“The Green Hornet”: John Cho vs. Stephen Chow vs. Jay Chou

So apparently, imdb.com couldn’t tell John Cho and Jay Chou apart and listed the former as playing Kato in ‘The Green Hornet’ on its site.

I have to admit, though, as I watched the film, I initially couldn’t help but think John Cho would have been great in that role. For the first half hour of the film, listening to Chou’s English, I thought they should have made Kato Asian American instead of Asian. But as the movie progressed, I wasn’t so sure. Part of the charm of the relationship between Kato and the Hornet is the vast cultural distance between them. If Kato was a blue collar Asian American dude, they wouldn’t make as odd a couple. There would be a certain tension there. So in the end, I feel having an Asian national as Kato was the right choice, though not necessarily Jay Chou.

At the same time, I think Chou was a much better choice than Stephen Chow, who was signed to the role at one point and was even set to direct the film. Chow’s films, as watered down and broad as they’ve become, still feel distinct. I’m not sure it would have been a good idea to let him loose as director on someone else’s film. (It really wouldn’t be a Stephen Chow movie without someone getting hit with a folding chair.) The only way Chow could have made a good superhero movie would be by ripping the genre to shreds as he did with his “horror” film, “Out of the Dark.” It seems kind of inevitable that it fell apart.

Further, it’s probably a good thing he didn’t stay in the film as an actor. I don’t think he would be very good as a serious-minded hero.  Chow is best when he plays cocky, corrupt anti-heroes (see  “God of Cookery” for an example) — that role was reserved for Rogen in this film. He’s also not bad at being a complete punching bag (“Love on Delivery”), who is so sweet we feel guilty laughing at him when he is gets beaten up or taken advantage of.

The Kato in the recent “Hornet” film was better played straight, if he was an asshole or a punching bag, it definitely wouldn’t have been as groundbreaking for APIs…

Also, because there is nowhere else to put it, did anyone else catch the “Simpsons” reference — a car with a horn that plays “La Cucaracha”? Or is that not a “Simpsons” reference at all, and car horns that play “La Cucaracha” are actually a bigger phenomenon, as this Wikipedia article indicates (though it offers no outside source)?

Random note no. 2: I’m still a little puzzled why people hated “The Green Hornet” so much and loved a bunch of other superhero movies that weren’t all that much better, such as “Batman Begins,” the “Spiderman” trilogy, etc. Although “Dark Knight” is a much better film overall, it had its share of problems — primarily that the whole “Two-Face” subplot felt completely tacked-on and wasn’t handled very in general, especially in comparison to the excellent “Batman” cartoon series two-parter.

About Ben Hamamoto

Ben Hamamoto is a writer born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He's been published in the Oakland Tribune and has written for New American Media's YO! Youth Outlook and the Nichi Bei Times. He is a research manager for the Health Horizons Program at the Institute for the Future. He also edits Nikkei Heritage, the National Japanese American Historical Society’s official magazine and contributes to Nichi Bei Weekly.

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