There are more defects
in The Green Hornet than at a reunion of thalidomide
babies. And just like those babies, it's a mutant born of hopeful
parents. The twisted limbs and misshapen skull wouldn't be so
bad, except the dad is director Michel Gondry. He's the frog
behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The
Science of Sleep, both of which are pretty fucking fantastic.
More recently he made Be Kind Rewind. That one was a
mess too, but at least it sparked with originality and had its
moments. I'd rather see a creative misfire than a soulless jumble
like The Green Hornet.
The Green Hornet
source material is a mediocre radio show from the 1930s. How
do I know it was mediocre since I'm not 120 year old? I spent
a shitload of my childhood listening to old radio dramas late
at night on oldies stations, and I still listen to them. You
can still download them by the fistful at archive.org. In The
Green Hornet, a newspaper publisher/millionaire named Britt
Reid gets all dressed up at night and serves vigilante justice
to the bad guys. The catch of the show was that the cops and
criminals thought the Green Hornet was also bad. His outlaw
status made it easier for him to get close to the real baddies.
The radio show was briefly turned into a crap TV show in the
60s, with the most memorable thing being Reid's car.
The Green Hornet
movie, co-written by Evan Goldberg and its star Seth Rogen,
and directed by Gondry, is faithful to the rich newspaperman/vigilante
story, but barely. Surrounding that premise is rote, by-the-numbers
superhero bullshit with a debt to Batman, who is also a wealthy
vigilante with high-tech gadgetry oozing out his ass. Rogen
and Goldberg's script is creaky and leaky, making little sense
and verifying what I thought after watching their Pineapple
Express: they don't know shit about writing action movies.
They know a lot about layabouts talking about their nuts, but
everything they ever learned about explosions they learned from
Steven Seagal. The thrills are derivative and predictable. Their
villain is duller than kindergarten crayons. I could feel the
strain Rogen and Goldberg put on themselves to do something
new, but they either pussed out or weren't up to the task and
repeatedly fell back on predictable action sequences and improbable
gadgetry. There's very little cleverness, and the monotonous
attempts are bromance and slacker humor are dead on arrival,
either already done in previous movies or half-hearted. The
gags about the villain, Christoph Waltz, being boring, and his
attempts to make himself more flamboyant, are buried in the
guy's delivery, or in the direction, or in everyone's lack of
conviction. Whatever, it never even qualifies as a joke, and
his evil exists only because there has to be a bad guy, no matter
Rogen plays a whiny-ass
little bitch of a rich kid whose father is the wealthy publisher.
When dad dies, Rogen must grow up quick-like. His way of doing
it, rather than actually maturing, is to use his father's cash
to live out a comic-geek wet dream. He has fancy toys and fights
crime in a bitchin' car. His sidekick is Kato, played by Jay
Chou, a Chinese barista/mechanic/martial arts wizard. His femme
is Cameron Diaz, in a role that is as pointless as it is revealing
that Ms. Diaz isn't aging well. Her features are like tectonic
plates shifting father and farther apart. It's like we're seeing
Pangea on her face. Her character is, by requirement, the smart
one who doesn't take guff, but her part is so irrelevant that
the movie would be almost exactly the same without her. There
would just be more online discussions of whether the two male
leads are gay.
is full of quips, but they're almost all lame. I can see them
getting dutifully repeated in a state-school frat house for
a week or so, but that's it. Mostly, Rogen's written himself
a shit character who spends a lot of time shouting "Look out!"
and "Oh no!" after the fact. He's not an instigator, he isn't
ingenious and his one-liners would make his real life friends
say, "Would you please just shut the fuck up?" He is no more
likable or redeemable than a guy in an Axe bodywash commercial.
Of course, it doesn't help that his idea of growing up and taking
responsibility means riding around in a pimped-out car killing
scores of people.
With Gondry at the
helm, I thought maybe the movie would turn superheroes upside
down. I hoped he'd give us a new perspective on the genre. He
doesn't. He plays by the tightly-defined rules with a minimum
of visual invention. There are a few visual tricks that struck
me as cool, but not many. Gondry keeps himself in that tiny
little superhero playpen, too afraid to bend the rules.
The Green Hornet
isn't funny, it isn't original and it isn't worth the time.
Just like those thalidomide babies. Two Fingers.
I also saw True
Grit, a flick I was really looking forward to because the
book by Charles Portis is so fucking great. It's an unsentimental
western about a ballsy 14-year-old girl who sets out into Indian
territory to avenge her father's death. John Wayne won some
shiny dildo for playing the story's fat, one-eyed drunken marshal
Rooster Cogburn 41 years ago, but I never saw that movie. Movies
starring Wayne are usually about Wayne, not the story, and I
avoid them. Anyway, this time around Joel and Ethan Coen adapted
the book, which I figured would be swell since they did such
a cold, remorseless take on Cormac McCarthy's No Country
for Old Men. They are incredibly faithful to the source
material here, probably because to change it would almost certainly
be to fuck it up.
The True Grit
of the title is ostensibly what the girl (Hailee Steinfeld)
is looking for in a U.S. Marshal to help her track down her
father's killer in post-Civil War Arkansas. The real true grit
is what she has, and what the marshal earns. She's serious,
brave and willing to endure just about anything to avenge her
dad's death. Maybe not Read After Burning, but just about
any other torture. She's scared, but she keeps going to do what
Steinfeld hires Cogburn
(Jeff Bridges), a burnout with a propensity for killing people.
Tagging along is Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger who struts like
a peacock because he thinks he's so fucking cool. The three
set out into the lawless Indian territory to hunt down Tom Chaney
It's a gruesome story.
A man gets his fingers chopped off, many are shot and killed,
and the rest just get a bullet through the ribs or shoulder
or a rattlesnake bite. It snows and rains, and vultures peck
at a dead man's flesh. That's mostly how the book is, too. Through
it all, Steinfeld pushes on. She's unsentimental and tougher
than the shit of a car-eating circus freak.
The Coens don't add
much to Portis' book. Their own touches feel appropriate. And
the movie's goodness is because the source material is. In two
areas, though, they botch it. The first is the score, a lot
of piano that tinkles like a four-year-old full of Mountain
Dew. While the visuals are deadpan, the music gets schmaltzy
and cheap, often trying to tell us how we're supposed to feel.
That's a damn shame because one strength of the book is it trusts
the reader to figure it out for himself. The other way I think
it's botched is in the way the movie is shot. It's gruesome
and bloody, but it's a bit soft. The lighting, the cleanliness
and the dress feel more like a showy western for the first half.
I would have preferred to almost be able to smell the old drunk
who lives with rats in the back of a Chinese grocery, and to
see the dirt caking on the faces. In its second half, the movie
is grungier and the character of Lucky Ned Pepper is just awful
to look at. The movie benefits from it.
There will be a buttload
of talk about how Steinfeld deserves a bunch of special awards
for her acting. That's because she's a kid and she does a good
job. Not a great job. There are moments where she looks overwhelmed.
But, the asswipes in Hollywood love to make a big fucking deal
out of every kid who is competent. I guess it amazes them because
they're such incompetent adults and because they forgot that
anyone could not be corrupted by their system. Bridges, however,
is a damn good Rooster Cogburn. He's just an ugly human being
and his redemption is the most interesting aspect of the movie.
Damon, too, is very good playing against type as a severed-tongue,
puffy-faced braggart. None of it, though, is remarkable. It's
just good and worth seeing.
for True Grit.
to tell Filthy Something?