefully the studio will choose to invest more in script editing.