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Year: 2001
Ryoko Hirosue and Jean Reno
Director: Gerard Krawczyk
Writer: Luc Besson
Cast: Jean Reno, Ryoko Hirosue, Michel Muller, Carole Bouquet
The Skinny: The world's most overrated director Luc Besson penned and produced this action-comedy which is a dual valentine to star Jean Reno and the country to Japan. The film itself is loosely plotted and totally without weight, but the chemistry between Reno and Japanese idol singer/actress Ryoko Hirosue is winning. Time-killing fluff.
by Kozo:
     French filmmaker Luc Besson brings us another film infused by his seemingly ever-increasing Asian fetish. This lightweight action comedy is about a super-tough, ultra-cool French police inspector named Hubert (Jean Reno) who's ultra brutal but gets results. His only leisure activity is a Sunday game of golf, and his current girlfriend (Carole Bouquet in a cameo) is none-too-happy with his preoccupation with work. She also has an issue with his romantic history, most notably an eight-month love affair while he was stationed in Japan many years ago. The woman was named Miko Kobayashi, and Hubert maintains that she was the love of his life. Still, Miko left him without explanation, and Hubert has pined for her since then—which has been nineteen years, to be exact.
     When forced on vacation after a recent violent display, Hubert resolves to put Miko behind him. Unfortunately, he gets a call from Japan that Miko has died, and has made him the sole beneficiary of her estate. Hubert hightails it to Tokyo, where he receieves Miko's estate (an amazing twenty million US dollars) and Miko's orphaned daughter: nineteen year-old Yumi (Ryoko Hirosue speaking French). Yumi is an orange-haired firecracker who is thrust into Hubert's guardianship until she turns twenty, which happens to be two days later. Even more, Yumi is Hubert's daughter, but her anger at her missing father makes Hubert uncertain about revealing his true identity. There's also suit-clad, sunglasses-wearing Yakuza tailing the two of them, and the mystery of Miko's death to consider. Plus, there's comedy.
     Plotwise, Wasabi is as manufactured as they come. The script is a loosely connected mass of convenient plot devices and unrealistic situations and characters. Hubert may be ultra-cool, but he gets away with waaaay too much in both France and Japan. And it takes Hubert's detective work on Miko's dead body to discover that she might have been the victim of foul play. Uh...aren't there cops in Japan, too? The film is supposed to be an action-comedy, but calling it an action-comedy-fantasy wouldn't be inaccurate.
     Thankfully, Jean Reno makes this mindless fluff watchable and entertaining. The actor, whose popularity in Japan probably precipitated this film, possesses great screen presence as well as remarkable comic instinct. His chemistry with Japanese idol Ryoko Hirosue (who turns in a charming, if not-too-hyper performance) is remarkably real and winning, which is great because that relationship is the central hook of the film.
     Director Gerard Krawczyk was also responsible for the Luc Besson-induced Taxi 2, which had more than its share of Japanese influence. Besson is probably Japan's most beloved French filmmaker, which is bizarre as his understanding of Eastern cultures seems inspired by martial arts films and visits to sushi restaurants. It's also bizarre why the world at large seems to think that Besson is some sort of great filmmaker. He's made some fine work (Leon comes to mind), but most of his films seem to be the work of a genre geek with lots of money. That seems to fit Wasabi, which is part cop flick, part father-daughter drama, part wacky comic antics, and all mediocre. Still, Jean Reno and Ryoko Hirosue make their parts work, which can sometimes be more than enough. (Kozo 2002)
Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
French and English Language Tracks
Removable English Subtitles
DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Winson Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
French Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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 Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen