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Review: 'The Green Hornet'

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The Green Hornet (2006)

Rating:
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In 2006, French filmmaker Aurélien Poitrimoult decided to shoot, with a fairly low budget, a short film in tribute to the Green Hornet, particularly to the 1960s TV series. The TV show was a serious alternative to the more popular “Batman” series with Adam West, and ran for about 26 episodes. More than anything, it's remembered for featuring a young Bruce Lee in the role of Kato, the Green Hornet’s aid, before the international fame he achieved in the 1970s. Basically what this short does is attempt to modernize the characters and showcase what a current film could be like.

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The plot is incredibly simple and straightforward. It begins with a news report over the radio announcing various crimes being committed and the police thinking that it's the Green Hornet’s doing. Apparently in response to the accusations, the Green Hornet (Manu Lanzi) announced to the press that he will catch the real culprits and clear his name. Over the next several minutes, we are shown how. The rest of the short is just the Green Hornet and Kato (Patrick Vo) beating a large group of thugs senseless. Both are shown to have individual styles, the Green Hornet is more of a boxer while Kato prefers kicking, but there's little use of their signature gadgets or their car, the Black Beauty. After fighting their way to the crime boss’s office, they confront him and that’s pretty much it. They tell him they will be watching and leave. There's even a cliff hanger ending, but it just promises more fighting.

To begin, the short film looks very good, especially considering the budget. The world is dark and gray, and the location of the building that they attack literally towers over them with a clearly ominous presence. The special effects are impressive and the camera work adds a certain style to the action, of which there's a lot. Although there's nothing wrong with the fight scenes (and they're well choreographed), it's actually my biggest issue with this short: it's almost entirely action.

By having the two heroes just beat their way to the bad guy undermines what made the Green Hornet unique as a character. The best way to explain this is to imagine watching the entire short again but with Batman and Robin as the leads. The short would still have the same strengths as before, but you’d get more familiar characters fighting bad guys. This is why this short fails to sell the characters; there's nothing particularly special about what they do here.

What made the Green Hornet unique was the way he integrated himself into the criminal underworld. The police and the general public were all convinced that the Green Hornet was a criminal mastermind. Every time he was reported to have taken down a racket, it was because they were in his way or refused to cooperate. The Green Hornet himself used this angle all the time, especially in the '60s series. It was even more important that the real criminals thought he was a villain. When confronted by the Green Hornet, bad guys are more willing to talk and expose their plans whereas with a known super hero, their only option is to fight.

After finding out who was in charge of a particular crime racket or organization, he and Kato would find him or her and demand that they either pay him a large share of their earnings (usually a ridiculous amount) or he would make problems for them. He would force them to become his new “business partners.” In many ways, it's not unlike the way the Joker proposes his plan to the mob bosses in a scene from “The Dark Knight”. This short misses the most crucial aspect of the character, making him just another two-fisted masked vigilante.

The one aspect of this short that I enjoyed the most however, was the ending credits. The ending credits look and feel the most like the old television show, complete with a very cool rendition of "The Green Hornet Theme" by Blaise Ubaldini which itself is based on “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Some variation of this theme song has been used since the 1940s serials. The bright and stylish credit sequence doesn’t really suit the tone of the rest of the short, which by contrast is much darker and moodier.

Overall, the short isn’t terrible and I can’t argue against how impressive it looks given the budget, but as a tribute to the Green Hornet, it just falls short.

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