Jilted tough-guy French cop pines for his lost Japanese lover for 19 years. One day, he gets a message that she’s died in Japan and designated him her sole legatee. When he arrives to settle her affairs, he gets more than he bargained for: scads of cash, thugs on his tail, and an abrupt introduction to a daughter he’s never heard of. Of course all the shaggy nonsense of the Luc Besson-penned Wasabi (Sony Pictures Repertory, opens September 27) just serves to sluice us into some trademark gunplay, right? Well, not full-on. Oh, there’s gunplay (and grenade-play, and lethal-golf-ball-play) but the real charm of this trifle is the deadpan comic face of its star, Jean Reno, who resembles Sly Stallone in a hot sake half-sleep. Former Special Agent Hubert may have seen it all, but that perma-snarl and those weary, drooping lids (raising them to roll his eyes is a Herculean effort, yet, it must be done) hide the soul of a double-thick softie.
The film is mostly a skitter around Tokyo malls, with Hubert piecing together increasingly shady events while off-the-hizz daughter Yumi (pop singer Ryoko Hirosue) jumps on beds and buys lots of T-shirts and crinoline. Gérard Krawczyk uses his camera to amusing effect, at one early point mimicking Hubert’s mental process as he tries to recall the number of punch-outs in a clubland brawl—with each replay, more people get decked. But the larger project never really finds its center. The father-daughter story stays on the surface, as Hirosue is content to play Yumi as a hyperkinetic Shibuya-child trapped in an i-zone flash.
Just a Kiss (Paramount Classics, opens September 27) is a convoluted writing exercise gone horribly wrong, involving New York media-biz uppies (muppies?) and an intra-friendship infidelity that precipitates haywire events. The intended satire falls flat, though screenwriter-actor Patrick Breen has a solid handle on what makes media careerists venal and dull. Main dudes Breen and Ron Eldard ping-pong around long-suffering or suffer-inducing females: Marisa Tomei plays psycho-vixen, Kyra Sedgwick does a film-long impression of the Sad Mask, and Marley Shelton dredges up the old Mariel Hemingway ingenue shtick. The botched “cruelty of coincidence” zaniness is enough to make Jarmusch spin in Kieslowski’s grave. And worse, random roto-mation, conceptually valid in Waking Life, here recalls a kid coloring outside the lines, or a suddenly creative office manager getting busy with the new PowerPoint.