(director: Gérard Krawczyk; screenwriter: Luc Besson; cinematographer: Gérard Sterin; editor: Yann Hervé; music: Eric Serra; cast: Jean Reno (Hubert), Michel Muller (Momo), Ryoko Hirosue (Yumi), Carole Bouquet (Sofia), Yoshi Oida (Takanawa), Christian Sinniger (The Squale), Yuki Sakai (Miko); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Luc Besson; Columbia Tristar Pictures; 2001-France, in French and Japanese with English subtitles)

A moronic action/comedy film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Wasabi is a moronic action/comedy film starring Jean Reno as a lovable tough guy Paris cop. It’s written and produced by Luc Besson. It’s directed by Gérard Krawczyk. The title is taken from some kind of Japanese spicy condiment called wasabi that might even be served for breakfast as a cereal treat. The story is as glib and cartoonish as Besson-Reno’s 1994 The Professional. It centers around the 6 feet 3 Hubert (Reno), an unhappy man with a hangdog expression and a taste for brutish behavior. Hubert has not recovered from his heart being broken 19 years ago by his only true love, when stationed in Tokyo as an army commander. A Japanese woman named Miko, who worked in the embassy, dumped him without an explanation. Since then Hubert has led a lonely life and has gained a reputation on the force of getting results by using excessive force. He’s placed on a forced administrative leave after accidentally decking the police chief’s kid in a disco bust of a dangerous transvestite. Soon afterwards Hubert learns that Miko has died and left him as the sole legatee, whereby he flies to Tokyo and inherits a mysterious key, a personal photo with a secret message written on the back, love letters, a bank account to supervise, and an irritable 19-year-old named Yumi (Ryoko Hirosue). He learns that she’s his daughter, whom he never realized he had. Yumi still doesn’t know the truth, as her mom said dad was a rapist.

Before Miko’s remains are cremated Hubert takes samples from under her fingernails and brings it to be to tested to his old Tokyo army buddy Momo (Muller), who is still in the French Intelligence. Hubert plans to stay for 2 days as her guardian, that is when she becomes of age at 20 and can inherit the 200 million euros left by her patriotic spy mom. But he’s concerned that she’s such a careless spender who would most likely go on a shopping spree and spend the entire windfall.

The flighty Yumi must have a short attention span, because she quickly forgets she’s in mourning and jumps up and down with jubilation as she goes on a shopping spree. Meanwhile Hubert keeps busy as he knocks out a number of thugs following in the department store, he does this so coolly that Yumi is unaware of what’s going down. Yumi then insists on going dancing with her annoying hip-hop teen friends in an arcade. There again Hubert must knock off a number of thugs following, but this time in a gun battle. Hubert uses his giant pistols provided by Momo. In that James Bond-like arsenal Momo also provides grenades, rocket launchers, a Uzi, and left-handed golf clubs.

The tests come back showing Miko’s death was caused by cyanide and not from cancer as officially stated. In a flimsy drawn plot that had silly cartoonish action sequences of Hubert acting the part of a superhero–he learns the real reason Miko left him, and now why she was murdered. Hubert gets into a bank shootout with crime boss Takanawa and his gang of black suits and sunglass wearing thugs to resolve Miko’s murder. This takes the silly tale to even more ridiculous lows, which I guess are done in the name of derivative and languorous filmmaking.

Wasabi Poster

REVIEWED ON 11/10/2003 GRADE: C-