The Green Hornet
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If only you could major in Heronomics. If colleges offered classes like "Advanced Villianology: Knowing Your Enemy" or "Secret Lairs 301," the bachelor of capes introductory course might include a primer on a hero's basic ethical framework. It might delve into such things as being honest and forthright, staying sharp in mind and body, holding the common good above yourself. To graduate, you would have to memorize a universal code of conduct that every masked hero and caped crime fighter must adhere to.
Not that such a rigorous course schedule would've helped Britt Reid much. He never did very well in school. The son of media magnate James Reid, Britt spends far too much time drinking vodka, smooching women, filling gossip columns and frustrating his father to memorize a universal code of what did you call that?
But when James dies suddenly, Britt inherits his father's well-regarded paper, the Daily Sentinel, and suddenly Responsibility is knocking at his door. It's a grand time for Britt to move his name out of the gossip section and onto the masthead.
Instead, he galumphs off into the night and slices the head off Dad's newly minted statue—taking Kato (his father's personal garage tech and barista) along for the ride. Just 'cause Responsibility's knockin' don't mean you gotta let her in, right?
But Responsibility can be stubborn as all get-out when she wants to be. She's even been known to climb in a window if no one answers the door. So before Britt and Kato can run away with their heady prize, they stumble across a mugging in progress. They save the victims and beat down the perps (well, Kato does most of the beating), finding out that helping others—a pretty Responsible thing to do—can be kinda fun.
They decide to make a habit of it—in the most childlike way imaginable. "Take that, Responsibility! Don't let the window frame hit you on the way out!" They'll morph into semi-superheroes—the Green Hornet and his unnamed sidekick! They'll wear masks and shoot guns and do massive martial arts moves! They'll drive wicked-cool Chrysler Imperials tricked out with ejection seats and working turntables! They'll be good guys pretending to be bad guys so the bad guys won't suspect them of being good guys! Or something!
Who needs to go to Heronomics class when you can just steal the diploma?
The Green Hornet is a superhero movie, so no surprise that we see lots of superheroic activity. Both Britt and Kato show some serious derring-do, and while they say they'll masquerade as villains, the only hard-core villainy they do (outside some harrowing police chases, which we'll deal with later) is done to other villains. They're all about making the city a safer place to walk at night.
The film also gives us a surprisingly cogent, multifaceted and, dare I say, mature view of human nature—how good and bad intermingle in us all, and that if we try hard enough, we can coax the good to shine through.
Britt's father is an almost impossible man to like. But for much of his career he was (we're told) a generous philanthropist and a paragon of journalistic integrity. That integrity is compromised for a time, but James is trying to correct that when he dies.
Britt, for all his outlandish behavior, has always had a heroic streak. And his take-no-prisoners nature makes him a true hero: He refuses to compromise on his ethics and, in the end, decides that the Daily Sentinel can be a powerful, effective and far more responsible means of change than any gas gun or souped-up Chrysler.
But Kato is perhaps the most heroic (and certainly the most humble) figure here. He's a conscientious partner and faithful friend, willing to take second billing to Britt's Green Hornet—even when he really deserves to be the headliner.
James is buried in what appears to be a Christian funeral.
Britt is a womanizer, and one of the first things we see him do is make out with a lady in (and on) several of his father's cars. (It's a fast-motion montage played for laughs.) He later wakes up with this same-said woman in his hide-a-bed and can't remember her name. Bikini-clad girls frolic in his pool, and partying females cavort with him at a wild shindig.
He leers at and makes rough, crude come-ons to Lenore, his administrative assistant at the Sentinel. She puts up with it for a while, but when Britt tries to kiss her she tells him if he makes a pass at her or ogles her any more, she'll slap him with a sexual harassment suit. She likes Kato, however, and the two of them have a chaste date. (To make Britt angry, Kato later suggests with hand motions that the two got intimate.)
Women wear tight-fitting, revealing clothing. Kato draws erotic pictures. "Kato, you are a pervert," Britt tells him. One man visits a prostitute. Britt and others make loads of crude references to male and female body parts. A "kiss my a‑‑" slam evolves into a semi-graphic tirade. There are a few joking "partner" references to Britt and Kato's relationship. Britt describes a certain food as an "orgasm in your mouth."
The Green Hornet doesn't sting, exactly. But he does punch and kick and wrestle and shoot people with gas guns. Kato does all of that, too—only about 20 times more frequently. Black Beauty, Green Hornet's Chrysler, is better armed than a tank. Weapons not welded to the car include wrenches, knives, microphones, statue heads, office chairs, suits of armor, HD TVs and bean bags.
Carnage ranges from stylized martial arts throwdowns to slapstick killings, and rarely does a fight scene run its course without someone getting hit in the groin. Victims are killed via explosion or gunfire. One man is crushed by a flying bulldozer. (We see parts of his body sticking out from underneath the shattered equipment.) Another dies after falling from a skyscraper window and getting flattened by a flying car. A third is skewered by a blade (to the neck). A fourth dies after being injected with poison. A fifth is stabbed in both eye sockets by big hunks of wood before getting shot in the gut.
Britt's insistence on over-covering his alter ego's exploits in his paper results in an evildoer killing a number of innocent civilians—who happen to be wearing green.
We don't exactly see if any police officers die in the high-speed chases or on-the-fly gun battles the Green Hornet has with them. But we do know that several cruisers crash and burst into flames. And we watch Britt and Kato celebrate each crash as if it were a home-team touchdown.
Crude or Profane Language
Characters say the s-word nearly 40 times. Crude references to private body parts are common. Jesus' name is abused once, and God's name is taken in vain about 10 times (including once with "d‑‑n"). Other bad words include "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "h‑‑‑" and "d‑‑k."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Britt's whole Green Hornet persona is the result of a night filled with too much booze. He and Kato share a drink or two and decide to cut the head off the James Reid statue. Afterwards, you might remember, they save a couple from rampaging thugs. Then Britt goes on a drunken rant, telling Kato they should save people every night. It's not the first or last time they drink. They're shown downing wine, beer, vodka and assorted other beverages.
The Green Hornet crashes his car into a meth lab, setting the place ablaze. Meth trafficking, it turns out, fuels much of the city's underbelly.
Britt shoots himself with a gas gun, and the chemical leaves him unconscious for 11 days.
Other Negative Elements
James Reid is often not a very good father. Britt, as a child, gets in trouble for trying to protect someone from a pack of playground bullies. James is far from sympathetic, telling his son that he has enough people to care for without worrying about him. "You're wasting my time," James says, ripping the head off Britt's favorite superhero doll. When Britt tells his father that he's trying to be better, James says, "Trying doesn't matter when you always fail."
Kato puts an adult diaper on Britt while he's out for that 11-day count.
Superhero stories have a cross-generational appeal these days, but at their core, they cater to the young. Most of us superhero aficionados first discovered cape-wearing crusaders as children, maybe by leafing through comic books or watching the Super Friends cartoon or, just maybe, taking in an ancient episode of The Green Hornet itself. There's a childlike charm about superheroes and their dramatic costumes, their clear, black-and-white sense of the world, their capitally cool equipment and sweet rides. For some kids, they're the only adults who regularly make adulthood look fun.
And maybe that's because most of them never really grew up. Britt Reid certainly didn't. Before becoming Green Hornet, he was a boy always in pursuit of the next shallow thrill. And when he saves his first innocent person, he feels a rush like no other. "Kato, I think this is the greatest moment of my entire life!" Britt exclaims. And that's why he commits to experiencing it again—every night.
That kind of passion can be a great thing. We all typically feel good when we do the right thing: It's one of the rewards, I think, that God gives us to encourage us to do it more often. But at the same time, Britt as the Hornet usually doesn't behave any differently than he did as a kid. (Until, perhaps, the very end of the film.) He's still out for the rush, the high. He just gets his selfish high from selfless acts now.
So the movie reflects Britt's childish sensibilities, showcasing lots of bad behavior in ways that look rip-roaring rad. We're meant to roll our eyes at Britt's man-boy behavior at times … but we're asked to accept it too. Sure, he runs police cars off roads and ogles his secretary and rattles off profanities, but that's OK 'cause he's a superhero! And he's having fun! And can't a superhero have a little fun?
The Green Hornet is fun. But it's not fun in a childlike way. It's fun in a childish one. It's fun like eating too much candy or breaking curfew.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Seth Rogen as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet; Jay Chou as Kato; Cameron Diaz as Lenore Case; Tom Wilkinson as James Reid; Christoph Waltz as Chudnofsky; David Harbour as Scanlon
January 14, 2011
May 3, 2011