"For those (11) of you who needed to see Jean Reno do comedy."
It may seem like a smart move to all the managers and agents out there, but bad things generally happen when action stars begin to headline their own comedies.Sure, Ahnold made some solid coin out of Twins and Kindergarten Cop... but he also gave the world Junior and Jingle All the Way. Sly Stallone's comedic track record is even more painful to contemplate, except if you consider stuff like Stop or My Mom Will Shoot! and Rhinestone some sort of underrated masterpieces. Which is impossible. Now it seems that French action star (and fine dramatic actor) Jean Reno has fallen prey to the "Action Comedy" conceit and the result is the periodically entertaining and generally tiresome Wasabi.
Reno plays Hubert Fiorentini, a gruff and predictably no-nonsense ass-kicker of a French detective. After destroying a bunch of public property and beating snot out of the wrong guy (in this case, the police chief's son), Hubert is bombastically chastised by his captain and forced to take a vacation. Hey, I've never seen THIS plot before! It's about here that Hubie discovers that his ex-wife has dropped dead... and that she left a daughter behind. A teenage daughter. An Asian teenage daughter with decidedly free spirits and obnoxious demeanor.
Needless to say, Mom's death was a murder. Even more needless is the conceit that the killers are now after the teenager...and that the conveniently vacationing Papa is also the world's ass-kickinest Frenchman. From then on it gets a bit silly. Reno seems a bit unsure of how to carry himself here, as the flick parades between broad comedy with a disdain for actual action-movie violence to child/mentor melodrama not entirely unripped off from his Reno's brilliant flick Leon (a.k.a. The Professional).
Of course the newfound father/daughter relationship will blossom following a rocky start; of course the villains will be perpetually thwarted by the slick Frenchie; and of course the action bits will finally kick in... about 9 minutes before the end credits roll.
Though Wasabi does offer a handful of suitably kinetic action sequences, they're mired amidst scene after nearly-interminable scene of fluffy father/daughter moments and mildly broad comedy bits. In an effort to broaden the appeal of the Action Reno character, the flick is dumbed down and "safened up" to a maddeningly banal degree.Fans of the mysterious Frenchman should want to check the flick out for sake of completism... and if their expectations are fairly low they could have a good time.