Note: This Region 1 DVD release is French-language only and contains no English subtitles or language tracks.
With his second unit work for Luc Besson's "The Messengers," Gerard Krawczyk proved himself an able pupil of Besson's kinetic marriage of Tex Avery-styled facial mugging, and Frank Tashlin's visually elaborate gag deliveries. Krawczyk retained Besson's Warner cartoon sensibilities for Besson's "Taxi 2" in 2000, and his subsequent assignment is quite similar: fun, fluffy, and briskly paced with minimal exposition, although Reno is given sufficient material to create a staid and compelling character.
Krawczyk stuck with Besson's peculiar casting choices, often showcasing oddly-shaped heads and physiques; Michael Muller's chinless beaver mug compliments the sleek features of rambunctious redhead Hirosue, and even Carole Bouquet smirks and blinks according to Besson's Rules of Filmic Ticks & Nuances.
Seville's anamorphic transfer of "Wasabi" appears to be a clean conversion from a PAL master; the colours are slightly subdued, and the end credits are somewhat soft due to the conversion process. Nevertheless, there's little artifacting, and Krawczyk's candy colour scheme - particularly in the dynamic opening credits, and a later game parlor shootout - look gorgeous.
The basic surround audio has a decent punch, with music booming loudly, and some effective rear surround interplay. It's a shame, though, that Seville didn't acquire a 5.1 mix, as Eric Serra and Julien Schultheis' music score often wafts between deliberately sentimental orchestral surges, and the bass-friendly synth material typical of Serra's previous work. Besson's 5.1 mix for "Taxi" is very aggressive, so it's pretty clear from that film's sound work that Besson likes to wrap his audience in a cuddly digital surround field.
The disc's extras are fairly basic, offering non-anamorphic theatrical trailer and five half-minute teasers. The teasers are chapter indexed, with the tongue-in-cheek captions "Hubert Likes Women," Hubert Likes Language," "Hubert Likes Sports," Hubert Likes Friends," and "Hubert Likes Food."
The making-of featurette is just a collection of fast-edit video footage, capturing a few stunts and the cast mugging the camera, all synced to a classic Serra cue from Besson's "Subway."
Seville's "Wasabi" DVD at least makes one of Besson's Europa Corp. productions available in North America, but the utter lack of interest from labels to issue "Taxi," Taxi 2," and even Besson's bizarre post-"Subway" production of "Kamikaze" (about a man with a giant laser who makes TV personalities explode on camera) in anamorphic Region 1 editions with original mixes and English subtitles is ridiculous. The "Taxi" series alone is profitable (having already spawned a third installment), and ignoring the keen, pent-up interest from Region 1 audiences is utterly frustrating.
Fortunately, Columbia Tristar has since re-released "Wasabi" for February 2003, with Dolby Digital 5.1 English and French tracks, and the all important English titles.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan