The Green Hornet and The Dilemma

The Green Hornet

Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the spoiled son of newspaper publisher James Reid (Tom Wilkinson).  Britt and his father don’t get along as James sees his son wasting his life on parties, booze and women and ignoring the problems of crime and corruption in their home town of Los Angeles.  When James dies suddenly from a bee sting, Britt is thrust unprepared into his father’s world.  It is at this point he meets Kato (Jay Chou), an employee of his father’s who took care of the old man’s classic car collection.  Kato didn’t much like James either because the old man was difficult to satisfy.  The pair head out one night to exact some revenge on the dearly departed by cutting off the head of a bronze statue of James Reid that has been erected in the cemetery where he is buried.  During their vandalism, Britt sees a young couple attacked by several street thugs.  He tries to intervene, but the gang turns their attack on Britt.  Kato, using an innate ability to assess a situation and years of martial arts experience, beats up all the gang members, saving the couple and Britt.  Impressed with what he perceives to have been his victory over the thugs, Britt suggests to Kato they become crime fighters who pretend to be criminals so they can better protect innocent bystanders.  Kato, who is also an engineering and weapons genius, agrees and begins customizing a car with weapons and other special modifications.  Meanwhile, Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) has solidified his hold over the Los Angeles underworld through murder and intimidation.  When a couple of masked men in a black car begin crashing into and shutting down some of his criminal operations, Chudnofsky has to make sure his control of the city is maintained by killing this new guy who goes by the odd name of Green Hornet.  While Britt is promoting the mystique of the Green Hornet through the newspaper he’s also trying to start a relationship with his new secretary Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz); but Kato is attracted to her as well which is causing some friction between the new hero and his sidekick.

“The Green Hornet” is a mess.  This is a movie that wants to be a little bit of everything.  It tries to be funny, it strives to be serious and it wants to be a superhero origin story.  Unfortunately, it isn’t funny enough to be a comedy, it isn’t serious enough to be a drama and, as a superhero story, it fails completely.  Seth Rogen, who co-wrote the movie with Evan Goldberg, is not your everyman-to-hero archetype.  In similar stories, the transformation usually involves years of training or the sudden development of super powers.  In this movie, Rogen’s character comes up with the idea while buzzed on adrenaline and alcohol.  Britt Reid is useless in a fight; needing Kato to do the serious butt kicking and occasionally coming in after the bad guy is taken care of to deliver a cheap shot.  As the movie progresses, he doesn’t get any better.  It stretches credibility for Kato to stay with Reid as the nameless sidekick when he does all the work on the weapons, the cars and on the bad guys.  Granted, Britt has the cash that makes all this possible; but still, tell the dead weight to stay in the car while Kato takes care of business.

Rogen seems to be cruising in his role as Britt Reid.  He plays the part much as he has in his previous films.  While there is no marijuana use shown in the film, Rogen is the same stoner character we’ve seen in “Knocked Up” and “Pineapple Express.”  And while he co-wrote the script, much of his dialog sounds like he’s making it up on the fly.  I’m sure he’s not, but his lines take on a very stream-of-consciousness delivery.  His character also has a motor-mouth in the film.  While this has proven to be a funny and necessary characteristic in his other films, in this instance it proves to be annoying.

The film’s villain is also a mess.  While Christoph Waltz won an Academy Award for his work in “Inglorious Basterds,” I think it’s safe to say he won’t be nominated for anything in this film.  This is probably not his fault as his character is written like a teenaged girl in a grown man’s body.  Chudnofsky is concerned about his image and reputation after a nightclub owner doesn’t take his threats seriously until he kills everyone in the room.  He has self-image issues and decides to create a character with a catchphrase he says just before he shoots someone.  This is the person who’s supposed to be a ruthless criminal in charge of all the illicit activity in the second largest city in America.  He acts more like someone who should be on Dr. Phil’s show.

Cameron Diaz is wasted in her underwritten and useless role as an over-qualified secretary with a million-dollar smile.  She is used about half way through the film to create some artificial tension between Britt and Kato in a subplot that brings the movie to a crashing halt.  It’s the kind of device used in romantic comedies to split up the main couple right before they figure out they can’t live without each other.  The same basic thing happens here, but less believably.

If you feel you must see the movie, save the extra coin and watch the 2D version.  The 3D gimmick is not put to good use in “The Green Hornet” and it isn’t worth the added ticket price.

“The Green Hornet” is rated PG-13 for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content.  There are numerous fights, shootings, beatings, blowing ups, etc., etc.  There’s nothing gory about the violence.  The sensuality and drug content is very, very brief.  Foul language is scattered throughout the film.

