February 22, 2004

returner (2002)

director: takashi yamazaki
starring: takeshi kaneshiro, anne suzuki, goro kishitani, kirin kiki

in the future, earth isn't exactly a pretty place. there's a war going on between humans and aliens, and the aliens have giant robots that can transform from jets into giant robots. humanity isn't doing so hot, but in their spare time, they've developed a time machine, and one girl goes back to the past to try and prevent the war from ever beginning.

more than meets the eye

once milly (anne suzuki) gets back into the past via jumping into a large wormhole, she lands on a boat where miyamoto (takeshi kaneshiro), a gunslinger of sorts, is fighting it out with a bunch of triad child smugglers. he accidentally shoots her in the process of trying to kill the triad ringleader, takes her back to his apartment, and she tells him her story. an alien is going to crash in two days on a mountain, and if she can kill it, the war will be prevented. miyamoto doesn't exactly believe her, but after she plants a minature bomb on his neck, he agrees to help.

miyamoto's sole purpose in life is to hunt down mizoguchi (goro kishitani), the triad badboy who did something to him earlier in his life, and he's not too happy that he has to go trapsing around japan with a crazy girl and explosives on his head. luckily for him, mizoguchi is also interested in the crashed spaceship, thanks to triad spies at the government space sciences installation, and he wants the alien and its ship for the weapons, so their paths are destined to cross.

nothing accessorizes a fancy triad outfit like an assault team

this film feels like somebody had a hat with a bunch of sci-fi movie plots, pulled them out at random, and then wrote the script to incorporate them all. it's pastiche filmmaking on an almost absurd level, where nothing is really new at all, but since everything works together within the movie framework, it's not too jarring, especially since returner doesn't pretend to be anything other than a popcorn blockbuster.

everything from terminator 2 and back to the future to e.t. and the matrix is referenced at some point in the movie. when the characters are discussing the uncertainty of the future if they suceed while the camera is pointed at the moving stripes of a highway, the line between homage and rip-off is very, very fine. the movie stays above most of this by keeping the pace at a decent clip, making most of these references very throwaway instead of using them as major plot points.

takeshi kaneshiro is always getting into trouble

most folks in america know takeshi kaneshiro as the brokenhearted, canned pineapple eating cop in wong kar wai's chungking express. i doubt this film will produce many new converts, but he does an alright job with what little he has to work with. he looks more like a fashion model than a hardened killer for hire, but when your hair stays perfect after jumping through the air and shooting five people while flipping around, that's to be expected.

the chemistry between kaneshiro and anne suzuki is hardly there, and since they don't really like each other at all at the beginning, it's no surprise when they fall for each other later on, although it's your standard, 'hey, we just met, and we're the only two people who know this secret, so naturally we're made for each other' plot device. when they sit around and relate their personal histories, it's so contrived that you want to yell at the director to get on with blowing stuff up.

i'm from the dirty future

the scene stealer here is goro kishitani, who plays mizoguchi so over the top that he actually breathes a little bit of life into the film. he has the oddest cackling laugh for a villan i've ever heard in a long time, and when he does that, you think that he's so crazy that the rest of the film must make sense.

but it doesn't, really. time travel movies are usually bad to begin with, and one like this which is only using time travel because it sounded like a neat idea isn't exactly wearing its plot concerns out in the open. the action isn't anything that we haven't seen before in a dozen other films, and the cgi, while passable, doesn't warrant a viewing for purely techical reasons. if you're looking for some eyecandy to waste a couple of hours, you could do a lot worse than this, but it's not a movie i'll be returning to anytime soon.

rating: 4/10


dvd (region 1)
columbia tri-star
anamorphic widescreen
japanese/english/french 5.1 language tracks
english/french/portuguese/spanish subtitles
production featurettes
trailers (returner, so close, cowboy bebop: the movie, robot 009)

more features than most of the recent columbia tri-star releases, but with a movie like this, who really wants to watch them?

Posted by kilgore at February 22, 2004 11:40 PM
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