Made in: France, Japan (location)
Language: French, Japanese
Director: Gérard Krawczyk
Starring: Jean Reno, Ryoko Hirosue, Michel Muller, Yoshi Oida
Year: 2001

Synopsis: Hubert Fiorentini (Jean Reno) is a French version of Dirty Harry. Once stationed in Japan during his time as a French intelligence agent, he is now a police detective in his native Paris. He has unorthodox methods of stopping crimes, little respect for authority (and transvestites), and a mean golf swing. If you're a bad guy, watch out because he'll punch you in the face (or shoot you, if you're too far out of the reach of his fist).

After foiling a conspiracy to rob a bank, Hubert is placed on suspension by his superiors. Since Hubert's whole life has been about police work and punching criminals in the face, he doesn't know what to do with himself. He has no friends, and no meaningful hobbies except for golf.

Most of what drives Hubert is the memory of Miko, an previous lover who mysteriously walked out on him nineteen years earlier (while he was living in Japan). But one day, Hubert learns that Miko has turned up dead in Tokyo. And for some reason, she's left everything to him in her will.

Traveling to Tokyo, he reconnects with Momo (Michel Muller), and old colleague in the intelligence service. And to his surprise, Hubert finds that he's granted custody of Yumi (Ryoko Hirosue), the nineteen year-old daughter he never realized he fathered. But things get a little dicey when Hubert suspects foul play in Miko's death, and he soon crosses paths with an unfriendly Yakuza boss (Yoshi Oida).

As Hubert learns that he also likes eating wasabi, he must explore the mean streets of Tokyo...and start punching people in the face.

The Good: Jean Reno is lots of fun to watch in this straightforward movie. This is a role he's very familiar with, and he's as good with action as he is with humor. He gets laughs by being natural and deadpan rather than trying to be funny.

Wasabi, as a whole, is well-paced. The cinematography and editing are top notch, and the first half is energetic and highly entertaining.

The Bad: The plot is pretty predictable, and makes use of too many genre cliches: Tough guy with nonexistent social life, a hero who singlehandedly solves a case while finding clues that others have somehow missed for years, the use of big guns, the ability to take on loads of bad guys all at once...you get the point.

And then there are the usual problematic elements. Why do all the bad guys wear the same dark suits and sunglasses (even at night), making them stand out everywhere they go? How is it that almost everyone whom Jean Reno meets in Japan happens to speak perfect French? How does an indoor golf course get blown up without anyone noticing?

Who would like this movie: You don't have to be a fan of foreign films in order to enjoy Wasabi. This one's for you if you like Jean Reno, Ryoko Hirosue, and watching people get punched in the face (and sometimes even flung through walls). In other words, it's like any action movie you've seen in Hollywood.

It's entertaining enough, but pretty forgettable as well. It's funny to watch Jean Reno punch people in the face, but it does get old after a while.

(2 and 1/2 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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