The Green Hornet began life as a radio series in 1936 and first hit the big screen as a movie serial in 1940.  The best known incarnation of the hero is the 1966 TV series that lasted only one season.  There have been comic books off and on over the decades, the most recent version was written by film director Kevin Smith.  For those who are fans of any previous incarnation of Britt, Kato and the Black Beauty, you will be disappointed in this version.  It’s sloppy, dull and a waste of your time and money.

“The Green Hornet” gets one guitar out of five.

The Dilemma

Ronny Valentine (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Brannon (Kevin James) are best friends and partners in an auto design and engineering firm.  Ronny is a recovering gambling addict who is dating Beth (Jennifer Connelly), a chef at a restaurant in Chicago.  Nick is married to Geneva (Winona Ryder).  While checking out a botanical garden as a possible place to ask Beth to marry him, Ronny sees Geneva and a tattooed younger man passionately kissing.  Ronny learns later the man is named Zip (Channing Tatum).  He also learns things about Nick that are quite a surprise.  Ronny and Nick’s company has a big project they are trying to sell to the Dodge division of Chrysler that will set up the pair financially for life if it succeeds.  If it fails, the company will have to declare bankruptcy.  Nick is an engineering genius but is high strung and the pressure of getting the project completed is making him crazy.  Ronny believes he should tell Nick about what he saw but can’t find the right time or right way.  Confronting Geneva about what he saw, she threatens Ronny with a revelation from their shared past.  As Ronny tries to handle the situation in his own way, Beth begins to suspect he may be gambling again.

“The Dilemma” is also mess, but not on the same scale as “The Green Hornet.”  For a film sold as a comedy, “The Dilemma” is very short on laughs.  It has a split personality, wanting to be both a biting, dark comedy and a serious study of relationships and the secrets couples keep from each other; however, it is a dull, unfunny and mildly depressing look at a bunch of very screwed up people.

Vince Vaughn apparently enjoys hearing himself talk as he rarely shuts up during the film.  His rants and tangents veer at breakneck speed from one topic to the next and he rarely gets to the point.  The script seems to point to how this is his effort at deflecting uncomfortable topics and redirecting the conversation to something more tolerable to his character.  That’s fine, but couldn’t he do it more succinctly?  During one of these chatterbox moments, I longed for a sock to shove down his throat.

Kevin James, while less chatty, is still something of an annoying character.  His insecurities about his talents and the pressure of a deadline cause him to have wide mood swings.  Of course, these changes in mood fit perfectly within what the script calls for at the time:  Being short-tempered and unreasonable when Ronny wants to talk, then open and willing to listen just as Ronny changes his mind about exposing Geneva’s infidelity.  James is a funny man but the script doesn’t give him anything funny to do.  He makes the occasional goofy face and dances like a man being electrocuted but none of this really is that amusing within the context of the story.

Of the two ladies in the film, Winona Ryder’s Geneva may have the best written and most interesting character to work with.  Geneva is evil and Ryder knows how to make each of her more catty lines scratch the audience deeply.  She gives the movie a character who seems rooted in reality (a dark reality but reality all the same).

Channing Tatum is something of a surprise in his role as Zip, the tattooed other man.  He’s a sneaky simpleton who gives the film a glimmer of humor from time to time.  While his role is small, it’s pivotal to the story (such as it is) and Tatum does a good job of playing against his usual brooding tough-guy type.  While Zip is kind of a tough guy, he’s also sensitive, shrewd and possesses a charisma that makes you pay attention when he’s on screen.  For a film this dull, it could have used more Zip.

“The Dilemma” is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving sexual content.  There is one scene where Geneva and Zip have sex and there is some brief nudity, mostly of Zip.  There is a fairly graphic fight with some blood shown.  There is also some scattered foul language.

There are a lot of good people in “The Dilemma” who aren’t given nearly enough to do.  The movie takes a very long time to unfold and, once the story begins in earnest, it also takes a very long time to resolve.  With a running time of nearly two hours, “The Dilemma” had plenty of opportunities to make something happen.  Unfortunately, you’ll feel every second of that running time as it ticks by at a snail’s pace.  While there are a few laughs (approximately five) and a couple of feel-good moments, there aren’t nearly enough to salvage the film.

“The Dilemma” gets two guitars out of five.

There’s only one new film in wide release this week, so I’ll add a few films that have been out a while for your consideration.  Pick the next film I see and review.

No Strings Attached—Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher share an exclusively sexual relationship that comes with its share of complications.

The Rabbit Hole—Eight months after the accidental death of their 4-year-old son, Howie (Aaron Eckhart) and Becca (Nicole Kidman) are trying to overcome their grief. But cracks are beginning to show in their relationship.

Country Strong—Gwyneth Paltrow is a fallen country star who embarks on a career resurrection tour with a rising young singer/songwriter.

The King’s Speech—Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush star in the true story of George VI, who turned to a radical speech therapist to overcome his stutter.

Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews and film currently in theatres.

Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.

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