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The Green Hornet: whatever happened to martial arts?
Posted on Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 11:13 am
by IDMA Editor

Kapow! Hollywood’s once-great martial arts scene has been kicked into oblivion by a superficially greater power, that of the 3D gadget-weapon. Anyone, like me, who grew up in admiration of the humble unflappable cool of black belt actors like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan will be disappointed by Michel Gondry’s remake of The Green Hornet, which opens in UK cinemas this Friday. It should have been a karate film.

The movie has all the visual imagination of the 1950s comic book, and borrows its best material from it. But in the place of neat, perfectly-timed, well-choreographed fighting sequences we get some fantastically clumsy air punching and, inevitably, some almighty nut-crunching that resembles the sound of a bulldozer on a car bonnet. Instead of fighting - or, I think, by way of apology - there are many weird and wonderful gadgets and weapons. They look fantastic in three-dimensions, and the cameramen are well-versed in the art of gadget porn films: linger on them. Among the best on show are a coffee machine to rival the Large Hadron Collider, and a souped-up car ejector seat with a leather finish, a parachute, and a built in record player. Oh, the sweet irony of an LP unfolding on such a 21st century invention!

But stainless steel and vintage sound systems will not do for this superhero story. What is appealing about the premise of this tale is that the pulp hero and the villainous gun-loving crime lord, whom he must conquer, are as thick as two short planks. Britt Reid is a spoiled rich boy who has recently inherited his father’s media empire, and seeks danger and limelight by posing as a Robbin-Hood style criminal in a green mask.

The only reason he succeeds is because his Chinese aide Kato – played by Bruce Lee in the original 1966 TV series Le Frelon Vert - is a quiet genius and a martial arts maestro. In this version he is played by Taiwanese musician Jay Chou. In real life Chou can play piano, guitar, cello, Chinese flute, Chinese zither and jazz drum - but, crucially for this film, can he fold a man into an envelope with his little finger?

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