The Green Hornet

January 22, 2011

The Green Hornet (2011) is exactly what you would imagine a collaborative effort between director Michel Gondry and writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg would be: an excessive display of cinematic excess. With its aesthetics drenched in potent artifice and its content stretched to the very limits of farce, The Green Hornet is all about how the rich and influential powers that be can do whatever such ludicrous things as they so please. Using excess to make asses out of, well, asses, watching The Green Hornet is nothing short of a rollicking good time.

Starting with a very personal memory, The Green Hornet establishes the imperfect father-son relationship between Green Hornet-to-be Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) and his father, local newspaper mogul James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). Britt leads a decidedly laddish lifestyle, partying hard with fast cars and loose women, much to his father’s chagrin. When James dies unexpectedly, Britt finds himself in charge of a paper he hasn’t the patience, skill or remotest desire to run. So how does he become the Green Hornet? Well, it is actually all down to one very bad cup of coffee that the film manages to advance forward in any kind of causal narrative trajectory. The absurdly bougie pivotal point from which the action then springs forth tells you just about everything you need to know about the focus of what is yet to come. Teaming up with his father’s employee, barista extraordinaire Kato (Jay Chou), the unlikely duo recklessly find themselves fighting crime after immaturely committing crime. From here, the Green Hornet and his nameless partner/sidekick unwittingly take on the city’s apparently poorly dressed, not quite menacing enough, and largely misunderstood crime lord Chudnofsky (expertly played by Christoph Waltz).

Chudnofsky is an old school gangster and the rise of Gucci-clad wannabes is beginning to get under his skin. Having already settled a few local issues it is only when the Green Hornet appears that Chudnofsky fully realises the extent to which the new generation, whose reputations rely largely upon aesthetics and public image as opposed to his own years of strategic planning, have no respect for tradition or the past. But Britt didn’t learn to be a twat without his father’s help and likewise it is affluence and class as well as his generational standing that are responsible for his appalling attitude towards life. Impressed upon him from an early age, Britt thinks “Trying doesn’t matter if you always fail.”  Concerned with results rather than effort, the destination rather than the journey and, above all else, the present irregardless of its history, Britt charges forward in a childish pursuit of fame and glory.

Far more of an anti-hero than a superhero (the closest thing he has to a superpower is the ability to be an almighty asshole), the Green Hornet is not actually a likeable figure in quite the usual way Hollywood protagonists tend to be. But, partner/sidekick Kato is. Balancing out assholery with endearment the duo work decidedly well: structure and subversion standing side by side.

Visually it is a veritable feast, and The Green Hornet takes Kristin Thompson’s theorising of cinematic excess to its farthest extreme: to the point where style actually becomes a character in the film – a mocking, self-reflexive one at that. Revealing artifice as substance for an entire class of insolent wankers, The Green Hornet is stupendously entertaining at every turn. Blatant in its depiction of bougie blasé, it is no coincidence that the costume for our wealthy dumb-ass is quite so literally the colour of money. Outstanding stuff.

The Green Hornet is released in Australian cinemas on Thursday January 20 through Sony Pictures.

Written by Tara Judah for Liminal Vision.

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