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
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
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.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot