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Friday, January 21, 2011

Green Hornet: Kato, Still the Hired Help

“You’re not the Green Hornet,” yells the villain as Kato approaches, and that is the sum of the new Green Hornet movie. It is definitely not “The Kato Show.”  For some of you who don't know, “The Kato Show” is what the original Green Hornet TV show was called when it was shown in Hong Kong.  Fortunately for my father’s generation, the original 60s TV show had Bruce Lee in it and that was about the only reason the show was worth watching.  What set apart the Green Hornet from Batman and Robin was that Green Hornet had Kato and Kato was Bruce Lee.  It was one of those rare cases in which the sidekick was bigger than the hero.  It does not take a genius to know that Kato was way superior to Britt Reid a.k.a. the Green Hornet.  Bruce Lee in a mask was cooler, tougher and less pretentious.  The mask and driver’s black uniform were all that Bruce Lee’s Kato needed to bring justice, no utility belt or daddy’s millions of cash and precious Caucasian genes.  In the 1960s TV series, Bruce Lee did not even look like he was breaking a sweat every time he kicked any of the Green Hornet’s forgettable villains.

Use of Non-Free Media Rationale
In this new updated version, Kato was an orphan raised by a millionaire but conscientious newspaper editor whose spoiled nitwit of a son was a disappointment.  Kato, of course and with all of Hollywood’s good intentions, was a stereotypical Asian science geek, mechanical genius, culinary specialist and martial arts expert who could move faster than the wind and had sharp inhuman senses. However, by virtue of his “Asian-ness,” was still not worthy to get even an itsy bitsy kiss from the thirty-something Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz).  If Kato were white and played by Ryan Reynolds ( the new Green Lantern), he would have been shirtless within 30 minutes of the film and perhaps bedded at least one minor female character played by a former model/“I want to be a serious actress” type.  Let’s not forget that the new Kato was also a tad bit of a pervert, except this new Kato had much more fiber of muscles than Sixteen Candles’ Long Duk Dong.  (I suggest you google Long Duk Dong)

To its credit, the film tried its best to direct the moviegoers’ attention on Kato’s many admirable qualities, making the Green Hornet shout out mouthful of praises to Kato such as “You’re amazing; you can do everything!”  (I am paraphrasing). Still, no matter how good Kato was in this film, no matter how many bad guys he defeated, no matter how attractive he was, no matter how many cool cars and gadgets he invented, no matter how many cups of perfect cappuccinos he prepared, no matter how well he sang, Kato was still the hired help.  Even if the Green Hornet kept calling him his partner, his man, his brother; it is still undeniable that Kato was still a paid employee and the obligatory Asian sidekick.  You don’t think so? Exhibit A: Kato was fired twice in this film while Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), was only fired once and got her job back with a 100% pay increase.  Kato ended the movie still driving his boss' signature car, The Black Beauty, and before firing a shot, blurted his master’s final statement, “A message from the Green Hornet!” Then he drove away as the police chased him.
Kato may be driving one of the coolest cars in cinematic history; still, it is not his car.  In the Green Hornet's world, Kato is always the driver devoid of a superhero moniker.  One of the biggest mistakes of the original TV version is that it turned its real superhero into a sidekick. Luckily, the scheme backfired and the supposed Asian sidekick became a movie icon than its soporific masked employer.  Unfortunately, the new version repeated the same mistake for the new generation of moviegoers, and at least 1 billion of them are Asians. 

Recommendations, the new Green Hornet movie still has enough explosions, car chases, and stylized choreographed fight sequences to pump up your adrenalin. It also has loads of humor, thanks to Seth Rogen and Christoph Waltz, both delivering their own brand of comedy.  However, if you are an Asian, skip this film and go rent any Bruce Lee movie, I recommend “Enter the Dragon” or “Game of Death.” Now, in these movies, Kato is doing his own thing, using his own money, getting his own girl and even going face to face with the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

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