I’d been picking up some stragglers in the Luc Besson oeuvre, some of the movies he squeezes out between ARTHUR sequels, and happened upon WASABI. Barely 90 minutes long, it seemed a good movie to have on while I worked out (gotta keep my potato chips ‘n Mountain Dew credibility).
Jean Reno is a TUFF COP who don’t work by the book. We’re introduced to him as he punches out a transvestite in a club, and via reprimanding flashback we’re told he wrecked a bunch of other dudes, one of which looks all of fifteen. The fifteen year old kid hilariously gets it the worst, as he is punched down a flight of steps. But alas, he’s the police chief’s son and our boy Jean has to go apologize in the hospital, where he hilariously wrecks the kid some more by accident. Meanwhile, his schlubby partners have had no luck in interrogating the villainous tranny. Big Jean knows a secret technique, however! If your guess was that he punches a tooth outta the guy’s face you are some sort of Nostradamus, sir! The Tranny Gang is pulling a heist at a Parisian bank RIGHT NOW! Why they really needed to get that info from an accomplice is never really answered, as the remainder of the gang is pretty flamboyant and they’re pulling the job in broad daylight with dynamite. I mean, murders in the Rue Morgue this ain’t. Reno does your classic SCREECHIN TIRES ENTRY accompanied with a superior going OH NO NO NOT THIS GUY followed by him going in alone and… Nostradamus, soothsay this scene! Oh he wrecks all the trannies by punching them in the face/nuts? You’re so good, Mr. Damus. Hilariously, one of the trannies is actually a woman, so our COOL GUY hero has spent most of the first act punching women, children and comedy gay guys.
Trying to relax, getting his golf on and stuff, the captain comes to tell Reno he’d better take a leave of absence since the commissioner’s son is gonna spend the next two months in traction. Start a family or something, man! “Buy an Armani shirt and you won’t stay single for long!” Seeing as how Reno is a BESSON PROTAGONIST, he is heartbroken at the realization that all this tough guy posturing is just a front to hide his crushing loneliness! Even a comically awkward date with Carole Bouquet (Melina from FOR YOUR EYES ONLY with her moustache plucked and better hair) just reinforces the idea that the love of his life, Miko, still haunts the cobwebbed chambers of his heart! Coincidentally, a Japanese notary calls him at that exact moment to tell him Miko just passed away and he’s the sole beneficiary. Little did Jean know there’s a Japanese Lil’ Jeanne out there named Yumi!
Together with his ex-intelligence buddy Maurice (Momo)*, Jean’s got his hands full at keeping his cop identity a secret from his delinquent 19 year old while they try to solve the mystery of Miko’s death. Cancer don’t leave traces of cyanide! Yeah, there turns out to be foul play involved, of course, but rather hilariously we only get to see any antagonists at minute 43. The movie is 89 minutes long. With credits.
I’d say WASABI is a good action movie for kids, since the action is very comedic and bloodless, there’s no serious profanity or any nudity, and the scenes of Reno adjusting to his wacky Japanese daughter are sweet. Yeah, it’s pretty broad LOL ZEES ASIANS ARE CRAYZEH stuff but Reno is a very charming and skilled actor and makes it work, even if the actress who plays his daughter (who actually couldn’t speak French and learned her lines phonetically) grates at times.
The title WASABI is there probably just because it sounds cool and Japanese. Okay, in one scene Reno is eating a bunch of it to the comical dismay of Momo and also because his daughter is wild and wacky and crazy like a spicy wasabi meat-ah ball-ah? I dunno man.
*Fat, short, clumsy, big teeth… just needed some floppy prosthetic ears and this guy was literally a human Jar Jar Binks.