29 July 2003 | Buddy-51
not as cool as it wants to be but Reno is wonderful
`Wasabi' is a high-spirited French action comedy with a Japanese name. This Luc Besson production stars Jean Reno in a wonderful performance as a tough-guy French cop who is as quick to use his tongue as his overeager fists. One day, out of the blue, Detective Fiorentino discovers that he has a 19 year-old daughter by a Japanese woman who left him almost 20 years ago, breaking his heart in the process. The girl, Yumi, turns out to be an orange-haired free spirit who hates cops and has been led to believe that her father raped her mother. Much of the film is spent with Hubert and Yumi getting to know one another, as they uncover secrets about her mother's past that seem to have made the young woman the target of some rather unsavory characters.
The plot is the least of the matter in this film. As directed by Gerard Krawczyk, `Wasabi' is really all about style. Besson's screenplay is fitfully amusing, doling out cleverness and cutesyness in roughly equal measure. Cinematographer Gerard Sterin brings out the colorful richness of the urban Japanese landscape and editor Yanne Herve doesn't linger longer on the jokes and sight gags than is absolutely necessary. These elements help to compensate for the somewhat desperate air that afflicts the screenplay from time to time.
The prime asset of `Wasabi' is Jean Reno's performance. Reno perfectly mines the comic potential inherent in the material through the tone of weary cynicism and superiority to all around him that he conveys throughout. As an actor who has played this type of rogue-cop character many times in his career, Reno obviously relishes this opportunity for a little good-natured self-ribbing. And he does a splendid job.
`Wasabi' is little more than a piffle when all is said and done, but Reno makes it worth seeing.