[box cover]

Wasabi

It seems Luc Besson (best known for such productions as La Femme Nikita, The Professional, and The Fifth Element) has become the most important and influential voice in French cinema today. Or, at least, it seems that way if one notes his multiple credits as producer, writer, and the overall influence his tone has had on action films. And if the results keep ending up as entertaining as 2001's Wasabi, keep 'em coming. Though it was directed by Gerard Krawczyk (who also directed the Besson-produced Taxi 2 and 3), Wasabi was written and produced by Besson and stars Jean Reno, who has long been Besson's favorite leading man. In it Reno stars as golf-loving Det. Hubert Fiorentini, whose methods are brutal — so much so that he gets put on leave after foiling a bank robbery. Unable to make heads or tails of girlfriend Sofia (Carole Bouquet) because of a love he lost 20 years earlier, Fiorentini finds himself sent to Japan to go to the funeral of that lost girlfriend, as he was included in her will. It turns out she had a daughter, Yumi Yoshimido (Ryoko Hirosue), who has a funny nose like his and is about to turn 20 years old. In charge of her estate until Yumi becomes legal in two days, Hubert suspects foul play in Yumi's mom's death and gets old partner Momo (Michel Muller) to investigate the clues he has. All the while he gets to know his daughter, who has always wanted to kill her father for abandoning her and her mother. And when Hubert finds out that they're being followed by the yakuza, and that Yumi has $200 million in her bank account, he knows something's up. Wasabi may sound overly dramatic, but it's presented with a very light air, making it a fine pop-confection. Reno is a great heavy with his trademark deadpan manner, and Hirosue compliments him as well as Natalie Portman did in Besson's The Professional. With goofy French comedy mixed in with comic-book violence, it probably wouldn't work as well if Reno didn't somehow manage to ground the whole thing with his melancholic approach to his lost love — the actor also provides the film with its title, as he seems able to eat wasabi by the spoonful. Fast moving and fun, Besson's (and Krawczyk's) Wasabi is the sort of trifle that rarely works as well as it does here. Columbia TriStar presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and both English and French DD 5.1 audio. Though the English track is dubbed, Reno provides his own voice. Extras include trailers for this and other films. Keep-case.
—DSH



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