This review may contain spoilers. Nothing terribly bad, but still.
Wasabi - 2001
Directed by: Gérard Krawczyk
Wasabi is a Jean Reno vehicle, written by Luc Besson (who also wrote The Professional) and directed by Gérard Krawczyk. It was released in 2001 and is in French and Japanese with English subtitles.
In some ways, it would be easy to compare Wasabi with The Professional and just rack it up to Reno and Besson going back to the well. Jean Reno is a bad ass. His serious demeanor is juxtaposed with a young girl he is expected to care for. This much is true. This is where I was intending to craft a brilliant and succinct rebuttal to this arguement...but I don't think I can. It's true, it's true, it's just another action movie with a French star and enough tongue in its cheek to choke a llama. But, as far as that sort of thing goes, it's excellent.
Jean Reno plays Hubert Fiorentini, a French police officer whose methods are unsound. Not in a "gathering a clan of loyal followers that worship you like a God" way...more in the sense of "beating the shit out of a transvestite in the middle of a crowded club, thus precipitating a fight with people seeking to defend "her" honor and topping it off by hospitalizing the son of the police chief." The film banks on Jean Reno's ability to play stupendously badass and socially awkward off of each other in rapid succession. And the setup ensures that he has an ample chance to jump between both.
Michel Muller does an excellent job playing Momo, an French intelligence agent who hasn't worked with or seen Hubert for over a decade. The character is your basic comedy relief side kick however Muller breaths a little life and personality into it. He has a tone of voice and method of intonation that he only uses when talking about women, money and weapons. Momo is a testament to Hubert's violent and destructive past as an intelligence agent, as his child-like joy to have him back in Japan reflects.
Ryoko Hirosue plays Yumi Yoshimido and does a decent job with it. Her character is your basic spastic, unpredictable, cell-phone-toting Japanese girl. She does a pretty standard job of playing the "I'm having trouble coping with the incredibly bizarre and contrived situation that I've been placed in" character. In some ways, this is the hardest role in the film to make believable, so I'm hesitant to criticize.
The movie definitely has its memorable moments. Beating on well armed, sunglasses and suit wearing Yakuza men with a pair of golf clubs. Beating the shit out of sunglasses and suit wearing Yakuza men in a mall. Shooting sunglasses and suit wearing Yakuza men in an arcade. Jean Reno playing Dance Dance Revolution. Sure, these sound like stock action moments, but they have some serious class.
To wrap it all up, if you like Jean Reno, check this one out. If the very thought of watching a French action movie sends a chill down your spine, pass on it.
Oh yes, the title. There's a scene where Jean Reno's character eats a large ammount of straight wasabi and enjoys it. The French tagline is something along the lines of "La Petite moutarde qui monte au nez." Babelfish translates this to "Small mustard which goes up to the nose," which I think would be a great Englsh title for the movie. Stavr0 further informs me that the tagline is also a pun on 'La moutarde monte au nez', which refers to someone who is pissed off.