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Hubert is a French policeman with very sharp methods. After being forced to take 2 months off by his boss, who doesn't share his view on working methods, he goes back to Japan, where he used to work 19 years ago, to settle the probate of his girlfriend who left him shortly after marriage without a trace. There he mets his former colleague Momo and his daughter Yumi who he did not know was ever born. Hubert eventually finds out why his girlfriend left him and the reason becomes his and his new daughters problem. Written by
Jean Reno and Ryoko Hirosue make charming team in French action comedy
WASABI (2001) is a variation on fish-out-of-water action comedies like the RUSH HOUR films, with a nod to more deadly serious Japan-set predecessors like the Michael Douglas starrer, BLACK RAIN (1989). Written by Luc Besson, it tells a tale of a French cop called to Tokyo for the reading of his old girlfriend's will only to learn that the girlfriend died under suspicious circumstances, that a cache of $200 million is involved, and that he's the father of the dead woman's daughter, of whom he's now the legal guardian until she turns 20 in two days. There is plenty of formulaic cartoonish action capitalizing on the no-nonsense cop's tendency to hit or shoot first and ask questions later, but it's balanced by some delightful interaction between Hubert, the gruff, if sentimental, middle-aged cop, played by Jean Reno, and Yumi, the terminally cute, endlessly trendy Japanese daughter, played by pop star/TV-film actress Ryoko Hirosue.
Some scenes manage to combine the action and father-daughter antics seamlessly, as in a department store shopping trip, where Yumi runs ecstatically from one section to the next while Reno quietly ferrets out and knocks unconscious each of nearly a dozen Yakuza thugs tailing them, all, miraculously, without attracting her attention. In a later scene, he has a French Intelligence comic relief sidekick (Michel Muller) show him cases of advanced weaponry while Yumi changes into her purchases in an adjacent room, bursting through the doors in a flamboyant display of each new outfit, while the two men scramble to hide the hardware from her view and tell her how great she looks.
The script is just as contrived and implausible as it would be in the hands of Hong Kong or Hollywood filmmakers, who've all done similar material, but it's handled with a light enough tone and given over sufficiently to the lead performers to make it a pleasant if undemanding experience. It's always a treat to see Reno in a starring role and he's quite believable and charming throughout in a patented movie star role that Bruce Willis might have played in Hollywood or Lau Ching Wan in Hong Kong. The lean and wiry Ryoko Hirosue (all arms, legs, nose, and chin) is `kawaii' to the nth degree--like a saltier, earthier Audrey Hepburn--and steals the film whenever she's on camera (which isn't often enough!). The character is quite volatile and given to wild mood swings punctuated by tears one minute and sly grins or girlish squeals the next. She's quite a fashion plate as well. The actress reportedly learned her French dialogue phonetically, but she handles it like a pro, as if she'd been speaking it much of her life.
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