Wasabi (2001)

Just meeting your long lost father in a Tokyo hotel after a shopping spree.

Dear Ryoko,

Hirosue Ryoko, you know that you are easily one of the most beautiful women I have had the pleasure of seeing onscreen, and you starred in the absolutely amazing Departures. I know you were still growing up in the years before Departures, and Wasabi was nothing but a part of your development.

You got to work alongside Jean Reno, one of the most popular French actors ever. What’s more is that you (and just about every Japanese actor who played a part remotely related to the plot) demonstrated how impressive your French is! I know you stayed with Japanese cinema and dorama, but you could’ve had a career in France too!

It was only unfortunate that you got stuck working with Luc Besson in this story where French policeman Hubert (Reno) comes back to Japan to find that he had sired Yumi (that’s you) after finding out his girlfriend (Yumi’s mama) has kicked the bucket. It doesn’t take long for Hubert to realize that her death is more than a little suspicious and then finds himself caught up in a chase involving the Yakuza in the streets in Japan.

Don’t get me wrong, director Gerard Krawczyk made Wasabi a real treat for the eyes (even with you in your gaudy “trendy” outfits and artificial red hair) with hilarious action sequences with attractive set pieces. A good example is the bank robbery toward the beginning that was ripped almost straight out of a Dirty Harry movie.

The trouble was the pacing was, let’s just say, not quite what it could’ve been. For every great scene there was in the movie (and believe me, there were quite a few of them), there were a couple really lame scenes to follow. The scene in the arcade where Hubert plays Dance Dance Revolution against Japanese teens was not exactly of Waterboys caliber. It was almost as if Wasabi was losing focus on its own plot half the time. Also, what was the point of Hubert’s French girlfriend that we see for all of 5 minutes at the beginning of the movie?

The movie was decently acted at least. Jean Reno is typically an action/drama star, but demonstrated himself to be a more than capable comedian as did Michel Muller as his buddy Momo. I think what they did to you was dress you up in some ridiculous examples of trendy Japanese fashion and then had you down a fistful of sugar, but seeing your pretty face left me satisfied in itself.

So I have to congratulate you, Miss Hirosue. You have starred in what is easily the worst French film I have ever seen. It was by no measure the worst movie I have seen (certainly not of Project X magnitude), but definitely not of the high standard set by just about every other French movie (like Forbidden Games) that I have ever seen. But don’t worry, it’ll take a lot more than this to shake my love for you since I know you would go on to make Departures in about 7 years.

With love,

The Pop Culture Historian

Score: 2.5/4

NOTE: Despite starring Japanese actress Hirosue Ryoko, Wasabi was very much a French movie as pretty much all the spoken dialogue was in French. For that reason, it is classified as European Cinema, and not Asian.