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Film / Wasabi

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Wasabi is a 2001 French action comedy directed by Gérard Krawczyk, written and produced by Luc Besson and starring Jean Reno, Michel Muller, Ryōko Hirosue and Carole Bouquet. In France it has the subtitle La petite moutarde qui monte au nez ("The little mustard that gets right up your nose").

French police commissioner Hubert Fiorentini (Reno) is, in his words, an average 47-year old dude who wouldn't hurt a fly. Unless said fly is a criminal. He's a damn good, if unorthodox cop, plays golf on weekends and has an attractive woman pursuing a relationship with him. But he can't get his old flame out of his head. Said flame was a Japanese government agent named Miko, whom he hasn't seen in 19 years (not 20). Everyone he knows is telling him it's time to move on.

One day Hubert receives a call from Miko's lawyer informing him of her death. He's invited to Japan for the reading of her will, as he's the only one she's left anything. When he gets there, he discovers two things. One, he has a 19-year old daughter by Miko, the bratty, fiery and independent Yumi. Two, Miko didn't die of natural causes. With the help of his Old Friend Momo, who still works in Japan for French Intelligence, Hubert must protect his daughter from some nasty Yakuza gangsters while unraveling a series of clues Miko left to help Hubert find the truth.

Wasabi provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Whatever task is given to Hubert, he excells at it - even if his methods tend to leave a lot to desire.
  • Actor Allusion: Once again, Jean Reno plays a professional killer who has to protect a young girl after her loved one was murdered by crooks.
  • Alleged Lookalikes: In theory Yumi and Hubert share a nose, but Hirosue and Reno's nose are absolutely nothing alike.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Hubert's punches are capable of sending people flying about as efficiently as those of the average incarnation of Superman.
  • Big Bad: Takanawa, called "The Zebra" due to his facial scarring.
  • Bilingual Bonus: When Hubert first meets Yumi she's ranting angrily at him in Japanese, complaining about being shut up in the office when she's hungry, hot and has a headache (but nothing, amusingly enough, about him spying on her through the keyhole). Then she points to Hubert and asks "Who is this trash?" When the lawyer tells her, "He's a friend of your mother's and a good person, so don't worry", she is more friendly but still a snarker. After Hubert asks for something to drink, Yumi mockingly says in Japanese, "Why saké? I don't get it! I don't know why I was brought here. I've been locked up in here forever, hungry and hot and I feel bad. I don't get it! I don't understand at all." She repeats the latter statements in Japanese after she finally sees Hubert shooting the men in the arcade.
  • BFG: A couple of rocket launchers are seen, but never used. The same cannot be said for Hubert's massive revolver.
  • Brick Joke: Momo brings two large cases full of various nasty guns and explosives to Hubert's hotel room. None of it actually gets used, since Hubert sticks to his magnum and the grenades all get accidentally detonated in the trunk of their car. At the very end of the film when Hubert gets on the plane back to France, Japanese cops show up with those two cases and ask who their owner is.
    Hubert: Oh no.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Of sorts. The money in question exists in a digital account rather than in a physical briefcase. It's a gift from Miko to her family, and the object of the Yakuza's pursuit.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Le Squale.
  • The Cameo: Carole Bouquet as a date of Hubert.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Hubert initally does not tell Yumi who he really is, and keeps trying to find the right moment. It doesn't help that A. She hates cops, and B. She was made to believe that her father had raped and subsequently abandoned her mother. The former is natural teenage behavior, the latter was a cover story to protect her from Miko's enemies. The right moment never does come, as Takanawa is the one to break the news to her, but by then Hubert and Yumi are on good terms anyway.
  • Cool Old Guy: Not that old, but Hubert is pushing fifty.
  • Cowboy Cop: Hubert's methods against criminals are quite unorthodox, to say the least.
  • Disaster Dominoes: As far as Hubert knows, his hospital visit to the prefect's son went perfectly...
  • Faux Action Girl: Yumi acts and talks big (she apparently "knocked out a couple police officer" and almost escapes the villains at one point), but when dad starts shooting people, she freaks out. It's perfectly understandable given that until Hubert showed up she had an ordinary teenage life, with no knowledge of who her parents really were (not that she hadn't made a few educated guesses).
  • Fiery Redhead: Yumi.
  • Genki Girl: Yumi comes off as this, but it is implied she acts that way to hide her insecurities.
