by Chris Parry
I keep renting Jean Reno films and I'm beginning to forget why I started doing so. Reno was great back in the day of The Professional, and his French language comedy Les Visiteurs was once the all-time record-setter in his home country, but since then he's bounced from bad project to lame concept without seemingly any heed for quality. The English language version of Les Visiteurs (Just Visiting!) was awful, Ronin was all screeching tires and no guts, and this film, while not being interminable, is far from a clever comedy. Or a clever action film. Or a clever... I'm not excactly sure what this was supposed to be, if I'm honest.Hubert (Reno) is a French cop who used to work in Japan, but got dumped by his Japanese girlfriend, and thus went back to France where, nineteen years later, he kicks much criminal ass. That is, until he gets a phone call from a lawyer back in the old country telling him that his long lost love is dead. Cue holiday.
"A limp French cross-genre family reunion action cop comedy set in Japan."
At least, that's what Hubert thinks he's going to have, until he finds out he actually has a Japanese daughter (Ryoko Hirosue), who is now nineteen years old, absolutely uncontrollable and completely in the dark as to who he is.
Keeping up? Okay, so mix Hubert's old pistol packing partner (Michel Muller) into the storyline, as well as some Yakuza types who want their money back - money that has found its way into Hubert's daughter's bank account, and what's left is a surprsingly yawn-inducing comedy thriller.
I'm so entirely sick of action movies where any fight scene is made up of rapidly edited glimpses of someone swinging a fist, and every gunshot throws the person hit across a thirty foot room. I could probably do without scenes such as the one where Hubert flicks two golf balls up off the ground with a 3 iron, then smacks them both (with one stroke) out of the air and straight into the head of two approaching gangsters.
I mean, come on, gimme something to work with here.
Director Gerard Krawczyk is hardly an artist, but he has proved a success in France, where he helmed Taxi 2 to a massive box office. That film, wrriten, like this one, by Luc Besson, was filled with goofy humor, impossible car stunts, big chase scenes, and little attention to the laws of gravity. In Wasabi, the same formula applies, but it fails to ignite because this world looks completely normal. To have old man Reno fight his way out of being surrounded by six guys with guns pointed at him, armed only with two golf balls and a couple of olf clubs, is just silliness.
And it gets worse when Krawczyk tries to cover Reno's lack of action-readiness with rapid cuts that make every fight scene look like a montage of punches. Not helping is the fact that everyone in the film seems to be wearing black, making the fight scenes completely impossible to follow - a real problem when those scenes are the selling point of the film.
If movies such as this, and Besson's later work, The Transporter, are anything to go by, it seems old Luc has lost the plot when it comes to writing quality films. Nowadays he's into car chases, fight scenes, wire-fu and making money. And it shows.Which isn't to say there's nothing to like here. Michel Muller may look odd, but he delivers decent comedy timing, and the few scenes where he and Reno actually have a moment to converse are actually very funny. But they're clouded by editing, fighting, a female lead who won't shut up, and easy plot points that move the story along quickly at the expense of any semblance of realism. All in all, a big miss.
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originally posted: 04/23/04 15:15:59