Sony // 2001 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 14th, 2003
For those who take their action raw.
Hubert Fiorentini (Jean Reno, Mission: Impossible, Léon) is a police detective who's practically married to his work. Grizzled, gruff, and seasoned to perfection, Hubert tends to be the type of guy that takes the statement "all work and no play make Hubert a dull boy" to heart. Aside of the occasional game of golf, Hubert spends his time taking down the criminal element and sulking about because of his long lost Asian lover. When Hubert is suddenly informed that the woman he loved nearly 20 years ago is dead from cancer, he's summoned to Tokyo for the reading of her last will and testament. It's at this meeting that Hubert finds out he has a 19 year old daughter named Yumi (Ryoko Hirosue). Because she is still two days away from being an adult, Hubert reluctantly agrees to be Yumi's legal guardian until her 18th birthday (even though she doesn't know he's her father). After attending Yumi's mother's funeral and cremation, Hubert begins to suspect that her demise wasn't through disease but foul play. As Yumi, Hubert, and his wacky partner Momo (Michel Muller) get closer to the truth, a showdown will ensue that will include stoic businessmen, Hubert's pistol, and $200 million dollars...
I honestly feel that Wasabi's tag line is very misleading, or at least was never finished. "For those who take their action raw..." it starts, "...this movie is not for you." The fact is that the so-called action in this movie is only mediocre -- much of the story consists of Jean Reno's character babysitting a very annoying teenager who spends most of her time whining about anything and everything she comes in contact with. Either that or she squeals in delight while shopping. Of course, as most film connoisseurs know, once you throw a kid into the mix (a monkey may also be substituted), it's all downhill from there...and Wasabi doesn't break this rule. Jean Reno, a capable actor who is often thrown into American drivel (I have the feeling the horrid remake of Godzilla doesn't show up on his résumé very often), features a hound dog expression and a keen sense of the absurd. In Wasabi, this sometimes plays to his advantage (a scene featuring an apology for battering the police chief's son is precious) and makes for a breath of fresh air. It's just too bad that Wasabi plays a bit jagged -- one part comedy and another part action/buddy movie, the pace is sometimes sluggish and the characters a bit too goofy (Reno's partner Momo, played by the rubber-faced Michel Muller, is slightly amusing but wears out his welcome quickly). As directed by Gerard Krawczyk -- as well as produced and written by popular director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Messenger) -- the film shows signs of promise but fails to be anything truly remarkable. Though it's flawed, there are amusing passages including a scene where Hubert accidentally creates mayhem with an electronic hospital bed. And the whole thing just may be worth your time to see Reno attempt to "boogie down" on one of those dancing video games. Otherwise, stick with Reno's more popular and far better action fare.
Wasabi is presented in very attractive looking 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Columbia has put forth some well placed effort into this picture -- the colors and black levels all appear solid and well defined. The film was produced a few years ago and sports a few minor flaws, including a slight amount of grain in the image as well as a little edge enhancement. Otherwise, this is a fine looking print that should please fans. The soundtrack is presented in a very apt Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix in both French and a dubbed English version. The dubbed version is not quite as bad as one might expect, especially since Reno provides his own English voice (however, be warned that the Yumi character is unbelievably grating). The mix includes a few well placed directional effects, as well as some nice ambient/background sounds. The mix is free of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Wasabi doesn't score many points on either my action movie list or my extra features list -- the only supplements included on this disc are some theatrical trailers for other Columbia movies.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, dubbed)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French, original language)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailers