If someone told me a couple of years ago that Seth Rogen would be playing a costumed crime fighter someday, I’d have figured they were toking the same green leafy substance Rogen and Franco were smoking in Pineapple Express. Even now, with his newly slimmed down physique, Rogen’s just got a dopey, party-nerd thing about him (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) that doesn’t exactly scream “super hero”. It’s a good thing, then, that Michel Gondry’s, The Green Hornet is not your garden variety super hero flick. Scripted and produced by Rogen and his Superbad co-conspirator, Evan Goldberg, this retooling of the loveably goofy late-sixties television series dumps the camp, ups the action, and piles on the funny, resulting in a visually arresting and crowd-pleasing buddy comedy unlike any you’ve ever seen.
Rogen stars as Britt Reid, the underachieving, party-hearty son of the wealthy and respected newspaper publisher, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). Britt’s long been a tabloid staple, much to his bad-tempered father’s disappointment, content to squander his “allowance” on women and booze, and sleep it all off in the pool house. Following a particularly heated exchange, Britt returns home to the family mansion to find that his father has died after an allergic reaction to a bee sting, leaving him the sole heir of his father’s fortune and newspaper, The Sentinel, as well as the new boss of Kato (Jay Chou), a gifted young man who worked on James’ cars. Kato and Britt bond over beers and, after Kato shows off some of the custom work he’s done on one of Britt’s father’s cars, the pair don “disguises” and take said car out so that Britt, in a final act of rebellion against his cantankerous old man, can behead his father’s graveside statue. While fleeing the cemetery with the enormous brass head in tow, Britt witnesses an attempted mugging and attempts to stop it. Kato enters the fray and, with blinding speed and expert precision, dispatches a gang of thugs, thus saving day! Kato and Britt return to the mansion where, still riding an adrenaline high, the two hatch a plan to fight crime under the guise of villains so that they can get closer to the bad guys.
While Britt uses his power as the publisher of The Sentinel to hype up the exploits of “The Green Hornet”, and Kato uses his technical know-how to fashion all manner of gizmos and gadgetry (including the arsenal on wheels that is The Black Beauty), an unknowing third member of the team enters the picture in the guise of Britt’s new secretary, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), who also happens to be a criminal justice mastermind with an encyclopedic knowledge of organized crime. Using Lenore’s know how, Britt and Kato disrupt a major drug operation headed up the ruthless Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). As the legend of The Green Hornet grows, so too does Chudnofsky’s desire to bring him down, and, with an army of thugs at his disposal and a high-ranking public official in his back pocket, it certainly seems that The Green Hornet and Kato have met their match.
Given the bizarre gathering of talents here, The Green Hornet could have an unmitigated disaster, but, somehow, Gondry and Rogen pull it off quite nicely. It’s certainly not a film for super hero purists, but it’s surprisingly faithful to the concept and ideals of the character that inspired it, managing to be funny without resorting to parody. Rogen plays Britt as a somewhat dim-yet-well-meaning playboy type – he’s a work-in-progress crime fighter whose content (at least initially) to let Chou’s Kato do all of the heavy lifting. Essentially, Rogen is playing the same character he always plays, but, seeing as how the film is tailor-made to suit his particular style, it works. Chou, meanwhile, steals every scene he’s in as the deceptively laid-back Kato, especially when the relationship between he and Britt – their egos stoked by a rivalry over Lenore (who wants nothing to do with either of them) – sours in the second act, resulting in a hilarious Clouseau vs. Kato style battle that serves as one of the film’s best action set pieces. Gondry applies his own trademark gonzo stylings to the proceedings, with nifty camera tricks, mixed-media bits, and the awesome “Kato Vision” effect.
The union of Gondry and Rogen attracts a great collection of supporting players, with Christoph Waltz chewing up the scenery as the merciless-yet-insecure Chudnofsky; the aforementioned Wilkinson who, despite turning in what amounts to a glorified cameo, lends much gravitas to the proceedings as James Reid; and Edward James Olmos is quietly intense as Mike Axford, the gravel-voiced, perpetually frowning editor-in-chief of The Journal. Diaz is her usual bubbly, lovely self as the put-upon Lenore, and serves as both eye-candy and a smartly played bone of contention between Britt and Kato.
The Green Hornet comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Sony. This 3-D edition offers three discs – the 3-D Blu-ray presentation, standard Blu-ray, and a digital copy on DVD. Presented in 2.40:1, the 3-D version of the film looks stunning, with a genuine sense of depth and dimension that brings the theatrical experience home in a big way. This isn’t one of those 3-D flicks in which everything’s flying off of the screen, but there are some really impressive bits, especially the aforementioned Kato Vision segments, where one truly feels as though they’re a part of the action. When compared to the standard Blu-ray, I did notice that the image appeared a bit darker and fine detail wasn’t as readily apparent, but colors were exceptionally vibrant in both cases, and the negligible drop-off in quality between the standard version and 3-D version shouldn’t dissuade viewers from choosing the 3-D version over its counterpart. Those who’ve yet to embrace 3-D, fear not; the 2-D version of the film looks outstanding, providing an image that’s as close to 3-D as you’re apt to get without putting on the goofy glasses. The depth of contrast, fine detail, and eye-popping colors make this one of Sony’s best offering yet, and this 3-D Blu-ray combo pack is a practical, future-proof way for those with traditional 2-D setups to enjoy the film now and revisit it again in 3-D when/if they decide to upgrade.
Both films feature the same DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track, and it’s a doozy. This track offers up earth-shaking bass and crystalline highs, with an incredibly immersive soundscape populated by all manner of atmospheric and directional effects. From the meaty sounds of fists-on-flesh to the percussive gunfire and gut-bursting explosions, this is one to listen to loud and proud.
Extras are abundant and include a great selection of goodies, including an interactive “cutting room” feature that allows viewers to put together their own Green Hornet snippets that they can upload and share; a fantastic commentary track with Gondry, Rogen, Goldberg and others that is both humorous and very informative; an assortment of deleted scenes (HD) and gag reel (HD); six featurettes (HD) detailing everything from the writing of the film to creating its explosive action sequences, and more!
The Green Hornet is a funny and action-packed super hero/buddy comedy hybrid that may not be a hit with purists, but is sure to entertain fans who, like me, enjoy their action liberally sprinkled with laughs. Sony’s Blu-ray treatment is, as always, superlative, with both the 3-D and 2-D versions of the film featuring gorgeous transfers and reference quality audio, as well as a treasure trove of entertaining extras, making this one an easy recommendation.