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This week:
The Green Hornet

True Grit

Filthy says:
"Shit and not shit."

There are more defects in The Green Hornet than at a reunion of thalidomide babies. And just like those babies, it's a mutant born of hopeful parents. The twisted limbs and misshapen skull wouldn't be so bad, except the dad is director Michel Gondry. He's the frog behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, both of which are pretty fucking fantastic. More recently he made Be Kind Rewind. That one was a mess too, but at least it sparked with originality and had its moments. I'd rather see a creative misfire than a soulless jumble like The Green Hornet.

The Green Hornet source material is a mediocre radio show from the 1930s. How do I know it was mediocre since I'm not 120 year old? I spent a shitload of my childhood listening to old radio dramas late at night on oldies stations, and I still listen to them. You can still download them by the fistful at archive.org. In The Green Hornet, a newspaper publisher/millionaire named Britt Reid gets all dressed up at night and serves vigilante justice to the bad guys. The catch of the show was that the cops and criminals thought the Green Hornet was also bad. His outlaw status made it easier for him to get close to the real baddies. The radio show was briefly turned into a crap TV show in the 60s, with the most memorable thing being Reid's car.

The Green Hornet movie, co-written by Evan Goldberg and its star Seth Rogen, and directed by Gondry, is faithful to the rich newspaperman/vigilante story, but barely. Surrounding that premise is rote, by-the-numbers superhero bullshit with a debt to Batman, who is also a wealthy vigilante with high-tech gadgetry oozing out his ass. Rogen and Goldberg's script is creaky and leaky, making little sense and verifying what I thought after watching their Pineapple Express: they don't know shit about writing action movies. They know a lot about layabouts talking about their nuts, but everything they ever learned about explosions they learned from Steven Seagal. The thrills are derivative and predictable. Their villain is duller than kindergarten crayons. I could feel the strain Rogen and Goldberg put on themselves to do something new, but they either pussed out or weren't up to the task and repeatedly fell back on predictable action sequences and improbable gadgetry. There's very little cleverness, and the monotonous attempts are bromance and slacker humor are dead on arrival, either already done in previous movies or half-hearted. The gags about the villain, Christoph Waltz, being boring, and his attempts to make himself more flamboyant, are buried in the guy's delivery, or in the direction, or in everyone's lack of conviction. Whatever, it never even qualifies as a joke, and his evil exists only because there has to be a bad guy, no matter how dull.

Rogen plays a whiny-ass little bitch of a rich kid whose father is the wealthy publisher. When dad dies, Rogen must grow up quick-like. His way of doing it, rather than actually maturing, is to use his father's cash to live out a comic-geek wet dream. He has fancy toys and fights crime in a bitchin' car. His sidekick is Kato, played by Jay Chou, a Chinese barista/mechanic/martial arts wizard. His femme is Cameron Diaz, in a role that is as pointless as it is revealing that Ms. Diaz isn't aging well. Her features are like tectonic plates shifting father and farther apart. It's like we're seeing Pangea on her face. Her character is, by requirement, the smart one who doesn't take guff, but her part is so irrelevant that the movie would be almost exactly the same without her. There would just be more online discussions of whether the two male leads are gay.

Rogen's character is full of quips, but they're almost all lame. I can see them getting dutifully repeated in a state-school frat house for a week or so, but that's it. Mostly, Rogen's written himself a shit character who spends a lot of time shouting "Look out!" and "Oh no!" after the fact. He's not an instigator, he isn't ingenious and his one-liners would make his real life friends say, "Would you please just shut the fuck up?" He is no more likable or redeemable than a guy in an Axe bodywash commercial. Of course, it doesn't help that his idea of growing up and taking responsibility means riding around in a pimped-out car killing scores of people.

With Gondry at the helm, I thought maybe the movie would turn superheroes upside down. I hoped he'd give us a new perspective on the genre. He doesn't. He plays by the tightly-defined rules with a minimum of visual invention. There are a few visual tricks that struck me as cool, but not many. Gondry keeps himself in that tiny little superhero playpen, too afraid to bend the rules.

The Green Hornet isn't funny, it isn't original and it isn't worth the time. Just like those thalidomide babies. Two Fingers.

I also saw True Grit, a flick I was really looking forward to because the book by Charles Portis is so fucking great. It's an unsentimental western about a ballsy 14-year-old girl who sets out into Indian territory to avenge her father's death. John Wayne won some shiny dildo for playing the story's fat, one-eyed drunken marshal Rooster Cogburn 41 years ago, but I never saw that movie. Movies starring Wayne are usually about Wayne, not the story, and I avoid them. Anyway, this time around Joel and Ethan Coen adapted the book, which I figured would be swell since they did such a cold, remorseless take on Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. They are incredibly faithful to the source material here, probably because to change it would almost certainly be to fuck it up.

The True Grit of the title is ostensibly what the girl (Hailee Steinfeld) is looking for in a U.S. Marshal to help her track down her father's killer in post-Civil War Arkansas. The real true grit is what she has, and what the marshal earns. She's serious, brave and willing to endure just about anything to avenge her dad's death. Maybe not Read After Burning, but just about any other torture. She's scared, but she keeps going to do what she believes.

Steinfeld hires Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a burnout with a propensity for killing people. Tagging along is Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger who struts like a peacock because he thinks he's so fucking cool. The three set out into the lawless Indian territory to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin).

It's a gruesome story. A man gets his fingers chopped off, many are shot and killed, and the rest just get a bullet through the ribs or shoulder or a rattlesnake bite. It snows and rains, and vultures peck at a dead man's flesh. That's mostly how the book is, too. Through it all, Steinfeld pushes on. She's unsentimental and tougher than the shit of a car-eating circus freak.

The Coens don't add much to Portis' book. Their own touches feel appropriate. And the movie's goodness is because the source material is. In two areas, though, they botch it. The first is the score, a lot of piano that tinkles like a four-year-old full of Mountain Dew. While the visuals are deadpan, the music gets schmaltzy and cheap, often trying to tell us how we're supposed to feel. That's a damn shame because one strength of the book is it trusts the reader to figure it out for himself. The other way I think it's botched is in the way the movie is shot. It's gruesome and bloody, but it's a bit soft. The lighting, the cleanliness and the dress feel more like a showy western for the first half. I would have preferred to almost be able to smell the old drunk who lives with rats in the back of a Chinese grocery, and to see the dirt caking on the faces. In its second half, the movie is grungier and the character of Lucky Ned Pepper is just awful to look at. The movie benefits from it.

There will be a buttload of talk about how Steinfeld deserves a bunch of special awards for her acting. That's because she's a kid and she does a good job. Not a great job. There are moments where she looks overwhelmed. But, the asswipes in Hollywood love to make a big fucking deal out of every kid who is competent. I guess it amazes them because they're such incompetent adults and because they forgot that anyone could not be corrupted by their system. Bridges, however, is a damn good Rooster Cogburn. He's just an ugly human being and his redemption is the most interesting aspect of the movie. Damon, too, is very good playing against type as a severed-tongue, puffy-faced braggart. None of it, though, is remarkable. It's just good and worth seeing.

Three Fingers for True Grit.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Mark S. Allen of CBS

The Green Hornet is "The most fun you'll have at the movies this season!"

The Dilemma: "A new comedy super duo is born! Funny and provocative, with the heart and soul only Ron Howard could bring. Vince and Kevin are perfect."

Filthy's Reading
Steve Fischer - When the Mob Ran Vegas

Listening to
Cat Power - The Greatest


Planet Earth