The Green Hornet, Michel Gondry, 119 mins (12A)
Conviction, Tony Goldwyn, 107 mins (15)

A superhero crime caper that has plenty of buzz but lacks any sting

Despite all those capes, tights and animal-themed jumpsuits, the default mood of today's superhero films is angsty introspection, so it's quite a relief to find that Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet is closer to the 1960s Batman TV show than to Christopher Nolan's recent dramas about the Dark Knight.

Rather than having a Greek god with a six-pack in the title role, The Green Hornet stars Seth Rogen (also the co-writer), the gargle-voiced manchild usually seen in Judd Apatow's comedies – and it's his dopey-go-lucky persona that sets the tone.

He starts the film as the playboy heir to a Los Angeles media empire, his nightly parties regularly featuring in his family's own gossip columns. When his father (Tom Wilkinson) dies in mysterious circumstances, Rogen turns to crime-fighting, not because he's hungry for justice or revenge, but because he reckons it might be a blast to put a mask on and punch some muggers. And even then, he doesn't bother with any of the training sessions or equipment design that most would-be superheroes put themselves through: the heavy lifting is left to his handyman Kato, played by Jay Chou, an engineering genius and martial arts ace (Bruce Lee had the role in the TV version). Together, they take to the streets in a knockabout montage of shoot-outs, car chases, and shattering plate-glass windows, but Rogen never stops waggling his eyebrows or jabbering wisecracks, just in case we might be inclined to take things seriously.

There's a villain of sorts, Christoph Waltz of Inglourious Basterds, but he's more concerned with his image than with global domination. There's some eye candy, Cameron Diaz, but she's nearly as under-used as Waltz. And there's some buddy-movie friction between the two heroes, but essentially Rogen is the same incompetent numbskull at the end of the film as he is at the start.

With its cartoonish visuals and its goofy, consequence-free mayhem, The Green Hornet could have been ideal for children too young for The Dark Knight's doom and gloom, so it's a shame that it has so much swearing and such a high body count. Adults might be carried along by the harmless fun, but after a while you do wonder if The Green Hornet has any kind of point. Nothing that happens seems to matter to anyone in the film, so it probably won't matter to anyone watching it, either.

Conviction is based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) and her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell). In flashback, we see that they had the archetypal troubled childhood on the wrong side of the tracks in rural Massachusetts, but they've always been there for one another, so when Betty Anne's charismatic, short-fused brother is sent down for a murder she's certain he didn't commit, she pledges to free him. The method she picks doesn't seem much less preposterous than Russell Crowe's jailbreak plan in last week's The Next Three Days. A high-school dropout and a mother of two, she decides that she'll finish school, go to college, proceed to law school, and qualify as a lawyer, just so that she can lodge an appeal on Kenny's behalf.

No disrespect to Waters or her dizzying achievement, but there isn't much more to the story than that outline. Neither her education nor her investigation has many ups and downs, and while Rockwell's tattoos and facial hair get loopier every time we see him, Swank looks and behaves the same from the start of the film to the finish.

Betty Anne is a model of bloody-minded, never-say-die perseverance, which may be a laudable trait in real life, but not one that makes for a very textured film. Minnie Driver, as her flawlessly dependable friend, isn't any more complex.

There are questions that could have been asked about Waters's motives, and whether it was right for her to sacrifice so much of her own life for the sake of Kenny's, but this drab TV movie tiptoes around them.

Even the break-up of her marriage happens off-screen, between scenes, without a tear being shed, or any recriminatory words from her sons or her ex-husband. Like Betty Anne herself, the film just will not be distracted from her mission.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber sees Darren Aronofsky make the grand jeté from wrestling to ballet with Black Swan

Also Showing: 16/01/2011

Brotherhood (77 mins, 15)

When some college fraternity "pledges" stick up a convenience store as an initiation rite, one of them is shot in the shoulder, so the others take ever more drastic steps to keep themselves out of prison. Will Canon's blackly comic thriller may be short of characters you can root for, but the twists wouldn't disgrace a David Mamet play or an episode of Fawlty Towers. Think of it as "Reservoir Frat Boys".

Gasland (107 mins, PG)

This worrying eco-documentary posits that drilling for natural gas in the United States is a cowboy operation that tends to result in health problems and, believe it or not, flammable tap water for those living nearby. The man responsible is, as ever, Dick Cheney. Depressing as Gasland's conclusions may be, Josh Fox imbues his report with deadpan humour and first-person urgency: drilling is due near his own sylvan family home.

Travellers (90 mins, 15)

Four city boys are chased through the woods by some Irish travellers in this self-funded British thriller. It's barely watchable, but there are glimmers of talent which suggest that the director could have better luck with a decent budget.

Film Choice

Assuming his stiffest upper lip, Colin Firth, right, excels in The King's Speech, a chamber piece about Royal diction and duty. Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush provide memorable support. Until the end of February, the BFI Southbank is showing the films of versatile Hollywood great, Howard Hawks, including Bogart baffler The Big Sleep.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links