Wasabi

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WASABI  the green condiment paste made from Japanese horse radishes, can pop your eyes and make you want to unscrew your nose and stick a firehose in it. A little goes a long way. The mildly entertaining absurdist French action-comedy from 2001 doesn’t inflame senses or embarrass you in front of a date, and the effects leave as soon as the 94th minute darks out, but it’s good for some smiles and a nod of appreciation for its spirited lead players.

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Rule-flouting supercop ‘Hubert Florentini’ (Jean Reno) is on forced leave from the department after roughing up too many people during arrests. Word arrives from Japan that his ex, who dumped him 19 years back—and who he’s never gotten over—has died and left him in her will, including guardianship of their daughter, about to come of age and inherit mom’s stash, a fortune she stole from the Yakuza.  ‘Yumi’, the ultra-perky girl (Ryoku Hirosue), doesn’t know Hubert is her father. Various bonding rituals occur while Hubert takes out half the gangsters in Japan.

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Directed in comic book style by Gérard Crawzyck, produced & written by Luc Besson, the genially dopey $18,000,000 romp wasn’t a hit, making only $10,400,000 back and most reviewers either blew it off as beneath Reno’s dignity or gave faint praise for the actors trying to keep it inflated. Some went with the contrived popcorn flow and enjoyed it.

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The action stuff is so foolish it doesn’t summon any juice or guffaws, but Reno shows a nice flair for comedy antics and Michel Muller, as his sidekick, has a fair battery of goofball expressions (he rather resembles Mr. Potato Head). Hirosue is cute as a button and her energy is winning.

Trivial fun, no harm done. Maybe a lot more amusing if you’re French or Japanese. Some bouncy techno music on the soundtrack. With Carole Bouquet and Yoshi Oida.

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