  • Golf Clubbing: Hubert plays golf when he's not out kicking some ass, and takes on some Yakuza goons while armed only with some clubs and golf balls.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Lampshaded in the cover praise. The film is French-made, English-subtitled and set predominantly in Japan.
  • Guile Hero: Momo ends up being this, though it's not for lack of trying to shoot the bad guys. He just ends up being more help from behind the lines, such as calling in some favors with his foreign ops buddies to get Hubert some equipment. His personal crowning moment comes at the end, where he impersonates a bank clerk in order to get Takanawa to unknowingly transfer the 200 million into Hubert's account instead of Takanawa's.
  • Gun Twirling: Taken to the extreme after Hubert takes down a whole mob of Yakuza enforcers at an arcade. Cue the aghast face of one of Yumi's gamer friends, who had just challenged Hubert to a light gun game.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Not one good guy gets shot in this movie. Admittedly, the yakuza are hardly given a chance to shoot in the first place.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills/Improbable Weapon User: While talking to Da Chief and playing golf, Hubert notices a thug trying to steal the former's car. He foils the theft by hitting a golf ball across the course directly into the guy's head.
  • Insistent Terminology: Hubert hasn't seen Miko in 19 years, not 20.
  • Intentional Engrish for Funny: Yumi has some comical troubles pronouncing French words, above all "trou" ("hole").
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Although in this case even Yumi isn't aware of it.
  • Mexican Standoff: Happens twice. Once with some transvestite goons near the beginning, and again with the Yakuza at the end. Both times, Hubert successfully blasts out.
  • Noodle Incident: Hubert and Momo had a few of it.
    Momo: Do you remember that one time? We blew up the wrong building. It was totally great.
  • Offhand Backhand: During the shopping scene, Hubert gives a member of the Yakuza a variant of this, with a stand mirror.
  • Oh, Crap!: "[Tropename]. The Grenade" "What, 'the grenade'?" "I pulled the pin off." Cue panicked running.
  • One-Word Title
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: "Quite possibly the greatest French-language, English-subtitled, Japanese action-comedy of all time." Right in the movie poster.
  • Papa Wolf: Hubert is not about to let anybody near his daughter, for whatever reason.
  • Red Light District: According to Momo, the Shinjuku area in Tokyo is this.
  • Retired Badass: Hubert worked for foreign intelligence before he was a cop. He hasn't lost his touch, as Momo is pleased to figure this out.
  • Secret Compartment: When Hubert arrives at the apartment of his dead lover Miko, the whole place has been ransacked. He then begins to rap the walls, explaining to his friend that he and Miko got the same training from the French Secret Service and one of the lessons was to never conceal anything important in an object that could be taken away easily. A couple of seconds later, he finds a hollow part of the wall that he smashes open, revealing the documents Miko died to acquire: bank information on the Yakuza.
  • Shopping Montage: Hilariously subverted. While his daughter is busy wiping out the store, Hubert is busy punching the yakuza mooks without her noticing.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Yumi has just kicked an underling right out of the car, but becomes useless the seconds that Takanawa grabs her.
  • Strange Cop in a Strange Land: Predictably enough.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: At one point Momo accidentally sets off an entire box of grenades, taking the car they were in the trunk of with them.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: In one scene at a Japanese Restaurant from which the film draws it's name, Hubert eats an entire plate of Wasabi without so much as flinching! Momo watches in astonishment and proceeds to choke himself up after eating just a smidge of the stuff. In the ending, Momo hands him a box of it as a going-away present.
    Momo: Y'know, for spreading on toast at breakfast...
  • Translation Matchmaking: Let's be honest - think about a movie with Jean Reno's character taking care of a teenage girl, and the first thing that will come to mind will probably be The Professional (a.k.a. Léon: The Professional). Luc Besson's involvement doesn't help either. In Poland, Wasabi has been given a subtitle Hubert zawodowiec (Hubert the Professional), while in South Africa the movie is known under the title The Professional II.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Yumi. Hubert takes her shopping and she buys loads and loads of outfits, and even puts on a fashion show for Hubert and Momo. This is actually a plot point. Miko intended for the 200 million in cash to be blown by Yumi, preventing the Yakuza from ever getting their hands on it.
  • Yakuza: A less threatening bunch than many other examples. Only their leader, Takanawa, seems at all competent. Until he tries to beat Hubert to the draw.