Wasabi (2001)

In 2001 I was on my Grand Tour, working around the world and this movie popped up in a few different locations. A hit in Europe and Japan. However, I never took to option to go and see it. Instead I left it until this week to track down and experience.

Jean Reno (always a good start) is a cop in Paris who gets things done, much like Dirty Harry. Punch first, ask questions later. During this setup we are also introduced to the physics of the world being created, when Reno throws a punch, the recipient torpedoes across the room like a Tex Avery cartoon. The tone is set.

However, Reno’s method leads him to a suspension only to be given news a long lost love has passed in Japan. Travelling to Japan Reno discovers he has a daughter who is in danger and the circumstances surrounding the death of her mother are not what they seem.

Wasabi has a real feel of late ’90s, early 00’s style. Despite the plot’s themes, the film is a spirited, colourful comedy with a cast who are all in on the joke. The action sequences a short and snappy and prove that there is a place for the flashy rapid edit action sequence that so many filmmakers cannot get right today. This is an approach I normally cannot stand, however, Wasabi does it right.

The soundtrack of the film is an oddity. A shopping montage/action sequence plays to the sounds of the Prodigy, Mozart slips in and a well meaning pop song from Nadia Fares signals the end of the film. Everything seems hotchpotch though-out yet it all works.

Ryôko Hirosue is an absolute delight as the daughter Yumi oozing 90’d angst. Michel Muller is hilarious as Reno’s strange partner. Carole Bouquet is gorgeous in a small role and Yoshi Oida is a cartoon villain, perfectly suiting the film’s style. Then there is Jean Reno, he is fantastic here, supporting the film entirely with a macho performance and a smile that warms the heart.

I’m so glad I took the time and worked through this. The film is a joy and Luc Besson knew what he was doing back then. A glance down his filmography will see a number of much bigger and well known movies surrounding this, Wasabai is every bit as competent and it worth your time.

Wasabi isn’t easy to find. It was a big hit in France, however, I picked my DVD up in Italy. It’s very much worth a rent.