Monday, May 2, 2011

Capsule reviews: The Green Hornet, Fast Five

The Green Hornet (2011, Michel Gondry)

Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the son a newspaper mogul, living the high life in a mansion and partying at night. When his father is mysteriously found dead, he and his father’s mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou) decide to something bigger with their lives and start fighting crime as The Green Hornet and Kato. Things get a bit rough when they encounter insecure crime boss Chudnosvky (Christoph Waltz).

I avoided this movie upon its theatrical release back in January. It looked pretty generic and not especially funny. Unsurprisingly, the reviews from critics did not withhold from lambasting the film’s poor qualities. I’m a nice guy because I like to give movies chances. A few months have gone by, nobody remembers this movie, so it seemed like a good time to check it out. Hell, it’s pretty darn funny. Seth Rogen and Jay Chou have tons of hilarious banter, some of it raunchy, some of it clever, some of it just plain dumb, but rarely unfunny. The film also makes use of terrific sound bite editing, where just before a scene cuts away you’ll hear one of the principle or background characters make a snide remark to make a point. I also enjoyed how the film remains rather small in scale. There are some inventive fight sequences in which Kato’s eyes and mind will visualize whatever potential weapons his aggressors are carrying by highlighting them in red while everything around him slows down. It’s probably one of the better uses of ‘slow motion’ in action sequences in some time.

 I don’t think characters such as these deserve a major plot in which the entire world is at stake. Rather, it’s just Rogen using his late father’s newspaper to give the Green Hornet publicity while trying to fight an unorthodox crime boss. In fact, the Green Hornet is a selfish jerk, but he remains the least jerky person among an entire film littered with jerks and I liked how the movie sort of challenges the viewer to tag along with this un-dynamic-duo while they do their best to kick ass. Speaking of that crime boss, Waltz doesn’t do much here. In fact, he really doesn’t have much screen time at all, which I thought was surprising, and I didn’t think his lines were all that good. Kind of disappointing when one recalls the screen presence he had in Inglourious Basterds. Cameron Diaz is pretty funny too as Rogen’s secretary who, unaware of her boss’ alter ego, performs research that helps the Hornet what he’ll do next (because he really doesn’t know what he should do next).

Fast Five (2011, Justin Lin)

I lost a bet recently and as a result I had to go see Fast Five and buy tickets for friends. We sat down on Saturday night for a wild ride! A friend had to fill me in on the first few minutes because apparently this fifth instalments actually begins where the fourth ended (I did not see the fourth).

Anyways, Fast Five has the most of the cast from the first films (apparently Michelle Rodriguez’s character died in the fourth one? WHAT!?!) go to Rio de Janeiro with some plans of stealing flashy cars that hide a microchip containing something or other. A dirty bastard of a crime boss wants them dead for some reason while Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a U.S. special CIA operative also on the hunt for infamous gang.

I had some trouble delineating the plot just there. Fast Five is one of those movies where the script is not a strong point, nor are the many character moments the film aspires to, such as the little hug therapy session Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster and Paul Walker have when Brewster’s character announces that she and Walker are going to have a baby. Some characters change allegiances on the flip of a dime because it simply suits the needs of the script…All in all the story is not very well established nor well developed. There are tons of plot contrivances that will annoy the hell out of any serious film fan. For that matter, I don’t understand why any ‘serious’ film fan would go see Fast Five (unless, like me, you lost a bet). The Saturday night crowd were people who made me feel old (and I’m still a few years away from turning 30) and could not help but go ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the shit!’ whenever Tyrese would say something ‘funny’ or Vin Diesel would retort with a ‘witty’ remark.  Vin Diesel being witty. Right…

For what it’s worth, the action set pieces are pretty well done. The climax, which has Walker and Diesel drive frantically through the streets of Rio with a humungous safe towed to their cars, is neat. I was disappointed that the movie didn’t have any real races. In fact, there is even a scene in which Diesel and Walker challenge someone in order to get more cars for the heist they want to accomplish and the movie cuts to the two arriving back at the hanger where they operate. The movie even ends just before a race begins. There are no races in this movie!


Anonymous said...

I still haven't seen "The Green Hornet," but I probably will because I'm madly in love with Christoph Waltz. Although all the negative or so-so reviews for the movie aren't winning me over.

edgarchaput said...

@mcarteratthemovies: The movie took an absolute beating from the critics back in January. Ironically, many of the things the critics disliked (Waltz behaving like a light version of his Inglourious Basterds character and Seth Rogen's character being particular anal, among other negative aspects) were things I enjoyed. The movie is about two douche bags who decide to go out and fight other douche bags. It just worked for me.